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The Impact of Cutting Special Diet Benefits to Pregnant Women:

Recently, the Premier of Ontario, Mike Harris, announced that the $37/month of special nutritional supplement that has been available to pregnant women receiving social assistance, would be eliminated. In his statement about this cut, Premier Harris noted a concern that these women might be using the money for buying beer [rather than milk]. The action and comments led to a vigorous reaction in the mainstream media and in electronic list-servs. Following are three messages that appeared in CLICK4HP list [Health Promotion Online discussion - see] the week of April 20-24th.

From: Joanne King [killaloe@MV.IGS.NET]

Tuesday, April 21, 1998 10:27 AM


Subject: Re: Cuts to assistance for pregnant women

Well, I had to write a letter to send to Premier Harris - Joanne King,

April 20, 1998

Premier Mike Harris

Queen's Park

Toronto, Ontario

Dear Premier Harris:

I am writing to express my extreme dismay at your government's recent announcement of yet another cut to social assistance. In this case, you have announced a withdrawal of the $37.00/month previously provided to pregnant women.

The Community Resource Centre offers a Prenatal Nutrition Program, funded under Health Canada's CPNP program, to pregnant women at risk. We know the additional costs incurred through pregnancy: vitamins, food supplements, maternity clothes, travel costs to Dr's appointments, and items purchased in preparation for the arrival of the new baby.

Your government has made a commitment to Healthy Babies/Healthy Children, a program designed to assist high risk families through early intervention and prevention activities. It seems a contradiction in terms to then turn around and withdraw this small financial supplement during the prenatal period.

The future of our children in this Province is affected by your decisions. We urge you to reconsider.


Joanne King

Executive Director, Community Resource Centre, Killaloe

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From: Brian Hyndman [b.hyndman@UTORONTO.CA]

Thursday, April 23, 1998 3:19 PM


OPHA response to cutback

The Ontario Public Health Association [OPHA] has joined the ranks of organizations expressing concern about the Ontario government's removal of the supplementary nutrition benefit.

April 21, 1998

Hon. Michael D. Harris

Premier of Ontario

Legislative Building

Queen's Park

Toronto, ON


On behalf of the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA), I am writing to express our concern about your government's withdrawal of the $222.00 food allowance provided to pregnant women receiving social assistance.

Specifically, OPHA is concerned that the removal of this funding will exacerbate the impact of previous social assistance cuts on the health and well-being of mothers and children. Statistics from the Daily Bread foodbank indicate that nearly half of expectant mothers using foodbanks

go hungry once or twice a week;seventy percent go without food once or twice a month.

The end result of this deprivation is increased susceptibility to preventable health problems for mothers and children alike. It's been well established that the lack of adequate nutrition during pregnancy greatly increases the incidence of babies with low birthweight, a condition linked to a number of health problems and developmental delays requiring costly medical interventions.

The provision of targeted prenatal assistance programs, such as the food supplement allowance, have clearly demonstrated cost savings. For example, data from the Montreal Diet Dispensary has shown that every dollar spent on food and counselling for at-risk pregnant women saves nine dollars in subsequent treatment costs.

As a community health association committed to promoting the health of Ontario's children, OPHA has actively supported provincial initiatives such as Healthy Babies/Healthy Children. To fully realize the benefits of these programs, however, expectant mothers also require resources to meet their basic nutritional needs.

For the reasons listed above, OPHA urges you to reconsider your government's withdrawal of the supplementary food benefit for expectant mothers. The health and well-being of at-risk children in Ontario will be affected by your decision.


Brian Hyndman

President, Ontario Public Health Association.

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Response from Sherrie Tingley on CLICK4HP

Friday, April 24, 1998

Wonderful letter Brian, thank you!