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Grant’s Desi Achiever: Bridging the Gaps in Healthcare

From the Desi News article

 A superhero’s cape would not be out of place for a champion of patient safety, social justice and health equity.

As such, Canada Research Chair in Health Justice is a fitting mantle for Dr Nav Persaud, who has made a name for himself for tirelessly advocating for health equity.

A scientist with MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital, he is a staff physician in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the hospital, and was named one of Canada’s Top 40 under 40 in 2017.

His mandate as Canada Research Chair in Health Justice is to conduct research and do academic work to bring us all closer to fair health outcomes.

“Right now in Canada, there are different outcomes depending on income, whether one is racialized, one’s gender, etc. Despite publicly-funded social supports and access to health supports, disparities exist.

“I am working to narrow the health gap between the highest and lowest wealth brackets, ensuring that everyone can afford the medication they need.”

It all began with his patients who couldn’t afford the meds he was prescribing. They returned to the clinic repeatedly with the same issues and he watched, helpless, as some of them ended up in the hospital with a cardiac arrest or a stroke.

“Everything I had learned at medical school was wasted if I couldn’t help my patients – but the bottom line was that for many of them medications were out of reach.”

He found this unacceptable when relatively inexpensive treatments could prevent it.

Dr Persaud knew he had to try something different.

To this end, he led the first-ever trial providing people with free access to essential medicines. In 2016, he launched the CLEAN Meds (Carefully selected and Easily Accessible at No charge Medications) study to test the effects of providing essential medicines for free to patients who were unable to afford them. Almost 800 people took part in the study through health centres in Toronto and Manitoulin Island area. 

The results from the first 12 months of the study proved beyond a shadow of doubt that access to free medication improves health outcomes. Dramatically. There was a 44 per cent increase in people taking their medications and 160 per cent increase in the likelihood of participants being able to make ends meet.

He also worked with WHO to decide which essential medicines – everything from antibiotics and pain relievers to medications for HIV-AIDS – countries should cover.

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