St. Michael’s hospital explores the link between poverty and health

Five interactive installations shine a light on the issue to launch a $25 million fundraising campaign.

St Michaels - Exhibit A

St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation is shining a light on the link between poverty and negative health outcomes through five interactive installations in Toronto inspired by the stories of real patients.

“Redirecting the Future: The Intersection of Health and Poverty” was unveiled last week at the Brookfield Place office tower in Toronto and runs through Feb. 15. Each installation tells the story of a patient who has struggled with poverty-related health issues, such as homelessness, opioid addiction, Indigenous-relevant health care, unaffordable prescriptions or childhood nutrition.

Its unveiling launched a $25-million fundraising campaign by the hospital foundation in support of St. Michael’s MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions, an interdisciplinary research centre within the hospital that is focused on reducing barriers to health services, especially among marginalized communities.

St Michaels - Exhibit BMany factors can have a direct impact on people’s health, such as whether they can afford medication or have a home where they are safe and have access to family support, according to Dr. Stephen Hwang, director of MAP.

The role of research is often misunderstood in the charitable space, says Joe Jackman, CEO of Jackman, which partnered with St. Michael’s on the instillation and recently helped rebrand the MAP centre. “Redirecting the Future” serves as an “example of its powerful and real-life impact on people’s lives.”

One installation, “Apricot / Transitioning Youth,” features a shelter of cardboard boxes covered with hash marks illustrating the number of days that have passed. Those who enter the cardboard shelter can listen to two audio stories from people who formerly experienced homelessness. “Prescriptions for Health” helps visualize the dilemma many Canadians face in needing to choose between life’s necessities and medications. And “CoMFORT,” an instillation made of milk crates, explores the relationship between children’s health and different types of milk.

St Michaels3Deric Moore, associate creative director at Jackman Reinvents, says an experiential approach was chosen to reflect the hospital’s experiential research methods. The centre deals with real people living with specific health conditions, not simulated conditions, he says.

“An experiential campaign allows MAP to create visceral, one-to-one connections between the public, their patients and their solutions,” Moore adds. “Something that’s significantly harder and costlier to do through traditional means.”

In addition to Jackman, St. Michael’s collaborated with MassivArt (an agency specializing in art-led branded events, instillations and collections) on the exhibit, and each installation is associated with the name of a researcher from the MAP centre.

The organization estimates that 4.8 million Canadians are low-income and therefore more likely to experience to homelessness, drug addiction, food scarcity and recurrent hospitalization. The total cost of health care for the poorest one-fifth of Canadians amounts to $11.2 billion annually, according to St. Michael’s.