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Health workers radicalizing health struggles

On this week's episode of Talking Radical Radio, I talk with Martha Roberts. She is a midwife, an educator, and a community organizer, and was one of the founders of the Alliance for People's Health, a collective of health workers, grassroots organizers, and community members committed to understanding the links between health and social justice, and to building the struggle for health for all.

There's something a bit weird about how we talk about "health." As deep as the mainstream roots seem to be of the conviction that health care is best understood as a socialized public good (however imperfectly that has always been realized, and even more so today), there is still something deeply individualized and asocial about most of the ways we have available to talk about health itself. From the majority of professional public health discourse to that aunt that always raises her eyebrows when you take a second helping of dessert at a holiday meal, we're bombarded with incessant messaging that links our health to a very narrow spectrum of individual behaviours. This completely ignores the ways in which far more of the circumstances which determine our health are about how our lives and communities are socially organized. And not just in terms of the growing but still very under-appreciated focus on "social determinants of health" in some professional corners, but in ways that go to the very core of how social relations of exploitation, oppression, and marginalization take such a toll on so many lives. "Structural determinants of health" are where the analysis needs to go, according to today's guest.

The Alliance for People's Health combines popular education, organizing, and mobilizing in working-class communities in Vancouver, in a way connected with and informed by liberation movements from around the world and among indigenous nations on Turtle Island. Along with their important work on the ground, they are elaborating a cutting edge analysis of health that Roberts says identifies "social justice as prevention of disease" and "participating in liberation movements [as] a form of healing." I spoke with her about the group, about their analyses of health and social justice, and about ways that progressive health workers can and do participate in collective struggle.

To learn more about the Alliance for People's Health, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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