Education as a social determinant of health: issues facing indigenous and visible minority students in postsecondary education in western Canada
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The level of educational attainment is increasingly being recognized as an important social determinant of health. While higher educational attainment can play a significant role in shaping employment opportunities, it can also increase the capacity for better decision making regarding one's health, and provide scope for increasing social and personal resources that are vital for physical and mental health. In today's highly globalized knowledge based society postsecondary education (PSE) is fast becoming a
minimum requirement for securing employment that can afford young adults the economic, social and personal resources needed for better health. Canada ranks high among OECD countries in terms of advanced education, with 66% of Canadians having completed some form of postsecondary education. Yet youth from low income indigenous and visible minority (LIIVM) backgrounds continue to be poorly represented at PSE levels. The current study aimed to understand the reasons for this poor representation by examining the experiences of LIIVM students enrolled in a postsecondary program. Findings show that the challenges they faced during the course of their study had an adverse impact on their health and that improving representation of these students in PSE will require changes at many levels.