BENNETT: Keeping Canadians healthy is a shared responsibility

On March 23 the St. Paul’s Summit, our semi-annual opportunity to listen and respond to the concerns of our citizens on the complex issues that cross all jurisdictions, will focus on health and health care.

Although health care is a provincial responsibility, the health of Canadians is affected by policies in almost every government department and every jurisdiction.

Preventing sickness and injury is essential to the ultimate sustainability of our cherished health-care system. As Tommy Douglas said, “the goal of Medicare was to keep Canadians well — not just patch them up when they get sick.”

However, more and more thoughout Canada there is a cry for federal leadership on health and health care.

Canadians want the federal government to lead by example. Our veterans, members of the Canadian Forces, aboriginal people
and those incarcerated in the prison system — the direct responsibility of the federal government — have some of the worst health outcomes in Canada. This must be addressed before the federal government can speak with authority on health or health care.

The 2004 Health Accord outlined many areas for future cooperation between the federal government and the provinces and the territories: a National Pharmaceutical Strategy, health human resources, home care, disease and injury prevention and much more. The accord expires this month and the government has unilaterally decided that it doesn’t need to be renewed.

The provinces feel that they have not had a partner in Ottawa since 2006.

The most recent budget has slashed the dollars for programs designed to address critical issues such as the wait-time strategy and new vaccines. Ontario is furious. It is not alone.

Our city councillors are struggling with limited budgets that threaten their ability to address public health needs, from immunization to infectious disease tracking, water and safe pedestrians and cyclists. Our school trustees work hard to find funding for programs for mental health, nutrition, physical activity and bullying — vital elements of health-promoting schools.

Sir Michael Marmot has said that the worst thing for a doctor is to help patients get well and then send them straight back into the situation that made them sick in the first place.

He talks about the causes, and the causes of the causes, of health outcomes.

The causes are things like nutrition, physical activity, tobacco, alcohol and drugs.

The causes of the causes are much broader social issues: poverty, violence, the environment, shelter, education and equity.

An OMA study in 2000 estimated that air pollution cost the health-care system and the economy more than $1 billion, from ER and doctors visits and work absenteeism.

We are thrilled that the closing of the coal-fired generators in Ontario has meant a reduction from 53 smog days in 2005 to only two days in 2013. So there is some good news! It is now rare for a physician to have to send an asthmatic child straight back out into a smog day.

We hope you will join MPP Dr. Hoskins, councillors Colle, Matlow and Mihevc, and school trustees Laskin and Davis at our next summit so that we can hear from you — what’s working and what’s not working in keeping you and your family as healthy as possible.

See you there!

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Posted: Mar 9 2014 10:58 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto