Canada needs heath-care strategy focused on prevention for reserves: Report

Canada needs to invest more money and develop a new national health-care strategy focused on prevention if it wants to win the fight against obesity, tobacco use and system inequities on aboriginal reserves, according to an annual report by Ontario’s top doctor.

“We need to do much, much more and we need to do it in a different way,” said the province’s chief medical officer, Dr. Arlene King on Thursday.

The 2009 report, titled “Public Health — Everyone’s Business” calls for all levels of government to work together nationally to prevent deaths and improve hospitalization rates among Canadians.

Current policies emphasize on the “sustainability of our health-care” system when more needs to be done to promote healthy choices by preventing bad health choices, the report urged.

King outlined five areas that need to be addressed, such as reducing obesity and encouraging physical activity, investing in child development, stopping people from starting smoking and getting those who currently smoke to quit, preventing injury-related deaths, and closing the gap between the quality of health-care available in different geographic regions.

These “complex” problems can only be adequately eradicated if a long-term approach can be established, she added.

“We share the challenge right across the country,” said King. “This again is a marathon, not a sprint. None of the things I’m talking about today are a sprint.”

Two-thirds of all deaths in Canada each year are attributed to chronic disease, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes and respiratory disease.

King said many of these deaths might have been prevented if certain risk factors were identified and combated, such as physical activity, diet and tobacco use.

The report also found that ensuring Canadians are healthier in their day-to-day lives will also reduce how sick they will get when a pandemic strikes, like the H1N1 flu virus in 2009.

Those hospitalized in Ontario during the first wave of the pandemic were five times more likely to have a previous chronic disease, compared to those who didn’t require hospitalization. Those who smoked who had H1N1 were also 90 per cent more likely go to the hospital.

By Linda Nguyen, Postmedia News