What a cool event I attended this afternoon as a proud public servant and long-time employee of Health Canada! Former Deputy Minister David Dodge moderated a panel with several former Ministers of Health - Monique Bégin (1977-1984), Jake Epp (1984-1989), Perrin Beatty (1989-1991) and Ujjal Dosanjh (2004-2006). Our current Health Minister Dr. Jane Philpott talked about the history of the Health Portfolio and some of the many key health-related milestones since the Department of Health was created in 1919, including Canada's first Food Guide in 1942, the concept of health promotion and the social determinants of health introduced in the 1970s, the creation of the Canada Health Act in 1984 to facilitate universal access to healthcare, the introduction of smoking-related legislation in the late 1980s to control smoking and introduce stricter labelling on tobacco packaging, lessons learned from the tainted blood tragedy in the early 1980s, the development of vaccines for deadly pathogens such as Ebola... The panel discussed the need to not take risks on issues of public health (everything else is secondary), the involvement of patients in their treatment (e.g., the AIDS community), First Nations and Inuit health as Canada's #1 social issue/challenge and the need to focus on health outcomes (especially by working with mothers and women, who best understand the health indices of children), the importance of the relationship between the federal government and the provinces using a national approach rather than "us vs. them", the need to focus on poverty and early childhood education in relation to health promotion, the fact that there will never be enough money for healthcare so it needs to be spent wisely in order to get the best outcomes, and the importance of having positive effects on lifestyle behaviours which can in turn have a high impact on health (it's more cost-effective to prevent getting ill in the first place). To quote Tommy Douglas, the "Father of Medicare" in Canada - "Courage, my friends; it's not too late to build a better world".
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