Health Canada: Canada Recognized as World Leader in Chemicals Assessment; Australia Accepts Canada’s Expertise

The Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Health, was presented today with a certificate by Senator the Honourable Brett Mason, Parliamentary Secretary to the Honourable Tony Abbott, Australian Minister of Health and Ageing, in recognition of Canada’s expertise in the assessment of new chemical substances (view photo)

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA–(Aug. 24, 2007) – The Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Health, was presented today with a certificate by Senator the Honourable Brett Mason, Parliamentary Secretary to the Honourable Tony Abbott, Australian Minister of Health and Ageing, in recognition of Canada’s expertise in the assessment of new chemical substances. The recognition comes as the Ministers continue the Canada – Australia Policy Dialogue on health issues.”I’m very pleased to accept this certificate from the Australian Government, which recognizes Canada as a world leader in regulating chemicals that are harmful to human health and the environment,” said Minister Clement. “I was proud to join the Prime Minister of Canada last year to announce our Chemicals Management Plan, and our work is already underway to assess and regulate chemicals that are used in thousands of industrial and consumer products.”

The Ministers will also issue a Statement of Intent to explore cooperation between Australia and Canada on risk assessment and management of existing chemicals.

“The ongoing relationship between Australia and Canada continues to grow,” said Senator Mason. “We can benefit from Canada’s world-leading Chemicals Management Plan, which assesses and regulates chemicals used in thousands of industrial and consumer products. I’m looking forward to exploring further collaboration and cooperation with Canada.”

In Canada, the Honourable John Baird, Minister of the Environment, echoed the sentiments. “The Canada-Australia Arrangement has proven to be very beneficial for both countries,” said Minister Baird. “Protecting our environment and the health of our citizens is a responsibility both our Governments take very seriously. We look forward to continuing our collaboration for the benefit of all Canadians and Australians.”

New collaborative efforts for assessing and managing existing chemicals will build on ongoing cooperation between Australia and Canada on new chemicals, and is in line with international efforts for countries to share and learn from each others’ expertise in managing chemicals. Cooperation is leading to greater efficiencies in the review and assessment of chemical substances, which benefits citizens and industry in both countries.

Earlier this week, Minister Clement met with Minister Abbott. This is the first time the Ministers have met since signing the Letter of Intent to begin the Canada-Australia Policy Dialogue in June 2007. The agreement outlines mutual work the two countries plan to undertake in the next four years in key areas such as access to health care, cancer strategies, and health and the environment. The recognition of Canada’s expertise in new chemicals assessment is a key component of the health and environment theme of the Policy Dialogue.

Minister Clement will visit several sites related to the Policy Dialogue’s three themes. He will visit cancer treatment centres, hospitals showcasing innovative access-to-care strategies, and health research institutes. He will also speak to the Canadian Australian Chamber of Commerce, and visit the site of the Royal Flying Doctors Service, a group which travels by air to provide emergency and primary health care services to people who live and work in regional and remote Australia.

“This is an ideal partnership, given how our two countries are facing similar challenges,” said Minister Clement. “We share a commitment to deliver universal health care, together with our provincial and territorial partners. And we both want to provide better chemical safety information for our citizens. This agreement allows us to work together to share effective solutions as we meet these challenges.”

Other members of the Canadian delegation include Jeffrey Lozon, chair of the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer; Nora Sobolov, President and CEO, The Canadian Lung Association; and Dr. Kellie Leitch, Advisor to the Minister on Healthy Children and Youth.


Canada-Australia Dialogue on Health

Along with remarkable similarities in their history and geography, Canada and Australia face similar challenges on meeting the health needs of their respective populations. This is partly because both countries have comparatively small but diverse populations, spread out over a large and varied geographic area, and both share parliamentary, democratic systems of government. Yet for all these similarities, a number of key differences exist in the way both countries seek to maintain and improve the health of their populations. Both can therefore benefit from an exchange of ideas on a variety of health-related topics.

The Canada-Australia Policy Dialogue, taking place in Sydney, Australia in August 2007, will help both countries identify and explore shared health issues, forge effective and sustained relationships and jointly seek effective solutions to health challenges. The dialogue will focus on three issues in particular: timely access to health care; cancer prevention and control; and chemical safety issues. Accompanying the federal delegation to Sydney will be three non-governmental representatives, to help fuel discussion on each respective issue.

Timely Access to Health Care

Timely access to health care continues to be an important issue for Canadians and Australians. Waiting times are often seen as a proxy for access to health services. Both countries are contending with similar issues in providing quality health care services to their populations where and when they are needed. Both also share, in particular, four critical challenges: balancing the health workforce supply and demand; measuring, evaluating and monitoring wait times data; use of information technology; and service delivery to indigenous populations. This dialogue will help both countries explore the varying nature of waiting experiences between two comparable health care systems, using these four overarching topics as key discussion points on the wait times issue.

Accompanying federal representatives as a delegate of the Canada-Australia Policy Dialogue is Dr. Kellie Leitch. Recently appointed as federal Advisor to the Minister on Healthy Children and Youth, Dr. Leitch is examining health issues facing Canada’s children and youth, including access to care. Dr. Leitch was also one of sixteen Paediatric Surgical Chiefs instrumental in moving the National Paediatric Surgical Wait Times Pilot Project forward – a recent project designed to enable better tracking of national wait times data for paediatric surgery, and to help provide greater certainty that children will receive timely care by testing a guarantee – with recourse to alternative care options should defined wait times be exceeded. Dr. Leitch’s experience on the front lines of paediatric health care and health promotion will provide the Canadian delegation with a unique lens through which to study the issue of access to care.

Cancer Prevention and Control

Cancer prevention and control is a significant challenge globally. In both Australia and Canada, cancer has become one of the top three causes of death, and is a leading health concern. Both countries are responding to this growing health challenge by incorporating into their annual budgets major new investments in cancer prevention, control and research. Both countries have invested long-term to reduce the number of those diagnosed and living with cancer. Both also have shared challenges in this area, in terms of an aging population, jurisdictional responsibilities, aboriginal health issues and meeting the needs of rural and remote residents. It has been observed that the two countries can benefit greatly through collaboration related to cancer research, policy development and personnel exchanges.

Accompanying federal representatives as a delegate of the Canada-Australia Policy Dialogue is Jeffrey Lozon. In 2006, Mr. Lozon was appointed Chair of the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (CPAC), a new independent corporation charged with accelerating action on cancer control across Canada. He is the President and Chief Executive Officer of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, and he has served as Deputy Minister of Health and Long-Term Care for the Province of Ontario. Mr. Lozon’s unique role as Chair of CPAC and first-hand experience dealing with the challenges and pressures of cancer prevention and control make him a valuable asset to the Canadian delegation.

Chemical Safety

Both Canada and Australia share similar challenges in addressing chemical safety issues. The consumption of chemicals is part of our everyday lives; the global production, trade, use and disposal of chemicals continues to increase in pace with demand. Both countries have engaged in regulatory reform activities to improve and protect the environment and the health of their citizens. Canada, for example, launched its Chemicals Management Plan in December of 2006, with the goal of improving the degree of protection against hazardous chemicals. Australia has shown an interest in learning more about the Canadian model. Both are also planning initiatives to improve risk management of existing chemicals, re-evaluate older pesticides and strengthen food and drug regulations.

Both countries can benefit from enhanced information-sharing on the risks of chemicals, regulatory approaches, experiences in monitoring and outreach strategies.

Accompanying federal representatives as a delegate of the Canada-Australia Policy Dialogue is Nora Sobolov, President and CEO of the Canadian Lung Association. Ms. Sobolov has been an advisor to both private sector and non-profit organizations, CEO of the Canadian Co-Operative Association, Vice-President and Company Officer of Credit Union Central of Canada (CUCC) and Director of Government Relations and Policy of the CUCC. Ms. Sobolov brings an important perspective to the Canadian delegation, representing an organization focussed on the link between health and the environment.

A comprehensive discussion on all three of these critical health issues will yield new insights, and potential new policy options to address the common health challenges facing both countries. The overarching goal is to strengthen performance in key areas, contributing to the overall health of each country’s population.

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