Minister Affirms the Importance of Public Health to the Health of Ontarians and the Sustainability of the Health Care System

June 3, 2016

TORONTO – Today, the Ontario government introduced the Patients First Act. The proposed legislation calls on the Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) to work more closely with local public health units. The expected outcome would be a health care system that better meets patients’ needs. More importantly, the outcome would be a health care system that better prevents people from becoming patients in the first place.
“The Association of Local Public Health Agencies (alPHa) applauds this initiative to reorient the health care system toward disease prevention and health promotion,” says alPHa President, Dr. Valerie Jaeger. “Along with our health care colleagues, we are strong advocates for health and we know that an effective health care system contributes to the health of individuals and communities. We are pleased at the opportunity and the health dividends that the Patients First Act represents.”
However, alPHa also recognizes that these proposals only encompass one of the five pillars in the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion. Introduced by the World Health Organization (WHO) 30 years ago, the Charter maps out five strategies or pillars to keep individuals and communities healthy: building healthy public policy, creating supportive environments, strengthening community action, developing personal skills, and finally, reorienting health care services so that opportunities for disease prevention are acted on. This last pillar is a focus of the public health-related proposals in the Patients First Act.
The landmark, internationally acclaimed Charter has guided public health practice around the world. It also put Canada on the map as a global leader, not only for its illness care system, but also for its public health system—tackling the underlying conditions that keep people healthy.
alPHa’s Past President, Dr. Penny Sutcliffe emphasized that, “Health, of course, is about much more than access to health care. An accessible, quality health care system is an essential but insufficient ingredient in creating opportunities for health for all. Working on the other four Charter pillars is critical if Ontarians are to be the healthiest they can be and if the health care system is to be sustainable.” Dr. Sutcliffe added, “This is what local public health units do every day in collaboration with many community partners. The health opportunities presented by the Patients First Act will not be realized if its implementation means an erosion of the capacity of Ontario’s local public health system to work on all pillars of the Ottawa Charter.”
alPHa wholeheartedly supports measures that will improve the health care system. We are also committed to comprehensive public health action – action which a recent report by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) estimates has saved the Ontario health care system almost $5 billion in the last 10 years.
These are the health dividends of an effective public health system – dividends that can then be reinvested in all the things that really matter to health – education, transportation, child care, municipal infrastructure, drinking water, reconciliation with Indigenous communities, housing, food security, jobs, family supports, and more – so that all Ontarians can live healthier and be ill less frequently, while knowing that a more accessible and patient-centred quality health care system is there for us when we need it.
About alPHa
The Association of Local Public Health Agencies (alPHa) is a non-profit organization that provides leadership to Ontario’s boards of health and local public health units. The Association works with governments and other health organizations, to advocate for a strong and effective local public health system in the province, as well as public health policies, programs and services that benefit all Ontarians.


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