Canadian Politics from Canada's Centre

Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Issue of Canadian Health

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Canadians are fat, exercise insufficiently, lead generally unhealthy lives, and our medicine does little to prevent this.
When our politicians announce billions of dollars for a health care plan, they mean of course that they will spend money on our hospitals and, with any luck, our schools. What's the problem with that? We're treating our population's ills just fine? That's exactly the problem; we're treating illness. The most we ever do towards preventing it is discuss the subject over dinner, and come to an consensus that the best thing that must be done is eat in moderation and exercise regularly. For some reason though, we do neither.

What can be done?

For starters, we can establish a Canadian Association of Preventive Medicine. To date, there only exists an American Assocuation, and they count a mere 2000 physicians as members. (That's still 2000 people more than in Canada.) At any rate, such an organization could focus on research and development, not only in the field of medicine, but also in politics, in order to develop strategies for Parliament to better the health of Canadians.

Another initiative which ought to be considered, is enhancing the powers of the organization that oversees the the sanitary conditions of restaurants and such, to ensure that they reduce their portion sizes. Research has repeatedly shown that portions sizes are linked to obesity, and obesity linked to ill health. Cut portion sizes, you're attacking poor health (assuming of course, that other things stay constant ... ie, snacks don't increase consumption, as a consequence).

Pressuring politicians is another important avenue to be explored. There's someone being paid to represent you in the Commons, and that means they're supposed to hear your ideas and represent them in Parliament, assuming they have some value. This hasn't shown up in any of the parties' official platforms, so there's good reason to believe this can be a cause celebre for those whose MPs want to make themselves known in the House. In addition, it would show leadership on a subject of national importance.

Others to whose attention the subject ought to be brought include newspapers, policy think tanks, and, naturally enough, one's doctor.

This is a pressing subject. Canada's economic future is mortgaged if our citizenry spends its time as invalids in hospital beds. As it is, the current costs of absenteeism are astronomical, as can be seen here and here. Furthermore, as a nation dependent on immigration, it is imperative that we compare favourably with other nations in the eyes of potentital immigrants, and besides economic factors, health issues are a natural concern for immigrants. It's no good leaving a country where you're idle at home to go to a country where you'll be idle in bed.


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