4.8 Health Promotion

“It is equally common sense for our health care system to place greater emphasis on preventing disease and promoting healthy lifestyles. This is the best way to sustain our health care system over the longer term. Keeping people well, rather than treating them when they are sick, is common sense.”

Roy Romanow, Future of Health Care in Canada, 2002

Health is more than health care.

Prevention and health promotion save lives and money.

A significant proportion of illnesses and deaths in this country are preventable. Many Canadians do not have the necessary information, the tools, or the encouragement, to lead healthier lives. Much needless suffering, premature loss of life, and considerable healthcare costs can be avoided through improved health research, screening programs, more timely diagnosis, earlier treatment, improved lifestyles (diet, exercise, and smoking cessation), and healthier public policies and environments. For example, it is estimated that at least 50% of cancers are preventable.

Yet funding allocated for health promotion has fluctuated in the vicinity of 1% of overall health system funding, despite the demonstrated cost-effectiveness of many disease prevention and health promotion programs.

Health promotion is about more than health care or health education. It is about recognizing the profound health impacts of determinants of health outside the formal healthcare system and working with many stakeholders (policy-makers, NGOs, health agencies, multiple levels of government, the private sector, and most important, affected communities themselves) to reduce, eliminate, or overcome those factors that harm health or act as barriers to health enhancement, and to promote those factors that enhance the health, well-being, and quality of life of all Canadians.

The number one determinant of health is poverty. Ending poverty is not only a moral imperative, it will reduce burdens on our health care system.

The Green Party of Canada recognizes the value of good health as a fundamental human right, and also the key to the most vibrant, inclusive, and sustainable Canadian society possible.

Greens want to move Canada towards being the world’s healthiest country by making improved and sustainable health for all a national priority.

To make this vision a reality will require a long journey, a comprehensive effort touching many aspects of Canadian society. In the short term, we recommend the following actions to begin this journey. These recommendations can have an immediate, positive, and measurable impact on Canadian’s health, and turn us away from a health system focused on disease treatment to one where disease prevention and good health promotion are the priority.

Green Party MPs will:

  • Push for renewed Canadian leadership in health promotion both nationally and on the international stage. We have some of the best minds, training programs, experienced practitioners, and progressive health promotion coalitions in the world. These can be key building blocks in a renewed federal leadership in health promotion;
  • Specifically, we recommend the following actions to take place immediately:
  1. Restore funding for the Canadian Health Network, a key national resource for individuals and health professionals across the country;
  2. Create a Federal Healthy Community Initiatives Fund to which community organizations can apply for innovative local projects utilizing community development principles and practices to address both human and ecosystem health at the local level;
  3. Protect children from inappropriate exposure to marketing, especially of junk foods and soft drinks (see development of a National Food Policy below, and as in Agriculture and Food policy in section 1.15);
  4. Create a Canadian Healthy Living Guide, similar to the recently revised Canada’s Food Guide but more comprehensive in scope;
  5. Work with provincial stakeholders to better compensate family physicians and other health professionals for health education and health promotion services work with key stakeholders such as the Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada (CDPAC), the Canadian Lung Association, Canadian Diabetes Foundation, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and others to promote integrated, innovative, evidence-based, inter-sectoral, and comprehensive approaches to disease prevention and health promotion;
  6. Institute a GST Health Benefit Exemption for those products/services deemed to have significant health benefit such as sports equipment, fitness centre fees, and some health-promoting health services;
  7. Institute a Corporate Health Tax Reduction for workplaces that institute a qualified workplace health model or comprehensive healthy workplace settings approach such as that offered by the National Quality Institute;
  8. Work to reduce the use of pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics, and other chemical and pharmaceutical agents in agriculture;
  9. Seek a Canadian ban on all forms and applications of Genetic Use Restriction Technologies through legislation;
  10. Promote environmentally sustainable, organic farming practices that protect the health of the land, farmers, and consumers;
  11. Restore funding for critical food safety testing and new product approvals processes;
  12. Institute a National Junk Food Tax for non-essential, empty calorie foods and beverages including high-fat, high-sugar, and high-salt snack foods;
  13. Support the development and adoption of a comprehensive national set of protective helmet standards for different sport and vehicle use and the allocation of federal funding for a national education program to encourage protective helmet use;
  14. Develop a federal Health Impact Assessment Board to incorporate health impact assessment as part of all federal government policy reviews, similar to the current Environmental Assessment Board;
  15. Support the development of initiatives to reduce the use of psychoactive drugs through better rehabilitation and prevention programs, especially for children;
  16. Restructure education of health care professionals to incorporate adequate training in health promotion;
  17. Provide computerized health promotion aids and make them accessible freely to all Canadians;
  18. Expand healthcare coverage to include basic preventive dental care;
  19. Establish a minimum budget for health promotion at 1.5% of the total federal healthcare budget.