Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Megan Leslie Profile
NDP (NS)
View Megan Leslie Profile
2011-03-24 16:21
Thanks for the indulgence of the committee.
Welcome back, Madam Chair. It's nice to see you.
And welcome back, Madam Minister and other panellists. It's nice to see all of you again.
We have been talking about antibiotics and livestock at committee, and, Madam Minister, when you weren't here, the other panellists were answering some questions about this, which leads me to this question. In 2005, Canada was directed by the UN to create a national infectious disease strategy, and it was supposed to be created by now, by about 2008, and implemented by 2012. The Auditor General's report on public health in 2008 cited numerous problems we have with the surveillance of infectious disease. In thinking about the 2012 deadline, I don't think we're going to make it because we haven't heard anything about this strategy.
My question is, what is the status of the strategy and which department is actually responsible for it? Is it Health or the Public Health Agency?
View Leona Aglukkaq Profile
CPC (NU)
Thank you. That's a great question.
I'll just use one example: the Sheila Weatherill report. There were a number of recommendations that came out of that to deal with foodborne illness types of issues, and the whole system that's set up under our pandemic response plan is part of that. How we would respond and the partners within that framework in the pandemic plan would be no different from any other type of infection. It's built within that system. We have a national pandemic plan that's used, for example, for H1N1 or the issues that were raised through the Weatherill report. That whole process, the machinery of how we would respond, is the same. The lead on that, from this table, would be the Public Health Agency of Canada.
David Butler-Jones
View David Butler-Jones Profile
David Butler-Jones
2011-03-24 16:23
The pandemic plan itself, while it's focused around pandemics of influenza, takes an all-hazard approach in terms of any range of infectious diseases, building the systems, whether it's surveillance or others, to be able to respond to whatever we might face, or other public health emergencies as well.
In terms of the surveillance and the AG's report, when she reviewed, as an agency we'd just got started, so we're building that. We continue to build the surveillance systems, working with the provinces and territories. As we saw with H1N1 and with other events, we actually get good data and good information from the provinces. That's continuing to improve. On the non-infectious side, for example, there's the development of the MS system, which we talked about yesterday. We do have an ongoing relationship with the provinces and we work with them through multiple committees, etc., that actually address the intent and the issues you're speaking to.
Hazel Lynn
View Hazel Lynn Profile
Hazel Lynn
2011-03-10 15:41
All right. Thank you very much.
As you said, I'm the medical officer of health for the Grey Bruce Health Unit. I'm a fellow in The College of Family Physicians of Canada and licensed to practise in Ontario. I also have a master's degree in epidemiology and community health from the University of Toronto in 2003.
As part of the course work for the master's, I completed a graduate-level course on radiological health offered at the school of industrial hygiene at U of T. This course covered both ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. Although I'm not an expert in this field, I certainly do understand units of measurement, measurement techniques, and relative exposure risks, and I have participated in various educational opportunities in this field to keep track of the new research and technology.
Public health practice in Ontario is mandated by the Health Protection and Promotion Act. It's defined by the Ontario Public Health Standards. Protection of our health is the cornerstone of the prevention of disease. The Health Protection and Promotion Act provides the legal authority for the medical officer of health to respond to a hazardous situation that threatens the health of the public. The Ontario Public Health Standards then provide the protocol to operationalize the risk assessment process.
The tool combines community surveillance and risk profile process, which is ongoing, and then a probability and consequence matrix that allows us to assign priority values to the identified hazard situations. Most of what we do in life has some hazard, but we have to have priorities in how we adjust our lives accordingly.
Considering the recycling of decommissioned boilers from Bruce Power, my jurisdiction and responsibility are limited to the health hazard assessment associated with the transport of the decommissioned boilers from the Bruce Power site to the port of Owen Sound and on to the ocean transport. More specifically, I need to determine the level of exposure risk and then the consequent health risk to the population of Grey and Bruce counties.
When the plan for transporting the decommissioned boilers was first proposed, the board of health requested information from Bruce Power. Representatives came and presented the project, answered questions, and addressed our concerns. A series of open houses were held, and an information website was set up and maintained. A radiation regulatory official and scientist from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission came to Owen Sound and presented to the city council and to the board of health.
The risk to human health from ionizing radiation exposure increases with the type and the magnitude of radiation and the duration of time the person is exposed. Based on the information provided by Bruce Power and the Nuclear Safety Commission, the type and magnitude of radiation released from the surface of the decommissioned boilers is very low, well below the regulatory limits for transport of such material. Our conclusion is that there is no increased radiological exposure risk related to these boilers if the population stays at least two metres away from them.
To ensure this protective distance is maintained, there will be continuous monitoring for emissions around the boilers. There is a contingency plan for transportation incidents on the roads. There is a police escort for the transport and security personnel at the harbour. These measures are in place to prevent inadvertent exposure to the public. With these measures in place, my conclusion is that the probability of radiation exposure to the population is, for all intents and purposes, practically zero.
The consequence of the exposure is the other side of the hazard matrix. Standing within one metre of the steam generator continuously for one hour would expose a person to a dose of about 80 microsieverts. This is an amount significantly less than a conventional chest X-ray, which is about 140 microsieverts. The consequence of this exposure is also very close to zero.
My conclusion, then, is that the probability of exposure and the consequence of exposure are both practically zero, so this proposal does not present a health hazard to the population of Grey and Bruce counties.
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is the agency with the greatest expertise in the field of radiological health. I appreciate the board of health's willingness to provide information and consult with our community. We are strong supporters of recycling and reusing and we support the CNSC decision to provide the licence to transport these decommissioned boilers for recycling and reduction of the volume of radioactive material that requires long-term storage.
Thank you.
David Butler-Jones
View David Butler-Jones Profile
David Butler-Jones
2011-03-10 15:40
I would like to thank the committee for this opportunity to provide an update on supplementary estimates (C) as they pertain to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
With me today is James Libbey, chief financial officer, and Dr. Rainer Engelhardt, who is here as it related to the second topic, antimicrobial resistance.
As the current fiscal year comes to a close, the agency actually has no additional funding to request under these estimates.
However, as my colleagues in the health portfolio are proceeding this morning, before I respond to committee questions I would like to provide the context in which this activity is taking place.
Mr. Chair, generally speaking, Canadians are healthier today than they have ever been.
Life expectancy in Canada has increased by more than two years in the last decade alone, and by more than 30 years since the early 20th century. Most Canadians today consider themselves to be in very good or excellent health.
Advances in treatment and medical science, while crucial, are not the only reason, and may be only a small reason, for the improvements we've seen. Canada has a remarkably strong history of action and partnership in health promotion and disease prevention, from the early colonial period to the 1986 Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion to the Declaration on Prevention and Promotion by Canada's Ministers of Health and Health Promotion/Healthy Living in 2010.
Since the formation of the agency six years ago, Canada has solidified its place as a global leader in public health.
Each year, at the agency, we are able to build on the sound policy, surveillance and science we generate, and on successful programs that directly help Canadians.
The main reason we need to keep building on this success is that improvements in health aren't shared equally among all Canadians. In many cases, health inequalities between Canadians are growing. Not all health trends are improving, and not all Canadians are benefiting to the same degree. Some groups in Canada experience lower life expectancy, as well as higher rates of infant mortality, injury, disease, and addiction.
The Public Health Agency plays a key role in the effort to narrow these gaps through partnership, advocacy, enabling, and mitigating when needed, but while government efforts are central, public health is, at its heart, local. Health promotion and disease prevention need to reach Canadians at home, in their communities, and at work. We need the partnership that all levels of government, health professionals, the corporate world, and community organizations can provide.
This is the idea behind so much of what we do at the agency, and each year our resources are devoted accordingly. This week, for example, Canada's ministers of health launched Our Health Our Future: A National Dialogue on Healthy Weights.
The dialogue is a key step in identifying actions to curb childhood obesity, a significant health concern in this country, and to promote healthy weights.
It's about engagement and discussion because, as in many public health issues, everyone plays a role. Everyone can commit to action on curbing childhood obesity. As Canada deals with an increasingly less active and more obese and overweight population, tied closely to escalating levels of chronic disease, I expect this will be a continued priority moving into the next fiscal year.
Of the $684.6 million allocated to the agency, over $182 million was dedicated to health promotion. These funds are helping to support activities like the dialogue I just mentioned, updating the physical activity guidelines, and building on our accomplishments through successful community-based programs, including those for vulnerable populations. This year $116 million was devoted to the disease prevention agenda.
These funds continue to enhance Canada's ability to prevent and manage diseases and injuries, and they are helping us continue to gather and analyze data on the traits, trends, and patterns of injuries in Canada. They are helping, for example, to increase awareness of risks such as lung disease and to increase capacity and knowledge on prevention and control of a broad range of chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and neurological diseases.
Under these supplementary estimates, the agency will be transferring approximately $1.9 million to other government departments for public health activities that help us reach these goals. For example, $1 million will be transferred to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to support the need for enhanced research in population health interventions and the reduction of health inequalities, particularly in the realm of obesity and mental health.
An additional $800,000 will be transferred to CIHR for research on HIV and AIDS co-infections and other co-morbidities, which will help us understand how a spectrum of chronic diseases interact.
We are focusing our efforts where they are needed most.
We continue working to increase public health capacity and enhancing our national and international collaborations. We continue to strengthen surveillance and increase capability in assessing the health of the population.
We remain the government-wide lead on efforts to study and address determinants of health. We continue to work closely with all our partners to ensure that the government's responses to national outbreaks, including food-borne diseases and pandemics, are watertight, efficient, and well coordinated.
Before I close, I would like to highlight one additional area that you've requested in which the agency collaborates closely.
The Government of Canada as a whole has committed significant resources to tracking antibiotic use and resistance. The agency leads national surveillance systems that track antibiotic resistance and antibiotic use in health care, in community settings, and in the food supply.
The agency will also be working with Health Canada, CFIA, and Agriculture on the development of a coordinated approach to AMR, antimicrobial resistance, in Canada. This will include working closely with the health portfolio, provincial and territorial partners, as well as many other stakeholders to help control the spread of AMR in Canada.
Collaboration will always be our watchword. I believe these estimates reflect that priority. I appreciate your time and I am happy to answer any questions.
Gord Surgeoner
View Gord Surgeoner Profile
Gord Surgeoner
2010-12-14 10:04
I would just like to comment on this.
I think Dr. Yada put this point forward. In science and technology, everybody likes what I would call the sexy and exciting things, the IT and all of those things, yet food is so fundamental to us as Canadians. The other key thing that I have to emphasize is that it's probably our number one health risk right now, because of over-consumption in terms of calories.
So we should be putting an effort into that in terms of public health care. Forget the food side; it's public health care and how we put that forward. How do we have what I will call a “working together” community to figure out how we can get the health benefits from foods, not just the risks?
We have to get it up to the top of all of our agendas in terms of what we do. Right now in Ontario, 50% of all tax dollars are for health care; and when I see a $5-billion type 2 diabetes bill, I know that a lot of that is because of over-consumption of food relative to exercise.
Janet Davis
View Janet Davis Profile
Janet Davis
2010-11-23 8:51
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I want to start by saying that the City of Toronto relies significantly on the long-form census data as part of the core data that guide the city in long-term planning for growth, service, and program planning, and for targeted funding allocations for a variety of human services and supports. It's a vital resource that helps us to better understand the socio-economic and geographic characteristics of Toronto.
The absence of this data will hinder the city's ability to accurately develop plans and policies for a wide range of service delivery requirements, from immigration settlement programs to public transit design.
Historically the long-form census has been used by the city at least as far back as the 1940s, and we think we relied on data from the long-form census even earlier. We use it in all of our program areas: public health, libraries, children's services, city planning, economic development, emergency services, transit planning, and so on.
As well, it helps us to better understand the diverse populations that we serve. Toronto, as you know, is a city of neighbourhoods, and we rely on the detailed information that comes from the smaller geographic areas for all of our targeted place-based approaches. It's the historic integrity of the long-form census data that is paramount to ensuring that we understand the needs of our city and are targeting our resources in a way that serves the needs of the very people we need to understand. We rely heavily on the data in the long-form census.
We believe that the long-form census should be restored, and city council approved a motion to that effect in July. We're calling on the federal government to reconsider its decision, because we believe that the national household survey will provide a far less reliable set of data and will absolutely affect our ability to understand the at-risk populations that we're serving.
In general we'd say that the data that will be collected from the national household survey will be less reliable. In some cases, in the small geographic samples, it will absolutely not even be available and certainly will not allow us to compare with previous census data and allow us to look at trends over time. We know there will be a significant non-response bias in the replacement survey and we know that those who don't answer a voluntary survey are likely to be the very people we are looking to serve, those from the socially and economically disadvantaged groups. We know that the proposed national household survey will pose a significant challenge for us in terms of information we use on a daily basis.
I'll give you a couple of examples. Boards of health are charged under the Health Protection and Promotion Act with protecting the interests of public health. We're required to meet the Ontario public health standards and to complete the public health assessment and surveillance protocol, which requires the city to collect data on not just age and gender, but also on education, employment, income, housing, immigration, culture, and disability. All of these data we derive from the long-form census. The data will simply not be available in the way we've had it to date.
Under section 7 of the act we also are required to undertake surveillance activities. We know that we need this information in order to better understand risk factors, behaviours, and health outcomes.
We also are required to complete the Canadian community health survey, and we rely on the census data to better inform us on how that survey is conducted.
We think it's not just a deficiency in the sense that we'll lose the information from the census; it will also make all of the other surveys that rely on the census data unreliable as well.
We've given a couple of examples. You have our written submission about how we've used the census data. In our TB prevention programs and our H1N1 pandemic planning, we relied heavily on the census information.
As to other areas, we rely on census data to plan our growth management strategies. We have to establish employment targets—a requirement under our official plan and under the province's growth plan for the greater Golden Horseshoe. We will not be able to track trends: where people live or how they get there. That will affect our planning for transit and transportation. We are also required, under the growth plan for the Greater Toronto-Horseshoe, to provide and develop a housing strategy. We have to have affordable housing targets and plan for population growth.
All of those are required of us as a city, and we will simply be unable to do that kind of planning without the data from the long-form census.
Regarding immigration and settlement, we're working with the federal government for the first time under an MOU to plan for services for immigration and settlement. We simply will not be able to understand, particularly at the small geographic level, where people are residing, where they've come from, and what their needs are.
Child care subsidies are determined based on a variety of economic factors, and so is planning for recreation. Our labour market strategies clearly will be affected, if we don't have accurate and reliable information on labour market trends. As I said, we have also had a very successful place-based approach to funding in priority neighbourhoods, where needs have been identified based on the information from the census, so that we are focusing and targeting our resources in those communities that need it.
I would add one last point. At least 25 pieces of federal legislation rely on accurate data for determining funding allocations. Our transfer payments rely on accurate population data, and we simply won't have it.
In summary, I'd just say there's a bias—
Cordell Neudorf
View Cordell Neudorf Profile
Cordell Neudorf
2010-11-18 9:58
Good morning.
My name is Dr. Cordell Neudorf. I'm the current chair of the Canadian Public Health Association and a local medical health officer in Saskatoon. I'm here with our CEO, Debra Lynkowski.
CPHA represents the interests of public health professionals across the country, many of whom work at the local level in the 115 public health departments in Canada.
In addition to our presentation today, we've submitted a brief to the committee on the impact of cancelling the long-form census on health equities and public health.
The primary factors that shape the health of Canadians are not just medical treatments or lifestyle choices. About 80% of what determines our health are things like the socio-economic, physical, and political environments in which we live, work, and play. Research has also found that the quality of these health-shaping environments and conditions is very strongly determined by decisions governments take on a range of different public policy domains.
The information that's been gathered and made available through the long-form census has been essential to understanding the health of our communities and to designing and targeting programs and policies to improve the health and well-being of Canadians at that small-area level, particularly for those most vulnerable and most at risk.
The shift to a voluntary survey like the NHS is of particular concern to the public health community in Canada for a lot of reasons, but primarily it's because the long-form census is really the only reliable, valid, and historical source of this foundational demographic data, down to areas as small as sub-neighbourhoods for specific cities, or for provinces. Alternate local data sources just don't have that historical aspect and the sample size to get down to that level. They don't have the same kinds of response rates as the census has provided.
There's broad agreement amongst statisticians and social scientists that the voluntary survey won't provide data of the same quality and reliability compared to data that was gathered through the mandatory form over the past years.
A voluntary survey basically means that some people answer and others do not, and more people do not answer when it's voluntary. Those people tend to be poor and from marginalized and immigrant communities because of barriers such as language, literacy, disability, and, quite frankly, just the complexity of their lives. First nations, Métis, and Inuit are already underrepresented in current data, and a voluntary move would exacerbate this problem.
The scale and location of the non-response biases can't be completely assessed ahead of time. The estimates from other attempts to generate data in this way have found that in order to maintain statistically accurate analysis, data would have to be generated at a higher geographic level than the former census model. Basically that means it becomes unusable at the neighbourhood level because we can't drill down to that level with confidence and make the kinds of decisions we want to on targeting programs and policies to sub-populations.
We use this data at a local level in public health to generate things like our annual health status report, which drills down, using census data as a model, on subgroups that have certain demographic profiles to see what kinds of differential health outcomes and health disparities are being seen at that sub-neighbourhood level.
Accurate comparisons to past data are essential to measure whether changes we've made to certain health or social policies are having the intended effect of improving the conditions in which Canadians live and work.
The conventional census model provided a critical foundation for the generation of data from other surveys as well. It's basically used to establish sample frames and ensure accurate representativeness of the population. I would compare it to...the existing high-quality data is building your foundation for other surveys on solid bedrock, compared to voluntary surveys that you are now using as a benchmark; it becomes a less stable foundation, basically, on which to design other surveys.
I have a few examples of how we're using this at a local level.
Ongoing research and monitoring is done in a lot of cities to track the depth and breadth of health disparities between areas in the city with higher levels of deprivation compared to those with lower levels. We use an index to do this, which is comprised of data from the long-form census: income, education, employment, and various social factors. Many years have been spent in trying to set up this index in a way that's valid and reliable across the country.
We can then generate aggregate, small-area-level data that we can put our health data on to track how the differential health outcomes play out at a far less intrusive level than if we drilled down to an individual level.
In using this type of study we found health disparities. For example, infant mortality rates in low-income areas of the city were 448% higher than in high-income areas. We're instituting programs to try to intervene at this level. But if we institute major program or policy changes and don't have an ongoing reliable set of data that's collected in the same way, it will be hard to measure the impact of these programs and services. There tends to be a fairly small impact over the short term.
Our recommendations include three options to maintain the continuity of decades worth of accurate and reliable data.
One is to make the NHS survey mandatory through a legislative mechanism like a private member's bill. Two is to postpone the census for a year to allow time to examine and resolve the issues pertaining to the mandatory long-form census. Three is to reinstate the former census model for the 2016 census, with public consultation about mechanisms to maximize compliance.
A portion of the funds allocated should be used to encourage Canadians to respond to this survey to increase awareness about how the data is used and the measures in place to protect personal information.
David Butler-Jones
View David Butler-Jones Profile
David Butler-Jones
2010-11-04 12:05
Panorama is the name for an integrated suite of tools, not just for surveillance but also case management. In the budget--I think it was in 2004--money was given to Canada Health Infoway for the development of a surveillance tool that could also serve as a case management tool. There are a number of aspects to the modules. The one we're piloting is around food-borne illness.
All provinces have been involved in the discussions, and a number of provinces have signed on to it. Different provinces use different systems. The reason for the funding in the first place was the recognition of the value of a system that could bring together the work of a public health nurse, a public health inspector, and immunization records. You can interrelate the data more efficiently and have more timely data in terms of reporting, for instance.
There are many systems out there, but this is the one it was felt would be valuable to put together. Now it's coming to the point where provinces are actually looking at implementation. Not all provinces or territories will be implementing it at this point. Some have other systems they use. Our chief concern federally is that whatever systems are used, the systems are able to either talk to each other or we have a way to recognize when a potential outbreak is developing and gather the data for the information we need to do our collective jobs.
In the old days we used to do that by paper--or if there was something urgent, a phone call, etc. Now, with the advent of the linkage of the public health laboratories across the country, the PulseNet Canada system allows us to say, “Oh, this particular listeria is the same strain of listeria we're seeing in the three cases in Ontario, the two cases in B.C. What are the characteristics of that?”
That's what allowed us to figure out that we actually had an outbreak with the listeria outbreak at Maple Leaf Foods. At the peak of that outbreak, there were only five to seven cases a week reported in Canada, against a background of 20,000 to 30,000 of us every day with those symptoms.
There is the combination of the laboratory surveillance we do and the work in comparing with other surveillance systems--and if there is time, perhaps Frank can speak a bit more to that--so that we have the picture we need to identify when something is going wrong.
Whether it's for this, or the next H1, or whatever, Panorama will hopefully give us faster, more accurate data because of the ability to electronically roll up that information. It doesn't keep us from doing our jobs--there are other ways we get that information--but it will make it more efficient. It will make the work of inspectors and nurses hopefully easier in terms of the collection of information and the management of cases.
Jeffrey Turnbull
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Jeffrey Turnbull
2010-10-27 15:31
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for this opportunity to appear before you today.
The CMA brief contains seven recommendations to address pressing needs in the health care system.
Before I get to those, I'd like to highlight why, from my perspective, our health care system is in need of the federal government's attention.
Yesterday, at the Ottawa Hospital, where I am chief of staff, our occupancy was 100%. Thirty patients who came to the emergency department were admitted to the hospital, but we had beds for only four. There are ten people still waiting on gurneys in the emergency room. Six patients were admitted to wards, and they are receiving care in hallways. Three surgeries were cancelled, bringing our total cancellations this year to a staggering 480. While this was happening we had 158 patients waiting for a bed in a long-term care facility, where they would get better care at a fraction of the price.
That was yesterday. Today is even worse.
Equally, a few blocks from here, and in communities across this country, the health status of our poorest and most vulnerable populations is comparable to countries that have a fraction of our GDP, despite very significant investments in health.
This is just my perspective. Health care providers of all types experience the failings of our system on a daily basis. We as a country can do better, and Canadians deserve better value for their money. Canada's physicians are calling for transformative change to build a health care system based on the principles of accessibility, high quality, cost effectiveness, accountability, and sustainability.
Through new efficiencies, better integration, and sound stewardship, governments can reposition health care as an economic driver, an agent for productivity, and a competitive advantage for Canada in today's global marketplace. The health accord expires in March 2014, and we strongly urge the federal government to begin discussions now with the provinces and territories on how to transform our health care system so that it meets our patients' needs and is sustainable into the future. Canadians themselves also need to be part of this conversation.
To help position the system for this transformative change, the CMA brief identifies a number of issues that the federal government should address in the short term.
First, our system needs investments in health human resources to retain and recruit more doctors and nurses. Although we welcomed measures in the last budget to increase the number of residency positions, we urge the government to fulfill the balance of its election promise by further investing in residencies, and to invest in programs to repatriate Canadian-trained physicians living abroad.
Second, we need to bolster our public health infrastructure for electronic health records so we can provide better and more efficient quality care that responds more effectively to pandemics. We recommend increased investment to improve data collection and analysis between local public health authorities and primary care specialists, for local health emergency preparedness, and for the creation of a pan-Canadian strategy for responding to potential health crises.
Third, issues related to our aging population also call for action. As continuing care moves from hospitals into the home, the community, or long-term care facilities, the financial burden shifts from governments to individuals.
We recommend that the federal government study options for pre-funding long-term care, including private insurance, tax-deferred and tax-prepaid savings approaches, and contributions-based savings insurance, to help Canadians prepare for their future home care and long-term care needs.
As much of the burden of continuing care for seniors also falls on informal, unpaid caregivers—
Peter W.B. Phillips
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Peter W.B. Phillips
2010-10-05 10:12
I have two very simple points. The first one is that I think everyone at the table and everyone who studies this would strongly agree that the health issue should be dealt with before it gets to this stage. This debate is about after it has passed Health Canada's rigorous systems and Environment Canada's reviews. This is the end test, not the front test.
View France Bonsant Profile
BQ (QC)
I agree with you. However, you talked about scientific data and studies. Who conducts the studies? Do you provide your own scientific data?
Peter W.B. Phillips
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Peter W.B. Phillips
2010-10-05 10:13
You should probably get the regulators in here to talk about their science because they don't actually write it down very well. But there is an extensive body of science they use: some that comes from the proponents, which is very specific; some that comes from the international research community, in terms of norms and standards; and some that comes from opponents of the technology who submit evidence in support or against the technology.
Could I make one other point?
David Butler-Jones
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David Butler-Jones
2010-06-15 9:11
Excellent. Thank you.
Thanks to the committee again for the opportunity to speak on our supplementary estimates (A). With me today is Jim Libbey, the chief financial officer for the agency.
As you know, it's not quite six years ago that the Public Health Agency was created. In this fiscal year, $664.8 million has been allocated to the agency, and I'd like to briefly outline a few of the areas that illustrate how these funds are put to good use.
Firstly, the agency spends that money on disease and injury prevention and mitigation.
A prevention agenda is among our highest priorities, for which we plan to devote over $115 million this fiscal year. As the Honourable Dr. Bennett rightly said, the goal is to have a great fence at the top of the cliff, not a great ambulance service at the bottom.
That's why the agency will continue to enhance Canada's ability to prevent and manage diseases and injuries. In 2010-11, for example, we will help to increase awareness of risks such as lung disease and increase capacity and knowledge on prevention and control of HIV/AIDS. We will continue to gather and analyze data on the rates, trends, and patterns of injuries in Canada and will initiate a national study to help close knowledge gaps in the area of neurological diseases.
Health promotion will also remain a top priority.
By definition, health promotion is the process of enabling people to increase control over and improve their health. In 2010-11, through our planned spending of $178 million, we will continue to build this through programs for vulnerable populations, such as the Canada prenatal nutrition program, the community action program for children, and the aboriginal head start program.
In Canada, as elsewhere, the obesity epidemic—especially among children and youth—has become a major public health challenge.
While this is a very complex, multi-faceted issue, there's a lot of evidence out there to inform our work, so one of our roles in facing this challenge is to bring the players together on this issue and ensure the lessons we see in one province can be applied to others. In 2010-11, as part of this work, we will be updating the national physical activity guides and we will continue to work with all partners on initiatives that support Canadians in the attainment and maintenance of healthy weights.
I will now turn my focus to infectious disease prevention and control.
Last year's H1N1 outbreak solidified our place as global leaders in responding to infectious disease outbreaks. Since the day we were aware of a novel flu virus circulating, the agency was at the forefront of the federal pandemic response.
The H1N1 pandemic saw quite possibly the country's greatest mass mobilization since the last world war. It marked the country's first pandemic in 40 years and the first pandemic in an information age.
All of these factors required a multi-faceted response: helping to secure enough vaccine for every Canadian who needed and wanted to be immunized; leading national surveillance activities; and communicating regularly to Canadians to provide them with the information they needed to make well-informed decisions related to their health, among many other activities.
Committee members have heard me say this on many occasions: disease and illness know no borders.
H1N1 was certainly no exception to the rule and the scope. It is critical that the scope and breadth of a response reflect that reality. That's why in 2010-11 the agency will continue to collaborate with our many partners, both domestically and internationally, to ensure that we can build on the lessons learned from H1N1 and strengthen our preparedness for future pandemics.
Our work goes far beyond plagues and pestilence. The agency will also work to increase public health capacity and enhance our national and international collaborations. We will strengthen surveillance and increase capability in assessing the health of the population. We remain the government-wide lead on efforts to study and address determinants of health.
In facing all of these challenges and embracing the opportunities they present, the Public Health Agency's vision remains constant and relevant: healthy Canadians and communities in a healthier world. All of Canada will benefit from these efforts.
Madam Chair, I am very proud of our work over the last five years and of the fact that the agency maintains and strengthens its reputation as a global leader in public health.
Thank you for your time. I will be happy to answer any questions.
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