Phil Dresch is the Interim President & CEO of the Canadian Healthcare Association.
Three key concepts stand out for me in the Health Council of Canada’s (HCC) most recent report: (1) the importance of leadership; (2) ensuring equity; and, (3) collaboration.
The report calls for “strong and sustained leadership” and rightly identifies leadership as a “key enabler” for health system change. Evidence shows that leadership plays the critical role in improving health system performance. With this in mind, every year, we at the Canadian Healthcare Association (CHA), in partnership with the Canadian College of Health Leaders, come together with around 800 health leaders to focus on health leadership in Canada. CHA will continue to push for bold and courageous leadership to address challenges and achieve excellence in our health care system.
Perhaps one of the most pressing areas for bold leadership and collaborative action is with respect to seniors’ health. By 2036, 25% of the Canadian population will be over the age of 65. In CHA’s recent pre-budget submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, we recommend that the federal government create a National Commission on Seniors and Health, working with provinces, territories and other stakeholders to develop a strategy to address the many health issues related to Canada’s aging population.
Canadians clearly want to see leadership and action in this area. According to an August 2013 IPSOS Reid National Report Card on Health Care, 93% of respondents said that Canada needs a pan-Canadian strategy to address seniors’ health care issues. Furthermore, 89% believed that all levels of government should work closely together, with a majority (78%) saying that the federal government has an important role to play in a seniors’ strategy. We will be watching for leadership and collaborative action to address the health priorities and needs of Canada’s fastest-growing population.
Another fundamental issue addressed in the report is equity. The HCC’s inclusion of equity for all Canadians is a strong addition to the Triple Aim approach. In our recent pre-budget brief, CHA also highlights issues of equity such as the wide variability in access to pharmaceuticals among Canadians. Ten percent of Canadian seniors, for instance, admit to skipping prescription drugs due to the financial burden. As the HCC report emphasizes, Canadians expect their health care system to provide high quality, equitable care, “whether a Canadian lives in British Columbia, Nova Scotia, the Northwest Territories, or elsewhere.” Increasingly, however, this is not the case. From pharmaceuticals, to timely access to knee replacement surgery, or even having a family doctor, persistent health disparities and inequities are a cause for concern and action.
Moving forward, whether we are talking about the health of Canada’s seniors, or ensuring equity within and among all provinces and territories, it will be bold leadership and collaboration of all stakeholders that will drive needed change. I was encouraged by the emphasis that the Honourable Rona Ambrose placed on “partnership,” “working together,” and the need for “policy leadership and collaboration” in her first speech as Minister of Health. We at CHA, alongside Canadians, will be watching optimistically to see if these words of openness and partnership are matched with leadership and collaborative action.