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Letter on Strengthening the Pan-Canadian Public Health System discussion paper

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1957
Last Reviewed
2011-03-05
Date
2004-03-22
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Response to consultation
Last Reviewed
2011-03-05
Date
2004-03-22
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
I am writing in response to your letter inviting comment on the discussion paper Strengthening the Pan-Canadian Public Health System distributed in February 2004. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) welcomes the opportunity to participate in this consultation process on a national public health system. Our country’s experience combating SARS brought home to all of us the critical need for a strong and effective public health system to ensure that we are never again found unprepared to deal with the consequences of an emerging infectious disease. The commitments to establish a strong and effective public health system, a Canada Public Health Agency and a Chief Public Health Officer detailed in the February 2, 2004 Speech from the Throne have raised expectations across the land, and particularly within the public health community. In June 2003 CMA detailed a Public Health Action Plan in its submission to the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health (Naylor Committee). The CMA’s Plan was further elaborated in our October 2003 submission to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (Kirby Committee) hearing on public health governance and infrastructure. The CMA is also a founding member and active supporter of the Canadian Coalition for Public Health in the 21st Century. Both of the CMA submissions and the Coalition stress the need for strong leadership, capacity building and appropriate funding to ensure that Canada’s public health system is able to deal with the challenges ahead. In this submission I will first focus on the responsibility and actions the federal government can take now to create a strong and effective public health system and then comment on issues raised in the Strengthening the Pan-Canadian Public Health System discussion paper. The CMA believes that the country today has a rare opportunity to build a public health system for Canada that can take the best elements from the past while embracing new innovative approaches to the future. But to achieve the Speech from the Throne commitment to “establish a strong and responsive public health system” strong leadership is needed now. The federal government has a critical role to play. In both the United Kingdom and the United States, national leadership has been instrumental in clearly defining health goals for the population and stating the role of the public health system, its key infrastructure elements and the development of strategies to attain them. The CMA is pleased with your commitment and that of your government to the establishment of a Canada Public Health Agency (CPHA) but we can not stress strongly enough the need for you and your cabinet colleagues to take the bold steps needed to ensure that a national public health agency is truly independent. A CPHA that is not adequately funded and independent of the government bureaucracy will only result in a shuffling of the deck chairs. A credible Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO) must be appointed to lead the Agency, be the federal government’s chief medical officer of health (CMOH) and the country's chief spokesperson for all public health issues. The CPHA and the Chief Public Health Officer should have a central role in providing public health services to those areas falling under federal jurisdiction where local and provincial Chief Medical Officers of Health do not have access or authority. Airports, railways, military bases, aboriginal peoples living on reserve, federal meat packing plants and national parks are examples of areas under federal jurisdiction. The delivery of public health in these jurisdictions has been especially compromised by the lack of comprehensive coordination between provincial and federal systems. The federal CMOH should have all the powers and responsibilities of a provincial /territorial CMOH with respect to public health in federal jurisdictions. While there is an urgent need for the federal government to address problems with the delivery of public health services within its own backyard, it also must enhance co-ordination within the various federal departments and agencies that address public health concerns. In its submission to the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health the CMA also called for federal leadership in times of national health emergencies. The enactment of a Canada Emergency Health Measures Act would enhance the federal government’s “command and control” powers in a measured way during times of national health emergencies. The Act would give the federal government specific authority to act for a pre-determined, temporary period of time, during a declared extraordinary health emergency. It would also provide the authority for development of a graduated health alert system with corresponding public health interventions to enable a rapid co-ordinated response as a public health threat emerges.1 A systematic approach to health emergencies outlining roles, responsibilities and authority of jurisdictions would go a long way to avoiding the chaos and confusion that surrounded the country’s emergency response to SARS. Funding The public health infrastructure is the foundation that supports the planning, delivery and evaluation of public health activities. In 2001, a working group of the Federal, Provincial and Territorial (F/P/T) Advisory Committee on Population Health assessed the capacity of the public health system through a series of key informant interviews and literature reviews. The consistent finding was that public health had experienced a loss of resources and there was concern for the resiliency of the system infrastructure to respond consistently and proactively to the demands placed on it. It is essential that the federal government work with the provinces/ territories and municipalities to stop the hemorrhaging in public health across the country. We must stabilize and shore up the core public health capacity at the municipal, and provincial/territorial levels. At the federal level, in the short term, we must sustain our current capacity to tackle critical public health issues. The recent focus on infectious disease must not lead us to take monies from chronic disease prevention and health promotion to bolster efforts to manage outbreaks of infectious disease. Robbing Peter to pay Paul will only compound and exacerbate the challenges facing the public health system. All of the essential functions of public health must be recognized and resourced within a coherent public health strategy. This will require an investment of at least $1.5 billion over the next five years, beginning with an immediate commitment of $200 million in the upcoming budget. There is also a critical need for additional resources to reach the frontline public health workers in the many local agencies across Canada. In this regard, on March 12, 2004 the CMA, the Canadian Nurses Association, Canadian Pharmacists Association and the Canadian Healthcare Association wrote to the Prime Minister urging him to consider adding the recent one-time $2 billion transfer into the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) funding base and ear-mark 10% of this amount for public health action. Capacity building The infusion of $1.5 billion over the next five years would go a long way to provide federal, provincial/territorial and municipal governments with the tools needed to rebuild capacity in the public health system. An area needing immediate attention is human resource capacity. For the essential functions of the public health system to be realized, we need a public health workforce with appropriate and constantly updated skills. Unfortunately that workforce is extremely thin today. We need to invest in additional training capacity in all of the public health disciplines. CMA has proposed an investment of $50 million in 2004/05 to begin to strategically rebuild human resource capacity. To provide additional surge capacity CMA has further proposed the establishment of a Canadian public health emergency response service or Canadian Health Corps. The service would be made up of a core group of highly trained and mobile public health professionals, employed by the federal government, to be directed by the Chief Public Health Officer. A complementary ‘reserve pool’ or volunteer relief network would be made up of acute health care and public health professionals willing to be deployed anywhere in Canada on short notice to provide services during health emergencies. A predetermined and pre-licensed pool of professionals that can respond to a call to action in times of crisis is a critical resource that must be established before we are faced with another emergency situation. Canadians expect the federal government to assume its responsibility to provide national leadership in public health. Visionary leadership, investment and capacity building are essential components of a reinvigorated public health system. It is within this context that CMA has reviewed the Strengthening the pan-Canadian public health system discussion paper. Strengthening the pan-Canadian public health system The discussion paper Strengthening the Pan-Canadian Public Health System unfortunately positions the planning assumptions for a national public health strategy within the traditional F/P/T process. While we are encouraged with the commitment of the F/P/T Ministers of Health to work collaboratively on the creation of a Pan-Canadian Public Health Network, it is not what Canadians or CMA envisioned in terms of providing leadership on the development of a national public health strategy and a consistent and co-ordinated approach to health emergencies. The discussion paper is proposing that a CPHA be the centralized responsibility centre or ‘co-ordinating node’ of a Pan-Canadian Public Health Network that would develop national public health strategies and co-ordinate responses to public health emergencies. While the Network is necessary to facilitate intergovernmental co-operation, CMA believes that it is now time to move beyond traditional processes that, in the past, have often hindered the country’s ability to respond rapidly to address pan-Canadian problems. Therefore in its briefs to both the Naylor and Kirby Committees, the CMA proposed the creation of an independent CPHA to provide leadership and comprehensive public health expertise in the development of a strategic pan Canadian approach to public health planning and services. These CMA briefs speak to many of the issues pertaining to the CPHA and CPHO that are raised in the federal discussion paper. CMA proposals for a CPHA as outlined below address the questions of mission and mandate, accountability and transparency posed by the paper. The CPHA, as described by CMA, would become the lead national agency on public health matters with a broad mandate to co-ordinate all aspects of planning for national public health emergencies, provide ongoing national health surveillance and work closely with provinces/territories to reinforce other essential public health functions. To effectively carry out its mandate the CPHA structure must respect five guiding principles. It must be: * Independent – At arm’s length from government, insulated from day-to-day vagaries of political pressures while remaining accountable to Canadians. * Science-based – Adherence to the highest standards of risk assessment and decision-making with a view to safeguarding the health of Canadians. * Transparent – Open to public scrutiny and encouraging public participation in its activities. * Responsive – Characterized by a nimble decision-making process and a capability of deploying resources and expertise quickly and efficiently to any part of the country. * Collaborative – Partnership-oriented, fostering collaboration with other federal, provincial and non-governmental partners. CMA has recommended that the CPHA be established as an arms length, adequately resourced agency within the purview of the federal government. Under this approach, the CPHA would be structured on a corporate model in which decision-making powers are vested in an expert advisory board. The board, in turn, would be accountable to Parliament and the public for the exercise of these powers. The CPHA would be created through new federal legislation but would remain under the health portfolio, with accountability to Parliament through the health minister. The chief public health officer would head the CPHA, oversee the day-to-day operation of the office, be the federal government’s chief medical officer of health, and act as the lead scientific voice for public health in Canada. This structure would mark a departure from the status quo in that the level of professional autonomy would increase and the level of ministerial involvement in professional issues would be reduced. This would contribute to making the CPHA more credible as a science-based organization. The board governance structure would encourage participation from the broader public health community and could therefore be more effective in creating partnerships with other key players. Conclusion The CMA commends you and the federal and provincial/territorial governments for the evident commitment to address the public health challenges facing this nation. It is unfortunate that it took a public health tragedy to bring this commitment to the forefront but never the less the public health community in Canada stands ready to work with governments to achieve a strong and responsive public health system. As part of that community the medical profession is ready and willing to support initiatives that will improve public health programs and services that ultimately make Canada a safer and healthier place to live. We do not support a continuation of the status quo. We must seize this opportunity to create a public health system that that can take the best elements from the past while embracing new innovative approaches to the future. Sincerely, Sunil V. Patel, MB, ChB President SVP/ac 1 Answering the Wake-Up Call: Canada’s Public Health Action Plan, June 2003. Available: http://www.cma.ca/cma/menu/displayMenu.do?tab=422&skin=432&pMenuId=1&pSubMenuId=2&pageId=/staticContent/HTML/N0/l2/where_we_stand/political/index.htm
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Health Protection and a Canadian Public Health Strategy: A Comprehensive Approach To Public Health: Submission to Health Canada

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1958
Last Reviewed
2011-03-05
Date
2004-04-12
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  2 documents  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2011-03-05
Date
2004-04-12
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
This submission is the response of the Canadian Medical Association to Health Canada's request for feedback on its detailed "Health Protection Legislative Renewal" legislative proposal released in June 2003. Our submission calls for and is embedded in the broader context of a comprehensive approach to public health. The Canadian Medical Association is committed to working with others to realize the vision of a comprehensive, robust public health strategy as a vital component of Canada's health care system. This strategy should rest upon three pillars: * Emergency Response Empowering rapid and effective response to health emergencies, e.g. communicable disease outbreaks, water contamination, bio-terrorist attacks. * Health Protection: Ensuring that Canadians are protected from health risks in their daily environment; for example, risks associated with the use of health or consumer products, or with the potential spread of infectious disease. * Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Instituting programs to encourage healthy behaviour and advocating for public policy and fiscal policy that supports health. Though these three pillars have different foci and different legislative instruments, they must all be part of a strategy to enhance public health and public health service delivery in Canada. With specific reference to health protection, CMA believes that legislation should rest on the following principles: a) Commitment to the primacy of health and safety. b) Commitment to evidence-based decision making. c) A thorough risk-analysis procedure based on the relative risk of products or services. d) Support for informed patient decision-making. e) Accountability vested in the Government of Canada. f) A comprehensive, effective post-marketing surveillance system. g) Enforcement through effective, meaningful penalties for noncompliance. h) Flexibility to quickly and efficiently accommodate new technologies. i) Openness and transparency. j) Encouragement of collaboration and co-operation with other stakeholders, while respecting existing jurisdictions and legislative mechanisms. Recommendations A Canadian Public Health Strategy 1) That the federal government ensure that legislative and administrative measures related to public health complement one another in function and are connected through communications and co-ordination mechanisms. The Drug Review Process 2) That the federal government implement a timely and efficient drug review process to reduce review times to the fastest level consistent with ensuring improved health outcomes and the safety of the drug supply. 3) That the federal government consider co-operative agreements for drug review with comparable agencies in Europe, the United States and Australia, while retaining final authority as to whether a new product should be allowed on the Canadian market. 4) That the drug review and approval process be open and transparent, providing updates on review status and the opportunity for stakeholder input. 5) That Health Canada apply a priority review process to "breakthrough" drugs, i.e. those that demonstrate a substantial improvement over products already on the market. Patient Safety and Post-Marketing Surveillance 6) That Health Canada work in partnership with stakeholders including CMA and other national medical and health professional associations, to develop a rigourous post-marketing surveillance system to monitor the ongoing safety of marketed drugs. 7) That government accelerate activities to establish the Patient Safety Institute using a systems approach to support a culture of safety. 8) That all stakeholders join in supporting and encouraging outcome-based research to ascertain best practices in prescribing. 9) That the federal government invest in measures such as electronic communications networks, to increase physicians' capacity to report medication incidents and to improve the timeliness of adverse event reporting. Drug Information and Advertising 10) That all stakeholders work to ensure that Canadians have ready access to a source of comprehensive, reliable information on health products and their uses, and that governments fund development and dissemination of validated information to physicians and to the public. 11) That the legislation define "promotion" and "advertising" so as to clearly distinguish them from unbiased health information, and from counselling by health professionals. 12) That the current safeguards against deception be strengthened in order to * Forbid fraudulent or misleading health claims in advertisements, on labels or in any other promotional or descriptive material pertaining to the product; * ensure pre-clearance and ongoing review of all health claims by an objective agency; * provide meaningful penalties for infraction. 13) That Health Canada maintain the current ban on advertising health products for treatment, prevention and cure of conditions or disease states to be identified in a regulatory schedule or administrative list; the inclusion of conditions in this list should be determined through a set of criteria that are written into the Act or regulations. 14) That the existing ban on direct to consumer advertising of prescription drugs be maintained and enforced to the full extent of the law, and that the loophole that currently permits advertising the name, price and quantity of a prescription drug be closed. 15) That all stakeholders, including medical associations and industry groups, work together toward effective regulation of drug promotion to health practitioners. Safeguarding the Privacy of Health Information 16) That the Health Protection Act respect the provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Federal Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). 17) That the privacy provisions in the Health Protection Act meet the legislative test outlined in Section 3.6 of CMA's Health Information Privacy Code. Other Issues 18) That the Health Protection Act give Health Canada a clear mandate to develop guidance documents to address health and safety issues raised by new technologies. 19) That Natural Health Products be regulated on a strict framework that ensures their safety, quality and efficacy as well as the provision of complete and unbiased information to the public. 20) That the Act provide Health Canada with a clear mandate to collaborate with provincial/territorial and local governments across Canada in reviewing legislation governing all aspects of drinking water from source to consumption to ensure that comprehensive programs are in place and being properly implemented. 21) That Health Canada urgently review the Quarantine Act and modernize its provisions. 1. Introduction This submission is the response of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) to Health Canada's request for feedback on its detailed "Health Protection Legislative Renewal" legislative proposal released in June 2003. Our submission calls for and is embedded in the broader context of a comprehensive approach to public health. It also includes recommendations dealing with selected specific issues raised in the proposal, particularly those that have a potential major impact on physicians and other health professionals, and on the practice of medicine. The Canadian Medical Association supports the government's efforts to update and revitalize health protection legislation. Physicians are committed to working with others to realize the vision of a comprehensive, robust public health strategy as a vital component of Canada's health care system, in order to realize Canada's potential as a healthy nation. Recent headlines illustrate the diversity of public health challenges facing Canadians: * The spread of avian flu across Asia, and the reappearance of SARS in China; * Reports linking the use of Selective Serotonin Reutake Inhibitor antidepressants to increased suicide and other behavioural disorders in children and adolescents, which led to a public warning against their use in this population; * The rapidly rising rates of obesity in Canada and other developed countries. To deal with these problems and others, a comprehensive public health strategy is required. This strategy should rest upon three pillars: emergency response, health protection and health promotion (Figure 1). Each of these pillars is discussed in greater detail in the following section. 2. Three Pillars of a Canadian Public Health Strategy a) Pillar #1: Emergency Response The 2003 SARS outbreak shone a merciless light on the difficulties that Canada's stretched public health system can encounter when it needs to respond to health emergencies. The 21st century has brought a disturbing array of new public health risks (such as avian flu) and old risks revisited (such as contamination of water supplies). A comprehensive public health strategy should be able address these risks by: * Empowering rapid and effective response to health emergencies, e.g. communicable disease outbreaks, water contamination, bio-terrorist attacks. * Supporting health surveillance, screening and research, to identify potential health risks. [FIGURE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Figure 1. The Three Pillars of Public Health [FIGURE END] CMA Position: CMA's 2003 submission to the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health (the Executive Summary is attached as Appendix I) recommended a number of measures to strengthen Canada's capacity to respond to health emergencies. These included: * The enactment of a Canada Emergency Health Measures Act to allow for a more rapid national response to emergencies that pose an acute and imminent threat to human health and safety in Canada. * The creation of an independent Canada Public Health Agency, headed by a Chief Public Health Officer of Canada who would work with provinces and territories to develop and implement a pan-Canadian public health action plan. * Enhancements to the current system of disease surveillance and response, so that it remains privacy sensitive and ensures a two-way flow of information between public health experts and front-line clinicians. In 2004 CMA reiterated these recommendations to the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of State for Public Health, in response to her request for consultation on a Canada Public Health Agency. b) Pillar #2: Health Protection The Health Protection function ensures that Canadians are protected from health risks in their daily environment; for example, risks associated with the use of health or consumer products, or with the potential spread of infectious disease. Specific health protection functions include: * Ensuring that Canadians have access to the right pharmaceutical drugs, which have been proven safe and efficacious, at the right times, for the right prices. Our policy in this area is further discussed in our 2003 submission to the House Standing Committee on Health's review of prescription drugs, an executive summary of which is attached (Appendix II). * Monitoring Canada's pharmaceutical drug supply to ensure its safety, effectiveness and continued availability. * Ensuring the safety of natural health products, medical devices, hazardous products and other consumer products. This should include the regulation of toxic substances, including tobacco. * Regulating health claims for consumer products. * Monitoring the advertising and promotion of health products to the public. * Administering quarantine procedures. * Developing regulatory frameworks to ensure the safety and effectiveness of new technologies such as gene therapy and genetically modified foods. CMA Position: The principles that CMA believes should guide review of health protection legislation are discussed in Section 3. c) Pillar #3: Health Promotion and Disease Prevention For more than 30 years the federal government has incorporated the promotion of health, as well as the treatment of disease, into its mandate. Activities undertaken in pursuit of this function include: * Programs to encourage healthy behaviours, e.g. physical activity strategies. * Advocating for or implementing public policy that supports health e.g. bans on tobacco advertising and sponsorship, and fiscal policies, such as high tobacco taxes. * Research strategies to increase our understanding of the determinants of health. CMA Position: The CMA has called on the federal government to commit to the goal of establishing Canada as the top country in the world with regard to the health status of its citizens. Canada remains one of the few countries in the industrialized world without a clear statement of national health goals, targets and strategies. All levels of government should enable the Health Council of Canada to monitor and report on defined health goals and priorities. In addition, the CMA has developed policies and statements urging action on specific health promotion issues including: obesity control; injury prevention; physical activity; tobacco control; mental health; and many others. Though these three pillars have different foci and different legislative instruments, they must all be part of a comprehensive legislative agenda and strategy to renew and enhance public health and public health service delivery in Canada. Addressing issues under one pillar without reference to the other pillars or to a comprehensive public health framework and strategy fails to address the overall public health needs of Canadians. Recommendation 1. That the federal government ensure that legislative and administrative measures related to public health complement one another in function and are connected through communications and co-ordination mechanisms. 3. A Policy Framework for Health Protection Legislation This submission is a response to a legislative proposal regarding health protection; consequently the rest of this document will focus on the second of the three pillars described above, the "health protection" pillar. This section discusses the overall policy framework that the CMA believes should govern health protection in Canada. The CMA holds that health protection legislation should rest on the following principles: i) Primacy of Health and Safety. Legislation should commit to protection of public health and safety as its primary objective. ii) Core Values. Legislation should recognize the core values of Canadians, such as privacy of health and personal information, freedom of choice, and protection of vulnerable citizens, and be sensitive to cultural, gender, socio-economic and other factors where relevant. Where there is a conflict between Principle (i) and other values, this conflict and the grounds on which to resolve it should be explicitly stated. iii) Evidence-based Decision Making. Legislation should reflect a commitment to scientific, evidence-based decision making. It should provide for the requisite mechanisms to ensure that reviews of risk are independent and unbiased. iv) The Risk Assessment Process. Legislation should reflect a thorough risk-analysis procedure including risk assessment and evaluation. The pre-approval scrutiny to which a product1 is subjected should be based on its relative risk: regulatory requirements should be greater for products with greater risk and lower for those with less risk. Risk assessment should take into account risk to the community as well as to individuals. While the risk assessment process should be science-based, it should also recognize that public perception might influence the management and communication of risk. In areas of risk uncertainty, application of the precautionary principle could be considered on a case-by-case basis. v) General Safety Requirement. The CMA supports the proposal to include in the legislation a General Safety Requirement that would make it illegal for anyone to manufacture, promote or market a product that may present an undue risk to health, under reasonably foreseeable conditions of use. However, this overall requirement should not be used as a substitute for enacting regulations to cover specific products if evidence indicates that such regulations are necessary to protect public health. Nor should it be used as a rationale for relaxing regulatory regimes currently in place. vi) Support for Informed Patient Decision-Making. Legislation should ensure that Canadians have access to reliable, evidence-based information to support them in making decisions regarding their own health, and should ensure that the information they receive is not misleading or deceptive. vii) Accountability. Legislation should ensure that there is clear accountability for decision-making, and that this is vested in the Government of Canada. viii) Surveillance. Legislation should ensure comprehensive, effective post-marketing surveillance of drugs and other health products. This should be co-coordinated with surveillance and research programs governed by related public health acts such as the proposed Canada Emergency Health Measures Act. ix) Enforcement. Legislation should provide and enforce effective, meaningful penalties for noncompliance. x) Flexibility. Legislation should allow for flexibility in product approval, consistent with Principle i, in order to quickly and efficiently accommodate emerging issues (such as new technologies) developed in Canada and internationally. xi) Openness and Transparency. Legislation should operate transparently, incorporating ongoing, two-way communication with stakeholders, including health professionals and the public. xii) Working with Others. Legislation should encourage collaboration and co-operation with other federal departments, with provinces and territories, and with non-governmental and international organizations. At the same time it should respect existing jurisdictions and existing legislative and administrative mechanisms. 4. Impact of Health Protection Legislation on Medical Practice Physicians, along with other health professionals, play an important role in maintaining high health standards and communicating appropriate health information to Canadians. Some of the proposals included in the legislative proposal could have a significant positive or negative impact on medical practice. These include: a) The Drug Review Process Stakeholders have repeatedly drawn attention to the slowness and secrecy of Canada's drug approval process. Between 1996 and 1998 Canadian approval times (median 518 days) were significantly longer than Sweden (median 371 days), the UK (median 308 days) and the United States (median 369 days). These have not improved significantly even after Health Canada implemented a cost-recovery approach to funding drug reviews. In addition, the review process may not distinguish genuinely new and innovative "breakthrough" drugs from imitations of products already on the market. The legislative proposal discusses possible means of modernizing the drug review process, including co-operative agreements with comparable drug review agencies in other jurisdictions, and establishment of a mechanism for public comments. The CMA approves both these suggestions. To ensure that Canadians have access to the right drugs for their conditions as quickly as is consistent with safety, the CMA recommends: Recommendations 2. That the federal government implement a timely and efficient drug review process to reduce review times to the fastest level consistent with ensuring improved health outcomes and the safety of the drug supply. 3. That the federal government consider co-operative agreements for drug review with comparable agencies in Europe, the United States and Australia, while retaining final authority as to whether a new product should be allowed on the Canadian market. 4. That the drug review and approval process be open and transparent, providing updates on review status and the opportunity for stakeholder input. 5. That Health Canada apply a priority review process to "breakthrough" drugs, i.e. those that demonstrate a substantial improvement over products already on the market. b) Patient Safety and Post-marketing surveillance Recent reports have drawn public attention to the need for a rigourous, well-resourced post-marketing surveillance system to monitor the ongoing safety of marketed drugs and other health products in Canada. CMA strongly recommends that Health Canada work in partnership with stakeholders to develop such a system. The system should be non-punitive, supporting a "culture of safety" rather than one of blame, and should respect the privacy of patients and physicians. In this context the CMA supports the establishment of the Patient Safety Institute. In developing its post-marketing surveillance capacity, Health Canada should ensure that sufficient resources are in place to enable the system to: * Facilitate the reporting of adverse reactions by health professionals and others. The CMA supports activities that encourage the voluntary reporting of adverse reactions by physicians and others. For example, to facilitate timely and comprehensive reporting, forms should be easily accessible and the reporting process should be computerized, simple and transparent. * Collect and analyze data and produce information that health care professionals and policy makers can use in decision-making at the population level. With appropriate privacy safeguards, this information could also be used for a number of research purposes, e.g. monitoring the importation and use of drugs not yet licensed in Canada; ascertaining best practices in prescribing. * Communicate this information back to the provider in real time. The importance of real-time two-way communication with front-line practitioners and institutions cannot be overstated. The CMA has repeatedly called for sustained and substantial investment in a Health Communications and Coordination Initiative to improve the technical capacity of front-line health providers to communicate in real time with one another and with the rest of the health care system. This is a critical endeavour and should be undertaken immediately, using funds established for health surveillance in the March 2004 Federal Budget, and implemented within the next 6 months. This network could form the cornerstone of an adverse drug reaction reporting system. Recommendations: 6. That Health Canada work in partnership with stakeholders including CMA and other national medical and other health professional associations, to develop a rigourous post-marketing surveillance system to monitor the ongoing safety of marketed drugs. 7. That government accelerate activities to establish the Patient Safety Institute using a systems approach to support a culture of safety. 8. That all stakeholders join in supporting and encouraging outcome-based research to ascertain best practices in prescribing. 9. That the federal government invest in measures such as electronic communications networks, to increase physicians' capacity to report medication incidents and improve the timeliness of adverse event reporting. c) Drug Information and Advertising CMA believes that the public has a right to unbiased, accurate information on drugs and other therapeutic products. This information should be provided in accordance with CMA's "Principles for Providing Information about Prescription Drugs to Consumers" (Appendix III). Brand-specific product advertising is a less than optimal way of providing this information, and should be carefully monitored to discourage fraudulent or misleading claims. In particular, direct to consumer advertising of prescription drugs should not be permitted in Canada. Physicians and their associations are willing to work with Health Canada and other stakeholders in developing and disseminating accurate, unbiased information to the public and to health professionals about drugs and other health products. Recommendations: 10. That all stakeholders work to ensure that Canadians have ready access to a source of comprehensive, reliable information on health products and their uses, and that governments fund development and dissemination of validated information to physicians and to the public. 11. That the legislation define "promotion" and "advertising" so as to clearly distinguish them from unbiased health information, and from counselling by health professionals. 12. That the current safeguards against deception in advertising be strengthened in order to * Forbid fraudulent or misleading health claims in advertisements, on labels or in any other promotional or descriptive material pertaining to the product; * Ensure pre-clearance and ongoing review of all health claims by an objective agency; * Provide meaningful penalties for infraction. 13. That Health Canada maintain the current ban on advertising health products for treatment, prevention and cure of conditions or disease states to be identified in a regulatory schedule or administrative list; the inclusion of conditions in this list should be determined through a set of criteria that are written into the Act or regulations. 14. That the existing ban on direct to consumer advertising of prescription drugs be maintained and enforced to the full extent of the law, and that the loophole that currently permits advertising the name, price and quantity of a prescription drug be closed. 15. That all stakeholders, including medical associations and industry groups, work together toward effective regulation of drug promotion to health practitioners. d) Safeguarding the privacy of health information Patients must be able to feel assured that anything they tell their physicians will remain confidential, imparted to others only to the extent necessary to ensure optimal care. Accordingly, the privacy and confidentiality of patient-specific and physician-specific information should be safeguarded to the fullest extent possible. New technologies, e.g. electronic health records, have made the transfer of information simpler and more efficient. They have also made it more vulnerable to infringements on a patient's right to privacy. Several important pieces of legislation to safeguard privacy have already been enacted. In addition, the CMA has developed a Privacy Code (Appendix IV) that discusses confidentiality issues specific to health information. Section 3.6 of this Code contains a legislative test to which all proposed legislation, including the Health Protection Act, should be submitted. Recommendations 16. That the Health Protection Act respect the provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Federal Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). 17. That the privacy provisions in the Health Protection Act meet the legislative test outlined in Section 3.6 of CMA's Health Information Privacy Code. e) Other Issues The legislative proposal discusses giving Health Canada the power to develop guidelines or regulatory frameworks for specific circumstances, e.g. for new products and technologies such as genetically modified foods; or for situations in which the health of the public may otherwise be at risk, such as contamination of drinking water. In addition, the proposal discusses the possibility of modernizing existing laws that have become outdated. The CMA supports the direction of these proposals. The Quarantine Act, for example, is a piece of legislation the CMA believe merits urgent updating; new legislation should incorporate quarantine provisions for possible vectors leaving as well as entering Canada, and for inter-provincial as well as international traffic. With regard to specific issues not addressed elsewhere in this submission, the CMA recommends: Recommendations 18. That the Health Protection Act give Health Canada a clear mandate to develop guidance documents to address health and safety issues raised by new technologies. 19. That Natural Health Products be regulated on a strict framework that ensures their safety, quality and efficacy as well as the provision of complete and unbiased information to the public. 20. That the Act provide Health Canada with a clear mandate to collaborate with provincial/ territorial and local governments across Canada in reviewing legislation governing all aspects of drinking water from source to consumption to ensure that comprehensive programs are in place and being properly implemented. 21. That Health Canada urgently review the Quarantine Act and modernize its provisions. 5. Conclusion Health protection is one of three pillars of an effective public health system, along with rapid and effective emergency response, and programs and policies to maintain health and prevent disease. The CMA is pleased to have been able to advise governments on all of these pillars, in order to establish the health of Canadians on a strong foundation. We look forward to continued consultation with Health Canada on the proposed Health Protection Act, both on its overall framework and on specific issues of concern to the medical profession. We trust that the result will be strong legislation, founded on fair and enduring principles, to safeguard the health and security of Canadians. APPENDIX I Answering the Wake-up Call: CMA's Public Health Action Plan CMA Submission to Naylor Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health (Executive Summary) The public health system in Canada lies at the heart of our community values. It is the quintessential "public good" and is central to the continued good health of our population. When the public health system is working well, few are even aware that it is at work! Only when something goes terribly wrong - like the Walkerton tragedy or when we are faced with a new threat like SARS - is the integral, ongoing role of public health really recognized. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has been warning that our public health system is stretched to capacity in dealing with everyday demands, let alone responding to the latest crises. Canada's physicians have repeatedly called for governments to enhance public health capacity and strengthen the public health infrastructure throughout Canada. Our public health system is the first - and often the only - line of defence against emerging and ongoing infectious and noninfectious threats to the health of Canadians. But we are only as strong as the weakest link in the emergency response chain of survival. As most health threats know no boundaries, our public health armaments must be in a constant state of "battle readiness." In today's climate of SARS, West Nile Virus, mad cow disease and monkey pox, even the thought that the public health system may be stretched beyond capacity strikes fear into the hearts of Canadians. Physicians have always been an integral part of the public health system serving as medical officers of health, community health specialists and other related roles. Indeed public health cannot successfully fulfill its mandate without the cooperation and commitment of front-line clinicians. In this submission, we reflect on the lessons to be learned from our recent experience with SARS and reflect on the longer-term needs of the public health system as a whole. The objectives of the pan-Canadian Public Health Action Plan proposed by the CMA are, first to realize a clearer alignment of authority and accountability in times of extraordinary health emergencies; and, second, to enhance the system's capacity to respond to public health threats across the country (see recommendations, below). To achieve these twin objectives, three broad strategies are presented for immediate attention. They are legislative reform; capacity enhancement; and research, surveillance and communications. Legislative reform (see recommendations 1-3) The country's response to SARS has brought into stark relief the urgent need for national leadership and coordination of public health activity across the country, especially during a health crisis. The apparent reluctance to act quickly to institute screening at airports, the delay in unifying the practice community for a concerted response and the appalling communications confusion worked against optimum handling of the outbreak - despite the best efforts of health care professionals. This is a wake-up call that highlights the need for comprehensive legislative reform to clarify the roles of governments with respect to the management of public health threats. A renewed and enhanced national commitment to public health should be anchored in new federal legislation to be negotiated with the provinces and territories. Specifically, the CMA recommends an Emergency Health Measures Act, to deal with emergent situations in tandem with the creation of a Canadian public health agency headed by a Chief Public Health Officer of Canada. Capacity enhancement (see recommendations 4-7) The SARS crisis has demonstrated the diminished capacity within the public health system. The Greater Toronto Area (GTA), with one of Canada's most sophisticated public and acute health systems, has not been able to manage the SARS crisis adequately and carry on other health programs. The acute care system virtually ground to a halt in dealing with SARS. There was little or no surge capacity in Canada's largest city. We should be grateful that SARS did not first strike a smaller centre in a far less-advantaged region of Canada. A critical element of the public health system is its workforce and the health professionals within the acute care system, such as hospital-based infectious disease specialists and emergency physicians who are the front-line interface. Let there be no doubt that the ongoing efforts of the GTA front-line providers are nothing short of heroic. However, the lack of coordinated contingency planning of hospital and community-based disease control efforts was striking. The overall shortage of critical care professionals and the inability of governments to quickly deploy the required professionals to areas of need contributed to the enormous strain on the public and health care system. Considering the importance of the public health system and its clearly limited capacity to protect and promote the health of Canadians, it is incomprehensible that we do not know how much is actually spent on the system. It is imperative that public health expenditures and capacity, in terms of both physical and human resources, be tracked and reported publicly. The CMA recommends a $1-billion, 5-year capacity-enhancement program to be coordinated with and through the new Canadian public health agency. Research, surveillance and communications (see recommendations 8-10) Canada's ability to respond to public health threats and acute events, such as SARS, and to maintain its effective public health planning and program development depends on sound research, surveillance and rapid, real-time communications. A concerted pan-Canadian effort is required to take full advantage of our capacity for interdisciplinary research on public health, including infectious disease prevention and control measures. New-millennium challenges require moving beyond old-millennium responses. Enhanced surveillance is an overdue and integral part of public health, performing an essential function in early detection and response to threats of infectious diseases. Mandatory national reporting of identified diseases by all provinces and territories is critical for national and international surveillance. During times of crisis, rapid communication to the public, public health staff and front-line clinicians is of critical importance, but in many jurisdictions impossible. We tested our systems during the SARS outbreak and they came up short. The CMA recommends a one-time federal investment to enhance technical capacity to allow for real-time communication. Conclusion The CMA believes that its proposed three-pronged strategy, as set out in the attached recommendations, will go a long way toward addressing shortfalls of the Canadian public health system. Action now will help to ensure that Canadians can once again be confident that they are protected from any future threat of new infectious diseases. Action now will help Canada regain its position as a leader in public health. We wish the advisory committee well in its deliberations and offer the CMA's assistance at any time in clarifying the strategies set out in our submission. Recommendations to the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health Legislative reform ($20 million / 5 years*) 1. The enactment of a Canada Emergency Health Measures Act that would consolidate and enhance existing legislation, allowing for a more rapid national response, in cooperation with the provinces and territories, based on a graduated, systematic approach, to health emergencies that pose an acute and imminent threat to human health and safety across Canada. 2. The creation of a Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control (CODSC) as the lead Canadian agency in public health, operating at arm's length from government. 3. The appointment of a Chief Public Health Officer of Canada to act as the lead scientific voice for public health in Canada; to head the Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control; and to work with provinces and territories to develop and implement a pan-Canadian public health action plan. Capacity enhancement ( $1.2 billion / 5 years*) 4. The creation of a Canadian Centre of Excellence for Public Health, under the auspices of the CODSC, to invest in multidisciplinary training programs in public health, establish and disseminate best practices among public health professionals. 5. The establishment of a Canadian Public Health Emergency Response Service, under the auspices of the CODSC, to provide for the rapid deployment of human resources (e.g., emergency pan-Canadian locum programs) during health emergencies. 6. Tracking and public reporting of public health expenditures and capacity (both physical and human resources) by the Canadian Institute for Health Information and Statistics Canada, on behalf of the proposed Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control. 7. Federal government funding in the amount of $1 Billion over 5 years to build adequate and consistent surge capacity across Canada and improve coordination among federal, provincial/territorial and municipal authorities to fulfill essential public health functions. Research, surveillance and communications ($310 million / 5 years*) 8. An immediate, sequestered grant of $200 million over 5 years to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to initiate an enhanced conjoint program of research with the Institute of Population and Public Health and the Institute of Infection and Immunity that will expand capacity for interdisciplinary research on public health, including infectious disease prevention and control measures. 9. The mandatory reporting by provinces and territories of identified infectious diseases to the newly established Chief Public Health Officer of Canada to enable appropriate communications, analyses and intervention. 10. The one-time infusion of $100 million, with an additional $2 million a year, for a "REAL" (rapid, effective, accessible and linked) Health Communication and Coordination Initiative to improve technical capacity to communicate with front line public health providers in real time during health emergencies. APPENDIX II The Right Drugs, at the Right Times, for the Right Prices: Toward a Prescription Drug Policy for Canada CMA Submission to House of Commons Standing Committee on Health Every year, three hundred million prescriptions - about 10 for every man, woman and child - are filled in Canada. Prescription drugs have benefited both the health of Canadians, and the health care system itself; they have meant dramatically improved quality of life for many Canadians, and have saved the country a great deal in hospitalization, social benefits and other expenses. However, it could be questioned whether all of Canada's prescription drug use is appropriate; patients may be receiving too few medications, too many medications or suboptimal medications for their conditions. In addition, prescription drugs carry a price tag of their own. Since 1975, expenditures on prescription medication have risen faster than any other category in the health sector in Canada, and more is now spent on prescription drugs than on physician services. Governments, health care providers, drug manufacturers and the public must constantly strive to ensure that Canadians receive optimal and appropriate prescription drug therapy: the right drugs, at the right times, for the right prices. A considered, coherent, comprehensive, "made in Canada" approach to prescription drug policy should: * Put the health of the patient first; * Promote and enhance quality prescribing; * Respect, sustain and enhance the therapeutic relationship between patients and health professionals; * Promote patient compliance with drug therapy; * Respect the principles of patient confidentiality and the privacy of patient and prescriber information. Prescription drug policy in Canada should address: Access: to * efficacious new drugs within an appropriate time; * coverage for medically necessary drugs for catastrophic care; * generic drugs at reasonable prices; * a patient/physician consultation as part of the prescribing process; * continued research and development capacity in Canada. Information for health care providers and the public that is balanced and accurate. Safety: through mechanisms for the systematic monitoring of prescription drugs and their effects. Canada's doctors are committed to working with others to ensure that Canadians receive the right drugs, at the right times, for the right prices. Summary of CMA Recommendations: 1. That the federal government implement a timely and efficient drug review process to reduce review times to a level at or better than that in other OECD countries. 2. That the pharmaceutical industry give priority to research and development on drugs and delivery mechanisms that demonstrate a substantial improvement over products already on the market. 3. That Health Canada apply a priority review process to all drugs that demonstrate a substantial improvement over products already on the market. 4. That governments and insurance providers conduct research to identify the current gaps in prescription drug coverage for all Canadians, and develop policy options for providing this coverage, including consideration of the roles of public and private payers. 5. That the federal government monitor and, if necessary, regulate the export of prescription medications to ensure their continued availability to Canadians. 6. That prescribing of medication be done within the context of the therapeutic relationship which exists between the patient and the physician. 7. That brand-specific direct to consumer prescription drug advertising (DTCA) not be permitted in Canada, 8. That the federal government enforce the existing restrictions on DTCA found in the Food and Drug Act to the full extent of the law. 9. That the federal government develop and fund a comprehensive program to provide accurate, unbiased prescription drug information to patients. 10. That all stakeholders join in supporting and encouraging outcome-based research to ascertain best practices in prescribing. 11. That government accelerate activities to establish the Patient Safety Institute using a systems approach to support a culture of safety. 12. That a post-marketing surveillance system be implemented to monitor the ongoing safety of marketed drugs. APPENDIX III CMA POLICY Principles for Providing Information about Prescription Drugs to Consumers Approved by the CMA Board of Directors, March 2003 Since the late 1990's expenditures on direct to consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs in the United States have increased many-fold. Though U.S.-style DTCA is not legal in Canada 2 , it reaches Canadians through cross-border transmission of print and broadcast media, and through the Internet. It is believed to have affected drug sales and patient behaviour in Canada. Other therapeutic products, such as vaccines and diagnostic tests, are also being marketed directly to the public. Proponents of DTCA argue that they are providing consumers with much-needed information on drugs and the conditions they treat. Others argue that the underlying intent of such advertising is to increase revenue or market share, and that it therefore cannot be interpreted as unbiased information. The CMA believes that consumers have a right to accurate information on prescription medications and other therapeutic interventions, to enable them to make informed decisions about their own health. This information is especially necessary as more and more Canadians live with chronic conditions, and as we anticipate the availability of new products that may accompany the "biological revolution", e.g. gene therapies. The CMA recommends a review of current mechanisms, including mass media communications, for providing this information to the public. CMA believes that consumer information on prescription drugs should be provided according to the following principles. 3 Principle #1: The Goal is Good Health The ultimate measure of the effectiveness of consumer drug information should be its impact on the health and well-being of Canadians and the quality of health care. Principle #2: Ready Access Canadians should have ready access to credible, high-quality information about prescription drugs. The primary purpose of this information should be education; sales of drugs must not be a concern to the originator. Principle #3: Patient Involvement Consumer drug information should help Canadians make informed decisions regarding management of their health, and facilitate informed discussion with their physicians and other health professionals. CMA encourages Canadians to become educated about their own health and health care, and to appraise health information critically. Principle #4: Evidence-Based Content Consumer drug information should be evidence based, using generally accepted prescribing guidelines as a source where available. Principle #5: Appropriate Information Consumer drug information should be based as much as possible on drug classes and use of generic names; if discussing brand-name drugs the discussion should not be limited to a single specific brand, and brand names should always be preceded by generic names. It should provide information on the following: * indications for use of the drug * contraindications * side effects * relative cost. In addition, consumer drug information should discuss the drug in the context of overall management of the condition for which it is indicated (for example, information about other therapies, lifestyle management and coping strategies). Principle #6: Objectivity of Information Sources Consumer drug information should be provided in such a way as to minimize the impact of vested commercial interests on the information content. Possible sources include health care providers, or independent research agencies. Pharmaceutical manufacturers and patient or consumer groups can be valuable partners in this process but must not be the sole providers of information. Federal and provincial/territorial governments should provide appropriate sustaining support for the development and maintenance of up-to-date consumer drug information. Principle #7: Endorsement/ Accreditation Consumer drug information should be endorsed or accredited by a reputable and unbiased body. Information that is provided to the public through mass media channels should be pre-cleared by an independent board. Principle #8: Monitoring and Revision Consumer drug information should be continually monitored to ensure that it correctly reflects current evidence, and updated when research findings dictate. Principle #9: Physicians as Partners Consumer drug information should support and encourage open patient-physician communication, so that the resulting plan of care, including drug therapy, is mutually satisfactory. Physicians play a vital role in working with patients and other health-care providers to achieve optimal drug therapy, not only through writing prescriptions but through discussing proposed drugs and their use in the context of the overall management of the patient's condition. In addition, physicians and other health care providers, and their associations, can play a valuable part in disseminating drug and other health information to the public. Principle #10: Research and Evaluation Ongoing research should be conducted into the impact of drug information and DTCA on the health care system, with particular emphasis on its effect on appropriateness of prescribing, and on health outcomes. APPENDIX VI CMA POLICY HEALTH INFORMATION PRIVACY CODE This Code articulates principles for protecting the privacy of patients, the confidentiality and security of their health information and the trust and integrity of the therapeutic relationship. Its provisions are more exacting than those currently in place in the Canadian health care system. Although a patchwork of laws across Canada permit or require health information collection, use, disclosure and access without patient consent, or even knowledge, this Code would require that all of these laws and any proposed laws be reviewed for consistency with its provisions. Moreover, existing practices and initiatives concerning health information collection, use, disclosure and access, including health information systems or networks, may be contrary to patient expectations and the physician's duty of confidentiality. These practices and initiatives must also be reviewed for consistency with this Code. Many laws, practices and initiatives may not withstand the kind of scrutiny deemed necessary and reasonable for the protection of privacy and the trust and integrity of the therapeutic relationship. CMA issues this Code in recognition that its implementation raises numerous issues and challenges, and that the changes it envisions will require time and the expenditure of resources. CMA appreciates that, given the complexity of the health care system, agreement and cooperation among a wide range of users and collectors of health information will be essential to the successful implementation of this Code. In view of these challenges, CMA issues this Code to the Canadian health care community at this time as an ideal to strive for, to guide and coordinate the efforts that need to be made to protect the privacy of patients, the confidentiality and security of their health information and the trust and integrity of the therapeutic relationship. Moreover, this Code is issued in the understanding that those to whom it applies will not be able to achieve full compliance with its provisions until such time as numerous implementation issues have been clarified and resolved through cooperation and the coordinated efforts of many different stakeholders. Consequently, companion implementation documents are being developed that provide for a gradual implementation of the Code's provisions over a five-year span and outline work that needs to be done to achieve the ideal it envisions. Section A: Scope This Health Information Privacy Code ("Code") has been produced by physicians to protect the privacy of their patients, the confidentiality and security of their health information and the trust and integrity of the therapeutic relationship. This Code is based on the Canadian Standards Association's Model Code for the Protection of Personal Information ("CSA Code") as a sectoral code of the CSA Code. This Code provides instruction and guidance respecting health information collection, use, disclosure and access. 1. This Code describes the minimum requirements to protect the privacy of patients and the security and confidentiality of their health information. 2. This Code has been developed by physicians in their capacity as clinicians and in recognition of their principal obligation to patients. 3. This Code recognizes the potential benefits of the use of health information for secondary purposes, including teaching, research and system planning, and contains provisions to permit such use under clearly defined terms and conditions. 4. This Code has been developed as a sectoral code of the Canadian Standards Association's Model Code for the Protection of Personal Information and consequently adopts the minimum standards contained in the CSA Code and augments them to meet the special circumstances of health information. 5. The development of this Code has been inspired by the report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, entitled Privacy: Where Do We Draw The Line? 6. The Code applies to all health information and to all individuals, groups or organizations that collect, use, disclose or access such information. Its objective is to instruct in the development and implementation of policies, practices, health information systems or networks and legislation. 7. The principles that make up this Code are interrelated. Health information custodians adopting this Code shall adhere to these principles as a whole. 8. Health information custodians must subscribe to the principles contained in this Code and agree to uphold them, but may tailor this Code by modifying or adding principles provided the changes afford no less protection to the privacy of patients and the confidentiality and security of their health information. 9. Statements containing "shall" or "must" indicate requirements that must be met by any health information custodian who wishes to adopt this Code and be recognized for having done so. The use of "should" indicates a recommendation or aspiration. Section B: Definitions The following definitions apply in this Code: "Access" means the ability to acquire or possess health information in any information format. "Accountability" means having clearly defined and understood responsibilities in connection with health information, agreeing to accept those responsibilities and being subject to appropriate sanctions for failing to fulfil accepted responsibilities. "Authorized" means that which occurs with patient consent or within the provisions of this Code and applies to purposes, collection, use and disclosure of, or access to, health information. "Authorized user" is someone permitted to collect, use, disclose or access health information under the provisions of this Code, who is properly instructed on his or her limits and responsibilities, and who can be held accountable for his or her compliance. "Collection" means the act of accessing, receiving, compiling, gathering, acquiring or obtaining health information from any source, including third parties, and by any means. It includes information collected from the patient, as well as secondary collection of this information in whole or in part by another provider or user. "Confide" and "confided" mean the revelation of information by a patient within the therapeutic context. "Confidentiality" and "confidential" mean that health information that is confided by a patient is to be kept secret and not disclosed or made accessible to others unless authorized by patient consent. A breach of confidentiality occurs whenever a health professional discloses or makes health information available to others without or inconsistent with the patient's consent. "Consent" means a patient's informed and voluntary agreement to confide or permit access to or the collection, use or disclosure of his or her health information for specific purposes. Express consent is given explicitly, either orally or in writing. Express consent is unequivocal and does not require any inference on the part of the provider seeking consent. Implied consent arises where agreement may reasonably be inferred from the action or inaction of the individual and there is good reason to believe that the patient has knowledge relevant to this agreement and would give express consent were it sought. "Disclosure" means the provision of health information to a third party for any reason, or making health information available for a third party to collect. It includes any transfer or migration of health information from one provider or user to another. "Duty of confidentiality" means the duty of physicians and other health professionals in a fiduciary relationship with patients to ensure that health information is kept secret and not disclosed or made accessible to others unless authorized by patient consent. "Emergency situations" mean those instances when health care must be provided to preserve life or prevent severe harm to a patient who is unable, owing to the circumstances, to be cognizant of the context and whose surrogate is not immediately available to make decisions on the patient's behalf. "Fiduciary duty" means the obligation to act with the utmost good faith for the benefit of another. "Health information" means any information about a patient that is confided or collected in the therapeutic context, including information created or generated from this information and information that is not directly or indirectly linked to the provision of health care. It includes all information formats. "Health information custodian" means any organization or institution that has custody, care or control of health information, and includes hospitals, regional boards, governments, corporations and solo or group medical practices. "Information format" means any form containing or recording health information, including: (a) a form that identifies or could identify a specific patient, either directly or indirectly; (b) a form that removes the link between the patient and information about him or her and which could, either directly or indirectly, be manipulated to reconnect the link between the patient and information about him or her ("deidentified-relinkable"); (c) a form that removes the link between the patient and information about him or her with the intent of preventing any reconnection of the link between the patient and information about him or her in accordance with recognized standards ("anonymous"); or (d) the composite form produced when health information is linked to any information about the patient from any other source, whether or not it is also health information. "Integrity of health information" means the preservation of its content throughout storage, use, transfer and retrieval so that there is confidence that the information has not been tampered with or modified other than as authorized. "Health professional" is any person having a fiduciary duty to patients who is registered and entitled by provincial or territorial law to practise or provide health care in that province or territory. "Knowledge" means the patient's awareness of what can or must happen with the health information he or she confides or permits to be collected. "Linkage" is the joining together of health information with information from any other source or database, in whatever form. When health information is linked to any other information, the composite is also health information. "Nonconsensual" collection, use, disclosure or access, whether justified or not, occurs without a patient's consent and contravenes the patient's right of privacy. "Patient" means the person about whom health information is collected and, for the purposes of this Code, may also mean a surrogate or guardian acting on behalf of this person. "Physician" means a person who is registered and entitled under the laws of a province or territory to practise medicine in that province or territory. "Primary" means that which occurs for the therapeutic benefit of a particular patient. Secondary means not directly related to the therapeutic benefit of the particular patient from whom the information has originated. "Purpose" means an end or aim for which health information is collected, used, disclosed or accessed. A description of purpose can be general enough to incorporate a range of like information uses provided that the generic description is sufficiently narrow and limited so as to communicate to the ordinary person a clear understanding of the potential information uses that could reasonably be expected to be relevant to their consent. The primary therapeutic purpose is the delivery of health care to a particular patient with respect to a particular and immediate health need or problem. It encompasses consultation with and referral to other providers on a need-to-know basis. A primary longitudinal purpose concerns developing composite health information about a particular patient, such as a detailed medical history, beyond direct application to any particular and immediate health need or problem, in order to enhance ongoing care to that person. Secondary legislated purposes have been subjected to the legislative test specified in this Code and have subsequently been written in law. Secondary nonlegislated purposes are any other purposes, such as education or research not governed by legislation, that meet the provisions of this Code and the secondary nonlegislative test provided by this Code. "Provider" means a health professional or institution that delivers health care services or products in the therapeutic context. "Right of privacy" includes a patient's right to determine with whom he or she will share information and to know of and exercise control over use, disclosure and access concerning any information collected about him or her; it entails the right of consent. Nonconsensual collection, use, disclosure or access violates the right of privacy, even if it is justified. "Security" means reasonable precautions, including physical and technical protocols, to protect health information from unauthorized collection, use, disclosure and access, and to ensure that the integrity of the information is properly safeguarded. A breach of security occurs whenever health information is collected, used, disclosed or accessed other than as authorized, or its integrity compromised. "Sensitivity" of health information refers to the patient's interest in keeping the information secret. It varies according to the nature of the information, its form, and the potential negative repercussions of its collection, use or disclosure on the patient's interests. "Therapeutic context" means a setting in which information is confided by or collected from, about or on behalf of a patient who: (a) is in a therapeutic relationship with or under the care of a physician or health professional; (b) is resident in or seeking health care within a facility or institution whose principal purpose is the provision of health care, including physicians' offices, hospitals and other health care facilities; (c) confides information within a fiduciary relationship to a health care professional and with the belief that the health care professional will maintain its confidentiality, subject to very limited exceptions; or (d) confides information in the belief that it is necessary for the safe, timely and effective delivery of health care. "Transparency and openness" are the characteristics of policies, procedures and practices that seek to ensure that patients know what can or must happen with the health information they confide or permit to be collected, used, accessed or disclosed. "Use of health information" means any processing of health information including storage, retention, retrieval, manipulation, connection or linkage to other sources of information in any format. Section C: Principles Principle 1: The Right of Privacy The right of privacy is fundamental in a free and democratic society. It includes a patient's right to determine with whom he or she will share information and to know of and exercise control over use, disclosure and access concerning any information collected about him or her. The right of privacy and consent are essential to the trust and integrity of the patient-physician relationship. Nonconsensual collection, use, access or disclosure violates the patient's right of privacy. The right of privacy is important and worthy of protection, not just for the good of individuals in society but also for the good of society as a whole. 1.1 Canadians are entitled to expect and enjoy fundamental privacy rights and guarantees, which include: (a) physical, bodily and psychological integrity and privacy; (b) privacy of personal information; (c) freedom from surveillance; (d) privacy of personal communications; and (e) privacy of personal space. 1.2 The basic duties owed to others to ensure that their privacy rights are adequately respected include: (a) the duty to ensure consent; (b) the duty to take all the steps necessary to respect adequately others' privacy rights or, if their rights must be infringed, to interfere with privacy as little as possible; (c) the duty to be accountable; (d) the duty to be transparent; and (e) the duty to build privacy protection features into technological systems and designs. 1.3 The specific duties related to the protection of the patient's right of privacy in health information include: (a) the duty to hold health care information in trust; (b) the duty to limit information collection to what is necessary and justifiable for the benefit of the patient; (c) the duty to ensure that patients are informed by reasonable means about purposes for collection, use, disclosure or access at or before the time of collection, including the potential for such to occur nonconsensually; (d) the duty to ensure that the information is accurately recorded; (e) the duty to ensure consent by reasonable means, except in limited circumstances where the right of privacy and of consent are justifiably infringed by some compelling right, good or duty; (f) the duty to ensure that the right of privacy and the right to consent are infringed no more than is necessary by the compelling right, good or duty; (g) the duty to use and disclose health information only as consistent with the purposes identified at or before the time it was collected; (h) the duty to keep health information only for as long as necessary to fulfil identified purposes; (i) the duty not to disadvantage people because they elect to exercise their right of privacy; and (j) the duty of physicians and other health professionals to hold information in confidence. 1.4 Although the patient's interests and concerns about health information may vary depending on the sensitivity of the information, the right of privacy extends to all health information in whatever format. Principle 2: Special Nature of Health Information Governing principles and rules for health information must recognize the patient's right of privacy in health information, its highly sensitive nature, the circumstances of vulnerability and trust under which it is confided or collected, and the fiduciary duties of health professionals in relation to this information. The patient-physician relationship as defined by trust and a professional promise of confidentiality is a societal good worthy of protection. 2.1 Principles and rules governing health information must recognize: (a) its high level of sensitivity and protect the patient's right of privacy accordingly; (b) that the principal purpose for confiding and collecting this information is to benefit the patient; (c) that in the therapeutic context patients may be vulnerable and under duress, and must not be subjected to manipulation, coercion or exploitation; (d) that patients confide information to physicians and other health professionals under a very special trust, and that physicians and other health professionals have fiduciary duties to patients, including a duty to hold information in confidence. 2.2 Principles and rules governing health information must ensure that physicians and other health professionals can discharge their fiduciary duties and therefore shall take into account that: (a) patients may be in a situation of vulnerability owing to infirmity or incapacity, urgent need, lack of knowledge and power, or simply because they have needs and have to rely or depend upon providers to meet those needs; (b) patients confide information that is ordinarily considered by them to be private because they have certain needs that require the care of a provider and believe the information is required by the provider to help meet those needs; (c) were it not for those needs, and the expectation that the provider can help patients meet them, the occasion for the collection of the health information would not exist and the information would remain private; (d) were it not for the reputation of health professionals for trustworthiness and the expectation that information disclosed to them will be held in confidence, patients would be less willing to confide health information fully and truthfully in the therapeutic context; and (e) to the extent that provisions for health information inhibit patients from confiding health information fully and truthfully, their health care will be adversely affected. Principle 3: Constraints on Purposes and Limitation on Collection, Use, Disclosure and Access The principal purpose for the collection of health information is to benefit the patient who confides or permits information to be collected for a therapeutic purpose. Secondary purposes for the use of the information shall not be pursued if they inhibit patients from confiding information for the primary purpose, exploit patients' vulnerability, compromise the ability of physicians to discharge their fiduciary duties to patients or borrow on the trust patients invest in physicians for the primary therapeutic purpose. Collection, use, disclosure or access for secondary purposes shall be restricted to what is necessary for those purposes and shall not impede the confiding or collection of information for primary purposes. Nonconsensual access to and collection, use or disclosure of health information is a violation of a patient's right of privacy, compromises the physician's duty of confidentiality and is potentially disruptive of the trust and integrity of the therapeutic relationship. Therefore, it must only occur in very limited circumstances - namely emergency situations, in accordance with legislation that meets the requirements of this Code, or in response to a court decision or order. Even consensual collection, use, disclosure or access may erode the right of privacy and the trust and integrity of the therapeutic relationship. Therefore, it must only occur with due consideration of possible negative impacts and with measures designed to maximize privacy protection. 3.1 Provided that the principles contained in this Code are adhered to, and in particular that the principles related to patient consent are rigorously applied, health information may be collected, used, disclosed or accessed for the following purposes: (a) Primary purposes: (i) Primary therapeutic purpose is the initial reason for a patient seeking or receiving care in the therapeutic context, and pertains to the delivery of health care to a particular patient with respect to the presenting health need or problem. It encompasses consultation with and referral to other providers on a need-to-know basis. (ii) Primary longitudinal purpose concerns developing composite health information about a particular patient, such as a detailed medical history, beyond direct application to the presenting health need or problem, in order to enhance ongoing care to that person. (b) Secondary purposes: (i) Secondary legislated purpose refers to health information collection, use, disclosure or access required or permitted by legislation or regulation that meets the provisions of this Code and the legislative test provided by this Code. (ii) Secondary nonlegislated purpose is any other purpose, such as education or research not governed by legislation, that meets the provisions of this Code and the secondary nonlegislative test provided by this Code. 3.2 Health information collection, use, disclosure or access for the primary therapeutic and longitudinal purposes may be as extensive as necessary to fulfil these purposes and reflect the high level of trustworthiness and accountability of health professionals in the therapeutic context. 3.3 Health information collection, use, disclosure or access for any secondary purposes shall be as minimal as necessary in recognition of the need to protect the patient's right of privacy in the therapeutic context. 3.4 Health information collection, use, disclosure or access without patient consent shall only occur in the limited circumstances provided by this clause. Nonconsensual health information collection, use, disclosure or access, including the conversion of health information from one information format to another, is a violation of a patient's right of privacy, may compromise the physician's duty of confidentiality, and is potentially disruptive of the trust and integrity of the therapeutic relationship. Therefore, it must only occur under strict conditions and in these very limited circumstances: (a) when permitted or required by legislation or regulation that meets the requirements of this Code; or (b) when ordered or decided by a court of law. 3.5 Any existing or proposed secondary purpose for health information collection, use, disclosure or access, including health information systems or networks, shall be subjected to a patient privacy impact analysis that shall include an evaluation of: (a) the likely impact of the proposed measures on the right of privacy of patients; (b) the likely impact of the proposed measures on the relationship between patients and their physicians, and in particular on the duty of confidentiality and the trust within this relationship; (c) the likely impact of the proposed measures on the willingness of patients to disclose health information; (d) the likely impact of the proposed measures on the ability of patients to receive health care; and (e) compelling evidence to demonstrate broad public support for the proposed measures. 3.6 Any proposed or existing legislation or regulation made under legislative authority that permits or requires health information collection, use, disclosure or access shall be subjected to the following legislative test: (a) There must be demonstration that: (i) a patient privacy impact assessment has been conducted, the analysis has been made public and has been duly considered prior to the introduction of legislation; (ii) collection, use, disclosure and access will be limited to the greatest degree possible to ensure that - the collection of health information by persons external to the therapeutic context will neither trade on nor compromise the trust of the patient-physician relationship; - patients are not likely to be inhibited from confiding information for primary purposes; - the ability of physicians to discharge their fiduciary duties to patients will not be compromised; and - patient vulnerability will not be exploited; (iii) collection, use, disclosure and access will be restricted to what is necessary for the identified purpose(s) and will not impede the confiding or collection of information for primary purposes; (iv) provisions exist for ensuring that patients are provided with knowledge about the purpose(s) and that, subject to 3.6(b), patient consent is clearly voluntary; (v) the means used are proportionate and the collection will be limited to purposes consented to or made known to the patient; (vi) the patient's privacy will be intruded upon to the most limited degree possible in light of the purpose(s) consented to or made known to the patient; (vii) linkage of the health information will be limited; and (viii) unless clear and compelling reasons exist, - all reasonable steps will be taken to make health information anonymous; and - if it has been demonstrated that making health information anonymous would render it inadequate for legitimate uses, the information will be collected and stored in a deidentified-relinkable format. (b) When nonconsensual collection, use, disclosure or access is permitted or required by legislation or regulation that meets the requirements of this Code, the following conditions must also be met: (i) the right of privacy has to be violated because the purpose(s) could not be met adequately if patient consent is required; and (ii) the importance of the purpose(s) must be demonstrated to justify the infringement of the patient's right of privacy in a free and democratic society. (c) Any legislative provision or regulation that permits or requires health information collection, use, disclosure or access nonconsensually shall not, without compelling reasons, be applied retroactively to existing health information. 3.7 Any proposed or existing secondary nonlegislated purpose shall be subjected to the following nonlegislative test: (a) Before a health information custodian uses health information in its custody for secondary nonlegislated purposes, or before it releases or makes health information accessible to an external third party for secondary nonlegislated purposes, it must demonstrate or require the third party to demonstrate that: (i) a patient privacy impact assessment has been conducted, the analysis has been made public, the results have been duly considered and uses for that purpose will not be pursued if there is an adverse effect on privacy; (ii) collection of health information by persons beyond the therapeutic context will not exploit or compromise the trust of the patient-physician relationship; (iii) patients are not likely to be inhibited from confiding information for primary purposes; (iv) the ability of physicians to discharge their fiduciary duties to patients will not be compromised; (v) patient vulnerability will not be exploited; (vi) collection will be restricted to what is necessary for the identified purpose(s) and will not intrude upon primary purposes; (vii) patients will be fully informed of the purpose(s) and patient consent will be clearly voluntary; (viii) patient privacy will be intruded upon to the most limited degree possible in light of the purpose(s) consented to; (ix) linkage of health information will be restricted and consented to by the patient; (x) unless clear and compelling reasons exist, - all reasonable steps will be taken to make health information anonymous; - if it has been demonstrated that making health information anonymous will render it inadequate for legitimate uses, then the information will be collected and stored in a deidentified-relinkable format; (xi) any third party to whom health information is released has adopted this Code or has equivalent provisions in place; and (xii) the purpose(s) will not be applied retroactively to existing health information unless patient consent is given. 3.8 Health information shall not be collected by means that are unlawful, unfair or exploit the patient's vulnerability, nor shall any of the patient's beliefs or potentially false expectations about subsequent collection, use, disclosure or access be exploited. 3.9 Courts of law should respect the provisions of this Code when issuing orders or decisions. 3.10 Health information shall be retained only as long as it is necessary to fulfil authorized purposes. Once the authorized purposes are fulfilled it shall be securely destroyed, unless some issue or decision related to the patient and pertinent to the patient's health information is pending. Principle 4: Knowledge and Specification of Purpose, Collection, Use, Disclosure and Access In the therapeutic context, health information is confided by or collected from patients under the patient's presumption that it is necessary to meet his or her therapeutic needs. The potential that health information, in whole or in part, may be subsequently collected, used, disclosed or accessed for other purposes without their consent, and what those purposes might be, must be made known to the patient by reasonable means before it is confided or collected for primary purposes. It is not acceptable to withhold such knowledge from patients deliberately out of concern that knowledge could inhibit them from confiding important information fully and truthfully. 4.1 A health information custodian must have documentation that lists all purposes for which it uses or discloses the health information it collects, including to whom it permits access to what information, in what format and whether consent is required. 4.2 Within the therapeutic context health information is confided or provided by patients in the knowledge or with the belief that it is necessary to achieve therapeutic purposes. Patients must be explicitly informed about any other purposes. 4.3 Health information must not be used for purposes not identified to the patient at or before the time it is confided or collected, unless patient consent is subsequently sought and obtained. 4.4 Patients must either have or be provided by reasonable means with knowledge about what can or must happen with their health information. The degree of detail or specificity of this knowledge is what could be presumed germane to the decision of a reasonable person in the circumstances of the patient. 4.5. Unless a particular patient has given indication to the contrary, the conveyance of generic information is a reasonable means of providing knowledge. When the preferences of a particular patient for being informed are known or can be reasonably inferred given his or her circumstances, the provision of knowledge should as much as possible be tailored to these known preferences. 4.6 The goal of providing knowledge to patients is to ensure that before they confide information or permit information to be collected they actually understand what can or must subsequently happen with their information, particularly without their consent. Principle 5: Consent The patient's ability to decide with whom he or she will share information is crucial for the protection of the right of privacy and for the preservation of trust in the therapeutic context. Only the patient's consent to health information collection, use, disclosure and access for the primary therapeutic purpose can be inferred. Except for the very limited nonconsensual purposes addressed in this Code, any other collection, use, disclosure or access requires express consent. Nonconsensual collection, use, disclosure or access infringes the right of privacy and compromises the trust of the fiduciary relationship. To satisfy the requirement that consent be informed, the patient must have, or by reasonable means be provided with, knowledge about the potential for subsequent nonconsensual collection, use, disclosure or access before he or she confides any information. 5.1 Except for the very limited conditions set out in 3.4 concerning nonconsensual collection, use, disclosure or access, consent is required for health information collection, use, disclosure or access for any purpose. 5.2 For the purposes of this Code, consent for health information collection, use, disclosure or access in emergency situations is deemed to have been given to the extent necessary to allay the emergency as consistent with legal principles governing emergency medical care. The protection accorded this information shall be consistent with the provisions of this Code. 5.3 Consent to health information collection, use, disclosure and access for the primary therapeutic purpose may be inferred. Consent to subsequent collection, use, disclosure and access on a need-to-know basis by or to other physicians or health providers for this purpose, and for this purpose alone, may be inferred, as long as there is no evidence that the patient would not give express consent to share the information. 5.4 Interpretation of "need-to-know" shall be guided by consideration of what the reasonable person in similar circumstances would expect, or otherwise authorize by his or her consent. If expectations are unclear or ambiguous, care should be taken to ascertain those expectations and to make the flow of information among providers in the therapeutic context consistent with those expectations. 5.5 Consent to collection, use, disclosure and access for longitudinal primary purposes must be express unless the provider has good reason to infer consent. 5.6 For the purposes of this Code, disclosure of health information to the patient's relatives or significant others is recognized as assisting in primary purposes. Consent to this disclosure must be express unless the provider has good reason to imply patient consent. 5.7 Consent can only be inferred in the case of primary purposes, and for primary purposes alone; collection, use, disclosure or access thus authorized must be limited either to the known expectations of a particular patient or to what the reasonable person in similar circumstances would likely believe necessary to receive health care. 5.8 Implied consent does not deprive the patient of the right to refuse consent or the right to challenge the provider's finding of implied consent. 5.9 Patient consent for secondary nonlegislated purposes shall be express, voluntary and fully informed. 5.10 Where express consent is required, patients must be informed of their right to refuse consent. It is not acceptable to compromise care deliberately as a consequence of the patient's refusal to provide express consent or to exploit any fear the patient might have that this could occur. 5.11 Consent shall not be obtained by coercion, deception or manipulation. Failure to inform the patient by reasonable means of relevant information pertinent to consent invalidates this consent. 5.12 Although all health information is sensitive and should be treated as such, the more sensitive the health information is likely to be, given what is known about the circumstances or preferences of the patient, the more important it is to ensure that consent is voluntary and informed. Principle 6: Individual Access Patients have the right of access to their health information. In rare and limited circumstances, health information may be withheld from a patient if there is a significant likelihood of a substantial adverse effect on the physical, mental or emotional health of the patient or substantial harm to a third party. The onus lies on the provider to justify a denial of access. 6.1 The patient is entitled to know about, and subject to 6.5 to have access to, any information about himself or herself under the custody of the health information custodian. 6.2 Patients should be informed that they have the right to access their health information, to read it and to have copies of it. 6.3 Patients who wish to access their information should be given the opportunity to do so with explanation from a health professional who is knowledgeable about this information and capable of interpreting it for the patient. 6.4 Patients must be able to receive copies of their health information at a reasonable cost that does not exceed the cost of providing the information. 6.5 Providers may, in rare and limited circumstances, withhold health information from a patient if there is a significant likelihood of a substantial adverse effect on the physical, mental or emotional health of the patient or substantial harm to a third party. The onus is on the provider to justify a denial of access. 6.6 Patients are entitled to know who has gained access to their health information and for what purposes. Principle 7: Accurate Recording of Information Accurate recording is important to protect the patient's right of privacy and to meet the purposes for its collection, use, disclosure or access. 7.1 Health information shall be recorded as accurately as possible, and shall be as complete and current as necessary for authorized purposes. 7.2. The recording of statements of fact, clinical judgements and determinations or assessments should reflect as nearly as possible what has been confided by the patient and what has been ascertained, hypothesized or determined to be true using professional judgement. 7.3 Patients who have reviewed their information and believe it to be inaccurately recorded or false have the right to suggest amendments and to have their amendments appended to the health information. 7.4 Whenever possible, health information should be recorded in a form that allows for authorized secondary purposes consented to by the patient. Any standardization of recording requirements relevant to subsequent secondary purposes shall not impede recording of information for primary purposes. Principle 8: Security Security safeguards must be in place to ensure that only authorized collection, use, disclosure or access occurs. Such safeguards must also assure the integrity of the available information. 8.1 Health information, regardless of the information format, shall be protected by security safeguards to ensure compliance with the provisions of this Code. 8.2 The development of security safeguards with respect to levels of access for various users shall recognize the differences in the sensitivity of health information and permit access accordingly. 8.3 Security safeguards shall impede as little as possible health information collection, use, access and disclosure for primary purposes. 8.4 A health information custodian shall ensure that persons are able to collect, use, disclose or access health information in its control only as authorized. Persons thus authorized must have a clear understanding of the authority, parameters, purposes and responsibilities of their access, and of the consequences of failing to fulfil their responsibilities. 8.5 An authorized person's access to health information, including persons or groups external to the health information custodian, shall be limited to only the information needed for the authorized purpose(s), in the least intrusive format. 8.6 Security safeguards shall include both physical and human resource safeguards to prevent unauthorized health information collection, use, disclosure and access. Physical security measures include such safeguards as locked filing cabinets, restricted access to certain offices or areas, and the use of passwords, encryption and lock-boxes. Human resource security measures include security clearances, sanctions, training and contracts. 8.7. Health information custodians must protect health information in their custody so as to ensure its integrity and have assurance that the integrity of information received from other health information custodians has been similarly safeguarded. 8.8 Security safeguards should incorporate identification, authentication, information integrity/availability and non-repudiation, as appropriate. Principle 9: Accountability Accountability is owed first and foremost to the patient. Health information custodians must have in place policies and procedures that recognize this principal accountability and health professionals' duty of confidentiality to the patient. Anyone a health information custodian authorizes to have access to health information must be capable of being held accountable for his or her actions. In addition, health information custodians must designate a qualified person responsible and accountable for monitoring and ensuring internal compliance with this Code. 9.1 Health information custodians are responsible for the security of health information they collect, use, disclose or permit access to. 9.2 Health information custodians must ensure that persons, including administrative and technical support staff, receive authorization to access health information only as necessary to fulfil authorized purposes. 9.3 A health information custodian must ensure that anyone permitted to have access to health information has clearly defined and understood responsibilities in connection with health information, agrees to accept those responsibilities, and is subject to appropriate sanctions for failing to fulfil the accepted responsibilities. 9.4 Health information custodians must designate a qualified person responsible and accountable for monitoring and ensuring internal compliance with this Code. The designated accountable person shall have the autonomy, authority, and resources necessary to ensure the health information custodian's adherence to the Code. In the case of small private practices, practitioners may designate themselves. 9.5 Policies and procedures to ensure compliance with this Code must consider the special, direct accountability of health professionals to their patients. The high level of trust vested in health professionals is crucial to the initial confiding of health information for the therapeutic purpose. 9.6 Health information custodians must ensure that third parties privy to health information have adopted this Code or are bound by equivalent provisions. Provided that this has been determined before health information is disclosed or made accessible, health information custodians are not accountable for the actions of third parties or for what subsequently happens to the information. 9.7 Although it is the responsibility of the health information custodian to ensure that patients are appropriately informed, secondary users whose information requirements impose a burden upon the health information custodian are responsible for covering their share of any related costs or resource requirements (e.g., preparation of brochures). Health information custodians may reasonably require secondary users to cover their own costs as a condition of making health information available to them as authorized. Principle 10: Transparency and Openness Policies, procedures and practices relating to health information must be transparent so that patients can clearly understand the extent and circumstances of health information collection, use, disclosure and access. They must be explicit enough that patients are adequately informed and able to acquire knowledge germane to their confiding of information, and must be open to scrutiny and challenge. 10.1 Health information custodians must have transparent, explicit and open policies, procedures and practices, tailored to their practice setting, that seek to ensure that patients are provided with information about what can or must happen with their health information without their consent. 10.2 Policies, procedures and practices shall be as explicit as necessary to ensure that patients are aware of any considerations that could be relevant to deciding what information they elect to freely confide or consent to be collected, used, disclosed or accessed. Nothing must be left implicit that, if made explicit, could reasonably be expected to alter a patient's decision to freely confide information. Information about nonconsensual collection, use, disclosure and access must be made explicit. 10.3 Patients should be able to discuss the health information custodian's policies, procedures and practices concerning health information with a knowledgeable person and have specific questions about their own health information answered in a timely fashion. 10.4 A health information custodian's policies, procedures and practices shall ensure that patients can understand what might, can or must happen to their health information, that consent is sought as required by this Code and that nothing is left implicit or unknown to patients that if known or made explicit could reasonably be expected to alter a patient's decision to freely confide information. 10.5 Patients shall be able to challenge the health information custodian's compliance with the provisions of this Code by addressing their concerns to the designated accountable person. 10.6 Procedures shall be in place to receive and respond to complaints or inquiries about policies, procedures and practices relating to health information collection, use, disclosure and access. The complaint process must be easily accessible and simple to use. 10.7 Patients who make inquiries or lodge complaints shall be informed of the existence of relevant complaint mechanisms. 10.8 All complaints shall be investigated. If a complaint is found to be justified, appropriate remedial measures shall be taken such as amending policies, procedures or practices. Section D: Health Information Policies Health information custodians must have in place and implement policies, procedures and practices that give effect to the principles of this Code. 1.1 Health information policies, procedures and practices should be tailored to the specific health care setting of the custodian and shall address and provide for: (a) complying with and giving effect to the principles of this Code; (b) protecting the security of health information; (c) ensuring the accurate recording and integrity of health information; (d) documentation of all purposes for which the health information custodian uses or discloses the health information it collects, including to whom it permits access to what information, in what format and whether consent is required; (e) documentation of what health information may be linked to other pieces of information; (f) documentation of what health information is made available to third parties; (g) allowing access only to authorized users in the appropriate format and for the limited purposes for which they are authorized; (h) identification of the person who is accountable for the policies, procedures and practices and to whom complaints or inquiries can be made; (i) receiving and responding to complaints and inquiries; (j) ensuring that persons who collect, use, disclose or access health information can be held accountable and are under an enforceable duty to keep information secure; (k) ensuring that persons who work for or in the health institution know and receive sufficient training about this Code and related institutional policies, procedures and practices to ensure accountability; (l) the means of gaining access to one's own health information held by the health institution; (m) making available information that a particular patient specifically requests or reasonably can be presumed to wish to know; (n) ensuring that patients have, or by reasonable means are provided with, knowledge about their health information and that consent is sought and obtained as appropriate; and (o) specification of minimum and maximum retention periods and rules for the succession, transfer and destruction of health information. 1.2 The health information custodian's policies must be readily available to patients and should include information about practices and procedures. 1 Though this submission uses the word "product" in this context, it is understood that services, e.g. therapeutic procedures, may also be covered by the Health Protection Act. 2 DTCA is not legal in Canada, except for notification of price, quantity and the name of the drug. However, "information-seeking" advertisements for prescription drugs, which may provide the name of the drug without mentioning its indications, or announce that treatments are available for specific indications without mentioning drugs by name, have appeared in Canadian mass media. 3 Though the paper applies primarily to prescription drug information, its principles are also applicable to health information in general.
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Toward a National Strategy on Mental Illness and Mental Health : CMA Presentation to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy2008
Last Reviewed
2011-03-05
Date
2004-03-31
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2011-03-05
Date
2004-03-31
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
Thank you, honourable Senators, for the opportunity to speak on the critical need to address mental health and mental illness in Canada. In my remarks today I want to talk briefly about the dimensions of the issues, the instruments available to government to address them, and the CMA’s specific thoughts and recommendations on moving forward. Dimensions of the problem As the members of this committee know, the economic toll exacted by mental health disorders, including stress and distress topped 14 billion dollars in 1998. The human cost, however, extends far beyond dollars and cents. Estimates show that about one in five Canadians — close to six million people — will be affected by mental illness at some point in their life. This problem climbs still higher if one includes the serious problem of addiction to illicit drugs, alcohol, prescription drugs and the increasingly serious emerging problem of gambling addiction. Yet our society and health care system remains woefully inadequate in promoting mental health and in delivering care and treatment where and when needed. These systemic shortcomings have been exacerbated by the twin barriers of stigma and discrimination. These barriers have a detrimental effect on recovery from mental illness and addictions by hindering access to services, treatment and acceptance in the community. This is especially unfortunate because effective treatment exists for most mental illnesses and addictions. Poor mental health affects all aspects of a person’s life and requires a collaborative approach. Family physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses and other counselors can be involved in one patient’s mental health care. While family physicians can deal with a number of mental illnesses, most are not trained in the complicated medical management of severe mental illness. Many family physicians’ offices are also not sufficiently resourced to deal with family counseling, or related issues such as housing, educational and occupational problems often associated with mental illness. As a family physician myself I should be assured that, when a patient’s mental health care requires additional expertise, the appropriate resources are available for my patients and their families. Physicians are striving to ensure that the care is provided by the appropriate caregiver at the appropriate time. For example the Shared Mental Health Care initiative of the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Canadian Psychiatric Association is designed to lead to better outcomes for patients. I know the committee will hear more about this initiative from the Canadian Psychiatric Association. I mention it now simply as a reminder that progress is being made and even more could be gained with the establishment of a national strategy to address mental illness and mental health. Canada is the only G8 nation without such a national strategy. This oversight has contributed significantly to fragmented mental health services, chronic problems such as lengthy waiting lists for children’s mental health services and dire health human resource shortages. Case in point, there are no child psychiatrists in the northern territories, where such care is so desperately needed. Planning to correct the problem The fragmented state of mental health services in Canada did not develop overnight and it would be overly simplistic to say problems can be solved immediately. However, it is important to understand that there are means available to the federal government to better meet its obligations with respect to surveillance, prevention of mental illness and promotion of mental health. The way forward has been clearly described by the Canadian Alliance for Mental Illness and Mental Health, and the October 2002 National Summit on Mental Health and Mental Illness hosted by the CMA, and the Canadian Psychological and Psychiatric Associations. This gathering helped define the form that a national strategy should take. Participants recommended a focus on national mental health goals, a policy framework that includes research, surveillance, education, mental health promotion and a health resources plan, adequate and sustained funding; and an accountability mechanism. In addition to a national strategy, the CMA believes it is also important to recognize the deleterious effect of the exclusion of a “hospital or institution primarily for the mentally disordered” from the application of the Canada Health Act. Simply put, how are we to overcome stigma and discrimination if we validate these sentiments in our federal legislation? The CMA firmly believes that the development of a national strategy and action plan on mental health and mental illness is the single most important step that can be taken on this issue. The plan also requires support, wheels if you will, to overcome the inertia that has foiled attempts thus far. Those wheels come in the form of five specific actions that are listed at the back of the presentation. But, to summarize, they would include: * Amending the Canada Health Act to include psychiatric hospitals. * Adjusting the Canada Health Transfer to provide for these additional insured services. * Re-establishing an adequately-resourced federal organizational unit focused on Mental Illness and Mental Health and addictions. * The review of federal health policies and programs to ensure that mental illness is on par in terms of benefits with other chronic diseases and disabilities. * An effective national public awareness strategy to reduce the stigma associated with mental illnesses and addictions in Canadian society. Looking inward While my remarks have focused on the broad status of mental health initiatives in Canada, the mental health status of Canadian health care providers is also of concern to the CMA. In recent years, evidence has shown that physician stress and dissatisfaction is rising and morale is low. The CMA’s 2003 Physician Resource Questionnaire found that 45.7% of physicians are in an advanced state of burnout. Physicians, particularly women physicians, appear to be at a higher risk of suicide than the general population. The CMA has been involved in a number of activities to address this situation, including last year’s launch of the Centre for Physician Health and Well-Being. The Centre functions as a clearinghouse and coordinating body to support research and provide trusted information to physicians, physicians in training and their families. A first activity of the Centre was to provide, through partnership with the CIHR’s Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction, $100,000 in physician health research funding. This funding is currently supporting two research projects. One will develop a guide of common indicators for Canadian physician health programs. This will generate a national profile of the physicians who use the programs, the services provided, and their outcomes. The second will study the psychodynamics of physicians’ work to allow for a better understanding of the dynamics of problems such as stress, burnout, addiction and violence in the workplace. These efforts must be bolstered - other health providers are also impacted by mental illness and need support. The health care provider community needs help in terms of the reduction of stigma, access to resources and supportive environments. Conclusion I know some of what I have said today will have been familiar to members of the committee given the impressive list of roundtables, witness testimony and submissions you have reviewed already as part of your study on mental health. I only hope my comments will be of help in your important efforts and lead to real progress on addressing the largely unmet mental health and mental illness needs in Canada. Recommendations for Action CMA Submission to the Senate Social Affairs, Science and Technology 1. That the federal government make the legislative and/or regulatory amendments necessary to ensure that psychiatric hospital services are subject to the five program criteria of the Canada Health Act. 2. That, in conjunction with legislative and/or regulatory changes, funding to the provinces/territories through the Canada Health Transfer be adjusted to provide for federal cost sharing in both one-time investment and ongoing cost of these additional insured services. 3. That the federal government re-establishes an adequately resourced organizational unit focused on Mental Illness and Mental Health and addictions within Health Canada or the new Canadian Agency for Public Health. This new unit will coordinate mental health and mental illness program planning, policy coordination and delivery of mental health services in areas of federal jurisdiction. The unit would also work with provinces and territories, and the Canada Health Council to enact the National Action Plan endorsed at the National Summit on Mental Illness and Mental Health. Specific responsibilities would include fostering research through federal bodies such as the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR), and disseminating best practices in the provision of mental health programs and services in Canada. 4. That the federal government review federal policies such as disability policy, tax policy, income support policy to ensure that mental illness is on par in terms of benefits with other chronic diseases and disabilities. 5. That the federal government work with the provinces and territories and the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health to develop an effective national public awareness strategy to reduce the stigma associated with mental illnesses and addictions in Canadian society.
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Bill C-12: An Act to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable disease : CMA’s Submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1948
Last Reviewed
2012-03-03
Date
2004-11-23
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2012-03-03
Date
2004-11-23
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) appreciates the opportunity to appear before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health to provide our observations concerning Bill C-12, an Act to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable disease, which will repeal and replace the current Quarantine Act. Since our founding in 1867, the CMA has had a long tradition in the field of public health and infectious diseases. For example, in 1885 we worked with the federal government to prevent an outbreak of cholera in Canada, while in 1891 we began a long campaign to encourage governments to deal with tuberculosis. And fast forward to 2003 and SARS, CMA worked along with many levels of government to deal with this public health crisis. While the CMA is particularly interested in how the proposed legislation will impact the practices of our more than 58,000 members across the country, we have reviewed this legislation through the lens of what is in the best interest of patients and the public. 1) Comprehensive Approach to Public Health Our comments call for and are embedded in the broader context of a comprehensive approach to public health. They are also based on previous recommendations CMA has made to the federal government including: a) Response to the Health Protection Legislative Renewal initiative carried out by Health Canada (2004). In this submission, CMA identified the Quarantine Act as a piece of legislation the CMA believed merited urgent updating; b) Review of the World Health Organizations’ draft revised International Health Regulations (IHR), (2004); c) Submission to the Naylor Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health (2003); d) Submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology during its study of public health issues (2003); and e) Pre-budget submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance following September 11, 2001. These submissions are all available on request, or at www.cma.ca. The CMA is pleased that Parliament has identified revision of the Quarantine Act as a priority. The Act is more than a century old and the medical community and others have long called for it to be updated. Bill C-12 is an excellent start to modernizing the previous Act; however, we believe the proposed legislation does not go far enough in remedying its deficiencies. In this submission we present eight key recommendations for your consideration, along with questions about particulars in the implementation process, which we suggest Parliament address in subsequent review of the Act and its regulations. 2) Recommendations for Consideration in Review of Bill C-12 Recommendation 1: The Act should be part of a larger, comprehensive Emergency Health Measures Plan. In our brief to the Naylor Advisory Committee, CMA recommended the enactment of a comprehensive Emergency Health Measures Act, administered by the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada. This Act would consolidate and enhance existing legislation, allowing for a more rapid national response to health emergencies, in cooperation with the provinces and territories, based on a graduated, systematic approach. We also recommended that the Emergency Health Measures Act be part of a strong commitment, by all levels of government, to a public health strategy that also included a 5-year capacity enhancement program, development of research and surveillance capability; and funding for a communications initiative to improve technical capacity for real-time communication with front-line health providers during public health emergencies. Recommendation 2: The Chief Public Health Officer of Canada must have authority to enforce the Act The proposed legislation designates the Minister of Health as the person with ultimate responsibility for enforcing the Act; it grants the Minister sweeping powers including the power to overrule a health official’s quarantine. As medical professionals we believe that public health decisions should be made primarily on the basis of the best available medical and scientific evidence, and should be independent to the greatest extent possible of other considerations. Therefore we believe that responsibility for the implementation of the Act should rest with the Public Health Agency of Canada, and with the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, not with the Minister of Health. In the provinces and territories, Medical Officers of Health do not require approvals from their Ministers to exercise their functions as health professionals; the same should hold true at the federal level. We understand that responsibility has been placed with the Minister of Health due to a lack of existing legislation setting out the mandate, roles, responsibilities and powers of the recently created Public Health Agency of Canada, and the newly appointed Chief Public Health Officer of Canada. We are also aware that enabling legislation is currently being prepared; we urge that this legislation be enacted as soon as possible. On enactment of this enabling legislation, the powers now vested in the Minister should be ceded to the Chief Public Health Officer. Locating responsibility for administration of the Act within the Public Health Agency of Canada will also combine enforcement with other needed functions of surveillance, monitoring and linkage with international monitoring agencies. As we stressed in our previous recommendation, these must all be part of a comprehensive Canadian emergency response strategy. Recommendation 3: The Act must address interprovincial as well as international traffic. We are happy that the provisions of Bill C-12 apply to goods and travellers leaving as well as entering Canada. This was a deficiency identified in the previous Quarantine Act. However, the Act must also expressly address goods and travellers crossing provincial or territorial boundaries. Currently, there is tremendous variation in public health system capacity among provinces and territories and, more particularly, among municipalities and local authorities. Inconsistencies in provincial approaches to public health matters have resulted in significant weaknesses in the “emergency shield” between and across provinces. Unless the potential consequences of these disparities are remedied through federal legislation they must, as a priority, be remedied through federal/provincial/territorial agreements. The role of the Public Health Agency of Canada in facilitating, equalizing and monitoring the management of public health emergencies nationwide must be enshrined in the legislation that establishes the Agency. CMA also hopes that the development of a pan-Canadian Public Health Network, acknowledged in the 2004 Throne Speech, will facilitate the nationwide collaboration essential for adequate and appropriate response to health emergencies. The CMA supports those provisions in Bill C-12 that give the Minister (preferably the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada) the power to establish quarantine centres anywhere in the country. In times of threat to national health security, such bold leadership would be both warranted and expected. Recommendation 4: “Public Health Emergency” must be adequately defined. Bill C-12 contains no definition of “public health emergency” or “public health emergency of international concern.” We believe these should be defined.1 Bill C-12 includes a schedule of specific communicable diseases to which its provisions would apply. We are concerned that this Schedule may limit Canada’s capacity to respond to emergencies. The next public health emergency may be a disease we have not heard of yet; or it may be a bio-terrorist attack, or a chemical or nuclear event. The Act must enable Canada to respond to new and emerging, as well as existing, threats to health. The World Health Organizations’ draft International Health Regulations (IHR) has proposed a set of criteria for assessing emergencies; these include: * Is the event serious? * Is the event unexpected? * Is there a significant risk of international spread? The CMA urges the Canadian government to consider a hybrid approach incorporating both known disease states and criteria such as the ones used by the IHR, for assessing new diseases or other public health emergencies. Recommendation 5: The Act, or its regulations, must clarify the roles, responsibilities and training requirements of emergency response personnel. Some provisions of Bill C-12 have raised questions in our minds about the scope of practice of personnel involved in disease screening, and we would appreciate clarification on these points. For example: Screening officers, the first point of contact for travelers entering or leaving Canada, are customs officers and others designated by the Minister. Their primary role under Section 14 of the Act is to use “non-invasive” screening technology to detect travelers entering and exiting Canada with communicable disease vectors, etc. According to Section 15 (3) screening officers, who are not health professionals, will have the power to “order any reasonable measure to prevent spread of a communicable disease”. Of what might these “reasonable measures” consist? Quarantine officers, by definition in Section 5(2) are medical practitioners or other health professionals or anyone else in this “class of persons”. Since the quarantine officer’s job description includes physical assessment of travellers to determine whether they should be detained – a function that requires the expertise of a health professional - we would appreciate clarification of the phrase “in this class”. Similarly, under Section 26, the quarantine officer has the power to order the traveler “to comply with treatment”. Which officer—screening/quarantine or medical—might actually prescribe the course of treatment? This function must be specifically delegated to medical officers. Bill C-12 gives authorities the powers to restrict personal movement and temporarily impound or seize property. The CMA believes that the government should also provide adequate resources and powers to allow for tracking down apparently well people who cross borders and are subsequently diagnosed with infectious diseases. The Act or its regulations should also address factors that hinder deployment of qualified health professionals, such as portability of licensure and coverage for malpractice and disability insurance. CMA has previously called for the establishment of a Canadian Public Health Emergency Response Service that would maintain a “reserve” of public health professionals who could be deployed to areas of need during times of crisis, and which would co-ordinate the logistics of the issues above mentioned. This would improve the capacity of health professionals to be deployed quickly in times of health emergency, to locations where they are most needed. Finally, CMA suggests that the Act or its regulations provide greater detail on training requirements for screening officers, to guarantee that they are appropriately trained. Recommendation 6: Privacy and confidentiality must be respected and safeguarded. Bill C-12 grants quarantine officers and the Minister some sweeping powers to arrest and detain people without warrants, including people who have refused to comply with testing. Though on rare occasions such measures may be required to protect the public, it is recognized that potential for their abuse may exist. In addition, Bill C-12 raises questions about the degree to which personal health information might be exposed to scrutiny. We note that Section 51 authorizes a quarantine officer to “order any person to provide any information or record…the officer might reasonably require.” This provision could include patient medical records in a doctor’s office, particularly if the Bill guarantees travellers the right to request a “second opinion” which we assume could be obtained from any practicing physician in Canada. Similarly, Sections 55 and 56 appear to give the Minister authority to “collect medical information in order to carry out the purposes of this Act” and to “disclose personal information obtained under the Act” to a host of entities. The CMA believes that the power to obtain and disclose information should be explicitly constrained and circumstances under which this power could be exercised must be outlined in the Act. Recommendation 7: The role of physicians and other health care workers must be respected. The health professional sector is on the front lines of response to health emergencies, as they were during the SARS outbreak. Therefore as a first principle the new Act should recognize the importance of health professionals having the power, subject to appropriate constraints, to make vital decisions in response to health emergencies. This is a legitimate delegation of power, because of the competencies of health professionals. During the SARS outbreak of 2003, physicians and other health care providers were not only partners in containing infection; many became ill or died as well. Since health care workers expose themselves to infection as they respond to health emergencies, protocols should ensure that care and attention is paid to their safety, through measures such as ensuring ready availability of proper masks The Act or regulations should address precautions required to protect quarantine officers and other health care workers from transmission of disease or the effects of becoming ill. For example, it should address compensation for quarantine officers who lose work because they become infected in the course of their duty. We would be remiss in our review of this act if we did not pursue with this Committee the issue of compensation and indemnification programs for physicians and trainees requiring quarantine because of exposure to a communicable disease while providing medical service, or who are required to close their offices for other public health reasons, or who cannot practice in hospitals because of closure of hospitals for public health reasons. Indeed, delegates to our annual general council meeting called on the CMA to do so. A number of these physicians were caught in such situations during the turmoil of the SARS outbreak. Recommendation 8: Decision-making should be evidence-based. At times, public perception and political considerations may widely influence the assessment and management of risk. While this is probably unavoidable, CMA believes that public policy should be founded first and foremost on the highest possible quality of scientific evidence. The Act should provide the requisite mechanisms to ensure that reviews of risk are independent and unbiased. We acknowledge, however, that this principle should not be rigidly applied; “we’re waiting for the evidence” must not be used as an excuse for inaction when action is urgently required. 3) Additional Comments In addition to the above recommendations, additional concerns remain regarding implementation of the Act. In particular we note that many crucial components, such as how physical examinations are to be carried out (section 62(1), medical practitioner’s review process (section 62(d), and the protection of personal information (62(g) are left to regulations. These regulations must be developed as soon as possible. We understand that the current Act constitutes “Phase I” of a longer-term strategy to enhance Canada’s capacity to respond to public health emergencies. Though we believe that the Quarantine Act merits attention at this time, we also believe that it should be looked at with a longer-term view. For instance, as we have already recommended, it should be incorporated into the broader legislative renewal of public health in Canada, with a view to enhancing this country’s ability to respond swiftly and effectively to public health emergencies, locally and nationwide. Above all, Canada must ensure a sustained and substantial commitment of resources to its public health emergency response program. Without this, the best-written laws will be inadequate. The Canadian Medical Association commends the Government of Canada for bringing this bill forward, and looks forward to working with the Government, and the Public Health Agency of Canada, to help keep Canadians safe in the event of a public health emergency. End Notes 1 A public health emergency has been defined by the US Model State Emergency Powers Act (http://www.publichealthlaw.net accessed July 7, 2003) as an occurrence or imminent threat of an illness or health condition of a temporary nature that is believed to be caused by: * the appearance of a novel or previously controlled or eradicated infectious agent or biological toxin; * a bioterrorist event; * a natural disaster * a chemical event or accidental release; or * a nuclear event or accident and that poses a high probability of any of the following harms: * a large number of deaths in the affected population; * a large number of serious or long-term disabilities in the affected population; or * widespread exposure to an infectious or toxic agent that poses a significant risk of substantial future harm to a large number of people in the affected population.
Documents
Less detail

Medical economics as part of a medical education

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy512
Last Reviewed
2014-03-01
Date
1989-08-23
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Resolution
GC89-75
That the Canadian Medical Association encourage strategies and opportunities during medical education that would enable physicians to be versed in medical economic related matters.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2014-03-01
Date
1989-08-23
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Resolution
GC89-75
That the Canadian Medical Association encourage strategies and opportunities during medical education that would enable physicians to be versed in medical economic related matters.
Text
That the Canadian Medical Association encourage strategies and opportunities during medical education that would enable physicians to be versed in medical economic related matters.
Less detail

Health care services in local communities

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy716
Last Reviewed
2014-03-01
Date
1989-08-23
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Resolution
GC89-35
That the Canadian Medical Association support the provision of health care services in local communities and deplore actions taken by provincial governments which may restrict such services.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2014-03-01
Date
1989-08-23
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Resolution
GC89-35
That the Canadian Medical Association support the provision of health care services in local communities and deplore actions taken by provincial governments which may restrict such services.
Text
That the Canadian Medical Association support the provision of health care services in local communities and deplore actions taken by provincial governments which may restrict such services.
Less detail

All-terrain vehicles

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy719
Last Reviewed
2014-03-01
Date
1989-08-23
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Resolution
GC89-46
That the Canadian Medical Association recommend: a) that the federal departments of transport and consumer and corporate affairs enact legislation for the purpose of setting national safety standards for all-terrain vehicles, b) that provincial governments be urged to review and strengthen regulations related to the use of all-terrain vehicles, c) that provincial governments be urged to introduce a specific driver's licence category for all-terrain vehicle drivers; such licence would require demonstrating competence in handling the vehicle.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2014-03-01
Date
1989-08-23
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Resolution
GC89-46
That the Canadian Medical Association recommend: a) that the federal departments of transport and consumer and corporate affairs enact legislation for the purpose of setting national safety standards for all-terrain vehicles, b) that provincial governments be urged to review and strengthen regulations related to the use of all-terrain vehicles, c) that provincial governments be urged to introduce a specific driver's licence category for all-terrain vehicle drivers; such licence would require demonstrating competence in handling the vehicle.
Text
That the Canadian Medical Association recommend: a) that the federal departments of transport and consumer and corporate affairs enact legislation for the purpose of setting national safety standards for all-terrain vehicles, b) that provincial governments be urged to review and strengthen regulations related to the use of all-terrain vehicles, c) that provincial governments be urged to introduce a specific driver's licence category for all-terrain vehicle drivers; such licence would require demonstrating competence in handling the vehicle.
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A new mission for health care in Canada: Addressing the needs of an aging population. 2016 pre-budget submission to the Minister of Finance

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy11803
Date
2016-02-09
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2016-02-09
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is pleased to confirm its strong support for the federal government's health and social policy commitments, as identified in the ministerial mandate letters. In this brief, the CMA outlines seven recommendations for meaningful and essential federal action to ensure Canada is prepared to meet the health care needs of its aging population. The CMA's recommendations are designed to be implemented in the 2016-17 fiscal year in order to deliver immediate support to the provinces and territories and directly to Canadians. Immediate implementation of these recommendations is essential given the current and increasing shortages being experienced across the continuum of care in jurisdictions across Canada. In 2014, the CMA initiated a broad consultative initiative on the challenges in seniors care, as summarized in the report A Policy Framework to Guide a National Seniors Strategy for Canada. This report highlights the significant challenges currently being experienced in seniors care and emphasizes the need for increased federal engagement. Finally, if implemented, the CMA's recommendations will contribute to the federal government's strategic commitments in health, notably the commitment to the development of a new Health Accord. 1) Demographic Imperative for Increased Federal Engagement in Health Canada is a nation on the threshold of great change. This change will be driven primarily by the economic and social implications of the major demographic shift already underway. The added uncertainties of the global economy only emphasize the imperative for federal action and leadership. In 2015, for the first time in Canada's history, persons aged 65 years and older outnumbered those under the age of 15 years.1 Seniors are projected to represent over 20% of the population by 2024 and up to 25% of the population by 2036.2 It is increasingly being recognized that the projected surge in demand for services for seniors that will coincide with slower economic growth and lower government revenue will add pressure to the budgets of provincial and territorial governments.3 Today, while seniors account for about one-sixth of the population, they consume approximately half of public health spending.4 Based on current trends and approaches, seniors care is forecast to consume almost 62% of provincial/territorial health budgets by 2036.5 The latest National Health Expenditures report by the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI) projects that health spending in 2015 was to exceed $219 billion, or 10.9% of Canada's gross domestic product (GDP).6 To better understand the significance of health spending in the national context, consider that total federal program spending is 13.4% of GDP.7 Finally, health budgets are now averaging 38% of provincial and territorial global budgets.8 Alarmingly, the latest fiscal sustainability report of the Parliamentary Budget Officer explains that the demands of Canada's aging population will result in "steadily deteriorating finances" for the provinces and territories, who "cannot meet the challenges of population aging under current policy."9 Taken together, the indicators summarized above establish a clear imperative and national interest for greater federal engagement, leadership and support for the provision of health care in Canada. 2) Responses to Pre-Budget Consultation Questions Question 1: How can we better support our middle class? A) Federal Action to Help Reduce the Cost of Prescription Medication The CMA strongly encourages the federal government to support measures aimed at reducing the cost of prescription medication in Canada. A key initiative underway is the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance led by the provinces and territories. The CMA supports the federal government's recent announcement that it will partner with the provinces and territories as part of the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance. In light of the fact that the majority of working age Canadians have coverage for prescription medication through private insurers10, the CMA recommends that the federal government support inviting the private health insurance industry to participate in the work of the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance. Prescription medication has a critical role as part of a high-quality, patient-centred and cost-effective health care system. Canada stands out as the only country with universal health care without universal pharmaceutical coverage.11 It is an unfortunate reality that the affordability of prescription medication has emerged as a key barrier to access to care for many Canadians. According to the Angus Reid Institute, more than one in five Canadians (23%) report that they or someone in their household did not take medication as prescribed because of the cost during the past 12 months.12 Statistics Canada's Survey of Household Spending reveals that households headed by a senior spend $724 per year on prescription medications, the highest among all age groups and over 60% more than the average household.13 Another recent study found that 7% of Canadian seniors reported skipping medication or not filling a prescription because of the cost.14 The CMA has long called on the federal government to implement a system of catastrophic coverage for prescription medication to ensure Canadians do not experience undue financial harm and to reduce the cost barriers of treatment. As a positive step toward comprehensive, universal coverage for prescription medication, the CMA recommends that the federal government establish a new funding program for catastrophic coverage of prescription medication. The program would cover prescription medication costs above $1,500 or 3% of gross household income on an annual basis. Research commissioned by the CMA estimates this would cost $1.57 billion in 2016-17 (Table 1). Table 1: Projected cost of federal contribution to cover catastrophic prescription medication costs, by age cohort, 2016-2020 ($ million)15 Age Cohort 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 Share of total cost Under 35 years 113.3 116.3 119.4 122.5 125.2 7% 35 to 44 years 177.2 183.5 190.5 197.8 204.3 11% 45 to 54 years 290.2 291.9 298.0 299.2 301.0 18% 55 to 64 years 383.7 400.6 417.6 433.1 444.6 25% 65 to 74 years 309.2 328.5 348.4 369.8 391.6 21% 75 years + 303.0 315.5 329.8 345.2 360.1 20% All ages 1,566.8 1,617.9 1,670.5 1,724.2 1,773.1 100% B) Deliver Immediate Federal Support to Canada's Unpaid Caregivers There are approximately 8.1 million Canadians serving as informal, unpaid caregivers with a critical role in Canada's health and social sector.16 The Conference Board of Canada reports that in 2007, informal caregivers contributed over 1.5 billion hours of home care - more than 10 times the number of paid hours in the same year.17 The economic contribution of informal caregivers was estimated to be about $25 billion in 2009.18 This same study estimated that informal caregivers incurred over $80 million in out-of-pocket expenses related to caregiving in 2009. Despite their tremendous value and important role, only a small fraction of caregivers caring for a parent receive any form of government support.19 Only 5% of caregivers providing care to parents reported receiving financial assistance, while 28% reported needing more assistance than they received.20 It is clear that Canadian caregivers require more support. As a first step, the CMA recommends that the federal government amend the Caregiver and Family Caregiver Tax Credits to make them refundable. This would provide an increased amount of financial support for family caregivers. It is estimated that this measure would cost $90.8 million in 2016-17.21 C) Implement a new Home Care Innovation Fund The CMA strongly supports the federal government's significant commitment to deliver more and better home care services, as released in the mandate letter for the Minister of Health. Accessible, integrated home care has an important role in Canada's health sector, including addressing alternate level of care (ALC) patients waiting in hospital for home care or long-term care. As highlighted by CIHI, the majority of the almost 1 million Canadians receiving home care are aged 65 or older.22 As population aging progresses, demand for home care can be expected to increase. Despite its importance, it is widely recognized that there are shortages across the home care sector.23 While there are innovations occurring in the sector, financing is a key barrier to scaling up and expanding services. To deliver the federal government's commitment to increasing the availability of home care, the CMA recommends the establishment of a new targeted home care innovation fund. As outlined in the Liberal Party of Canada's election platform, the CMA recommends that the fund deliver $3 billion over four years, including $400 million in the 2016-17 fiscal year. Question 2: What infrastructure needs can best help grow the economy...and meet your priorities locally? Deliver Federal Investment to the Long-term Care Sector as part of Social Infrastructure All jurisdictions across Canada are facing shortages in the continuing care sector. Despite the increased availability of home care, research commissioned for the CMA indicates that demand for continuing care facilities will surge as the demographic shift progresses.24 In 2012, it was reported that wait times for access to a long-term care facility in Canada ranged from 27 to over 230 days. More than 50% of ALC patients are in these hospital beds because of the lack of availability of long-term care beds25. Due to the significant difference in the cost of hospital care (approximately $846 per day) versus long-term care ($126 per day), the CMA estimates that the shortages in the long-term care sector represent an inefficiency cost to the health care system of $2.3 billion a year.26 Despite the recognized need for infrastructure investment in the continuing care sector, to date, this sector has been unduly excluded from federal investment in infrastructure, namely the Building Canada Plan. The CMA recommends that the federal government include capital investment in continuing care infrastructure, including retrofit and renovation, as part of its commitment to invest in social infrastructure. Based on previous estimates, the CMA recommends that $540 million be allocated for 2016-17 (Table 2), if implemented on a cost-share basis. Table 2: Estimated cost to address forecasted shortage in long-term care beds, 2016-20 ($ million)27 Forecasted shortage in long term care beds Estimated cost to address shortage Federal share to address shortage in long term care beds (based on 1/3 contribution) 2016 6,028 1,621.5 540.5 2017 6,604 1,776.5 592.2 2018 8,015 2,156.0 718.7 2019 8,656 2,328.5 776.2 2020 8,910 2,396.8 798.9 Total 38,213 10,279.3 3,426.4 In addition to improved delivery of health care resources, capital investment in the long-term care sector would provide an important contribution to economic growth. According to previous estimates by the Conference Board of Canada, the capital investment needed to meet the gaps from 2013 to 2047 would yield direct economic benefits on an annual basis that include $1.23 billion contribution to GDP and 14,141 high value jobs during the capital investment phase and $637 million contribution to GDP and 11,604 high value jobs during the facility operation phase (based on an average annual capital investment). Question 3: How can we create economic growth, protect the environment, and meet local priorities while ensuring that the most vulnerable don't get left behind? Deliver new Funding to Support the Provinces and Territories in Meeting Seniors Care Needs Canada's provincial and territorial leaders are struggling to meet health care needs in light of the demographic shift. This past July, the premiers issued a statement calling for the federal government to increase the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) to 25% of provincial and territorial health care costs to address the needs of an aging population. It is recognized that as an equal per-capita based transfer, the CHT does not currently account for population segments with increased health needs, specifically seniors. The CMA was pleased that this issue was recognized by the Prime Minister in his letter last spring to Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard. However, the CMA is concerned that an approach to modify the transfer formula would potentially delay the delivery of federal support to meet the needs of an aging population. As such, rather than the transfer formula, the CMA has developed an approach that delivers support to jurisdictions endeavoring to meet the needs of their aging populations while respecting the transfer arrangement already in place. The CMA commissioned the Conference Board of Canada to calculate the amount for the top-up to the CHT using a needs-based projection. The amount of the top-up for each jurisdiction is based on the projected increase in health care spending associated with an aging population. To support the innovation and transformation needed to address the health needs of the aging population, the CMA recommends that the federal government deliver additional funding on an annual basis beginning in 2016-17 to the provinces and territories by means of a demographic-based top-up to the Canada Health Transfer (Table 3). For the fiscal year 2016-17, this top-up would require $1.6 billion in federal investment. Table 3: Allocation of the federal demographic-based top-up, 2016-20 ($million)28 Jurisdiction 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 All of Canada 1,602.1 1,663.6 1,724.2 1,765.8 1,879.0 Ontario 652.2 677.9 692.1 708.6 731.6 Quebec 405.8 413.7 418.8 429.0 459.5 British Columbia 251.6 258.7 270.3 270.1 291.3 Alberta 118.5 123.3 138.9 141.5 157.5 Nova Scotia 53.6 58.6 62.3 64.4 66.6 New Brunswick 45.9 50.7 52.2 54.1 57.2 Newfoundland and Labrador 29.7 30.5 33.6 36.6. 46.1 Manitoba 28.6 30.6 33.5 32.5 36.6 Saskatchewan 3.5 4.9 7.3 12.7 15.4 Prince Edward Island 9.1 9.7 10.6 10.9 11.5 Yukon 1.4 2.6 2.1 2.5 2.5 Question 4: Are the Government's new priorities and initiatives realistic; will they help grow the economy? Ensure Tax Equity for Canada's Medical Professionals is Maintained Among the federal government's commitments is the objective to decrease the small business tax rate from 11% to 9%. The CMA supports this commitment to support small businesses, such as medical practices, in recognition of the significant challenges facing this sector. However, it is not clear whether as part of this commitment the federal government intends to alter the Canadian-Controlled Private Corporation (CCPC) framework. The federal government's framing of this commitment, as released in the mandate letter for the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, has led to confusion and concern. Canada's physicians are highly skilled professionals, providing an important public service and making a significant contribution to our country's knowledge economy. Canadian physicians are directly or indirectly responsible for hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country, and invest millions of dollars in local communities, ensuring that Canadians are able to access the care they need, as close to their homes as possible. In light of the design of Canada's health care system, the majority of physicians are self-employed professionals and effectively small business owners. As self-employed small business owners, they typically do not have access to pensions or health benefits. In addition, as employers, they are responsible for these benefits for their employees. In addition to managing the many costs associated with running a medical practice, Canadian physicians must manage challenges not faced by many other small businesses. As highly-skilled professionals, physicians typically enter the workforce with significant debt levels and at a later stage in life. For some, entering practice after training requires significant investment in a clinic or a practice. Finally, it is important to recognize that physicians cannot pass on the increased costs introduced by governments, such as changes to the CCPC framework, onto patients, as other businesses would do with clients. For a significant proportion of Canada's physicians, the CCPC framework represents a measure of tax equity for individuals taking on significant personal financial burden and liability as part of our public health care system. As well, in many cases, practices would not make economic sense if the provisions of the CCPC regime were not in place. Given the importance of the CCPC framework to medical practice, changes to this framework have the potential to yield unintended consequences in health resources, including the possibility of reduced access to much needed care. The CMA recommends that the federal government maintain tax equity for medical professionals by affirming its commitment to the existing framework governing Canadian-Controlled Private Corporations. 3) Conclusion The CMA recognizes that the federal government must grapple with an uncertain economic forecast and is prioritizing measures that will support economic growth. The CMA strongly encourages the federal government to adopt the seven recommendations outlined in this submission as part of these efforts. In addition to making a meaningful contribution to meeting the future care needs of Canada's aging population, these recommendations will mitigate the impacts of economic pressures on individuals as well as jurisdictions. The CMA would welcome the opportunity to provide further information and its rationale for each recommendation. Summary of Recommendations 1. The CMA recommends that the federal government establish a new funding program for catastrophic coverage of prescription medication; this would be a positive step toward comprehensive, universal coverage for prescription medication. 2. The CMA recommends that the federal government support inviting the private health insurance industry to participate in the work of the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance. 3. The CMA recommends that the federal government amend the Caregiver and Family Caregiver Tax Credits to make them refundable. 4. To deliver the federal government's commitment to increasing the availability of home care, the CMA recommends the establishment of a new targeted home care innovation fund. 5. The CMA recommends that the federal government include capital investment in continuing care infrastructure, including retrofit and renovation, as part of its commitment to invest in social infrastructure. 6. The CMA recommends that the federal government deliver additional funding on an annual basis beginning in 2016-17 to the provinces and territories by means of a demographic-based top-up to the Canada Health Transfer. 7. The CMA recommends that the federal government maintain tax equity for medical professionals by affirming its commitment to the existing framework governing Canadian-Controlled Private Corporations. References 1 Statistics Canada. Population projections: Canada, the provinces and territories, 2013 to 2063. The Daily, Wednesday, September 17, 2014. Available: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/140917/dq140917a-eng.htm 2 Statistics Canada. Canada year book 2012, seniors. Available: www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-402-x/2012000/chap/seniors-aines/seniors-aines-eng.htm 3 Conference Board of Canada. A difficult road ahead: Canada's economic and fiscal prospects. Available: http://canadaspremiers.ca/phocadownload/publications/conf_bd_difficultroadahead_aug_2014.pdf. 4 Canadian Institute for Health Information. National health expenditure trends, 1975 to 2014. Ottawa: The Institute; 2014. Available: www.cihi.ca/web/resource/en/nhex_2014_report_en.pdf 5 Calculation by the Canadian Medical Association, based on Statistics Canada's M1 population projection and the Canadian Institute for Health Information age-sex profile of provincial-territorial health spending. 6 CIHI. National Health Expenditure Trends,1975 to 2015. Available: https://secure.cihi.ca/free_products/nhex_trends_narrative_report_2015_en.pdf. 7 Finance Canada. Update of Economic and Fiscal Projections 2015. http://www.budget.gc.ca/efp-peb/2015/pub/efp-peb-15-en.pdf. 8 CIHI. National Health Expenditure Trends,1975 to 2015. Available: https://secure.cihi.ca/free_products/nhex_trends_narrative_report_2015_en.pdf. 9 Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. Fiscal sustainability report 2015. Ottawa: The Office; 2015. Available: www.pbo-dpb.gc.ca/files/files/FSR_2015_EN.pdf 10 IBM for the Pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance. Pan Canadian Drugs Negotiations Report. Available at: http://canadaspremiers.ca/phocadownload/pcpa/pan_canadian_drugs_negotiations_report_march22_2014.pdf . 11 Morgan SG, Martin D, Gagnon MA, Mintzes B, Daw JR, Lexchin J. Pharmacare 2020: The future of drug coverage in Canada. Vancouver: Pharmaceutical Policy Research Collaboration, University of British Columbia; 2015. Available: http://pharmacare2020.ca/assets/pdf/The_Future_of_Drug_Coverage_in_Canada.pdf 12 Angus Reid Institute. Prescription drug access and affordability an issue for nearly a quarter of Canadian households. Available: http://angusreid.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/2015.07.09-Pharma.pdf 13 Statistics Canada. Survey of household spending. Ottawa: Statistics Canada; 2013. 14 Canadian Institute for Health Information. How Canada compares: results From The Commonwealth Fund 2014 International Health Policy Survey of Older Adults. Available: www.cihi.ca/en/health-system-performance/performance-reporting/international/commonwealth-survey-2014 15 Conference Board of Canada. Research commissioned for the CMA, July 2015. 16 Statistics Canada. Family caregivers: What are the consequences? Available: www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-006-x/2013001/article/11858-eng.htm 17 Conference Board of Canada. Home and community care in Canada: an economic footprint. Ottawa: The Board; 2012. Available: http://www.conferenceboard.ca/cashc/research/2012/homecommunitycare.aspx 18 Hollander MJ, Liu G, Chappeel NL. Who cares and how much? The imputed economic contribution to the Canadian health care system of middle aged and older unpaid caregivers providing care to the elderly. Healthc Q. 2009;12(2):42-59. 19 Government of Canada. Report from the Employer Panel for Caregivers: when work and caregiving collide, how employers can support their employees who are caregivers. Available: www.esdc.gc.ca/eng/seniors/reports/cec.shtml 20 Ibid. 21 Conference Board of Canada. Research commissioned for the CMA, July 2015. 22 CIHI. Seniors and alternate level of care: building on our knowledge. Available: https://secure.cihi.ca/free_products/ALC_AIB_EN.pdf. 23 CMA. A policy framework to guide a national seniors strategy for Canada. Available: https://www.cma.ca/Assets/assets-library/document/en/about-us/gc2015/policy-framework-to-guide-seniors_en.pdf. 24 Conference Board of Canada. Research commissioned for the CMA, January 2013. 25 CIHI. Seniors and alternate level of care: building on our knowledge. Available: https://secure.cihi.ca/free_products/ALC_AIB_EN.pdf 26 CMA. CMA Submission: The need for health infrastructure in Canada. Available: https://www.cma.ca/Assets/assets-library/document/en/advocacy/Health-Infrastructure_en.pdf. 27 Ibid. 28 Conference Board of Canada. Research commissioned for the CMA, July 2015.
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2015 revision of the World Medical Association statement on nuclear weapons

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy11871
Date
2016-02-27
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Resolution
BD16-04-105
The Canadian Medical Association endorses the 2015 revision of the World Medical Association Statement on Nuclear Weapons (https://www.wma.net/policies-post/wma-statement-on-nuclear-weapons/) [Please copy and paste this link into your web browser.]
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Date
2016-02-27
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Resolution
BD16-04-105
The Canadian Medical Association endorses the 2015 revision of the World Medical Association Statement on Nuclear Weapons (https://www.wma.net/policies-post/wma-statement-on-nuclear-weapons/) [Please copy and paste this link into your web browser.]
Text
The Canadian Medical Association endorses the 2015 revision of the World Medical Association Statement on Nuclear Weapons (https://www.wma.net/policies-post/wma-statement-on-nuclear-weapons/) [Please copy and paste this link into your web browser.]
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Joint Canadian Medical Association & Canadian Psychiatric Association Policy - Access to mental health care

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy11890
Date
2016-05-20
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Date
2016-05-20
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
One in five Canadians suffer from a mental health problem or illness in any given year. Mental illness costs Canada over $50 billion annually in health care costs, lost productivity and reductions in health-related quality of life. The social costs of poor mental health are high; a person with serious mental illness is at high risk of experiencing poverty, homelessness and unemployment. Despite the widespread prevalence of mental health disorders, it is estimated that fewer than one-third of people affected by them will seek treatment. This is due in large part to the stigma society attaches to mental illness, which can lead to discriminatory treatment in the workplace or the health care system. In recent years, awareness of mental health issues has risen considerably in Canada. However, much still needs to be done to ensure that Canadians who require mental health care have timely access to the treatment and support they need. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA) recommend that all stakeholders, and governments at all levels, work together toward developing a mental health care system that incorporates the following elements:
Comprehensive, patient-centred care and evidence-based treatment for mental health disorders. This includes enhancing collaboration and teamwork among health professionals, patients and their families; providing education and resources for health professionals; and supporting ongoing research to identify and disseminate best clinical practices.
Timely access to mental health services. The health care system should ensure an appropriate supply, distribution and mix of accredited mental health professionals, ensure equitable coverage of essential mental health care and treatment, and provide appropriate services for populations with unique needs, such as children and older Canadians.
Adequate supports in the community, for example in schools and workplaces, to promote mental health, identify mental health issues in a timely manner and support people with mental illness as they seek to function optimally.
Reduction of stigma and discrimination faced by Canadians with mental health disorders, in the health care system and in society. Summary of recommendations Comprehensive, patient-centred care and evidence-based treatment Governments and health care systems 1. Develop and support a continuum of evidence-based, patient-centred services for the promotion of mental health and treatment of mental illness, in the community and in hospitals, with smooth transitions and linkages between each level. 2. Develop and implement models of collaborative mental health care in the community, with input from key stakeholders including the public, patients and their families, evaluate their effectiveness and encourage the adoption of those that demonstrate success. 3. Develop and implement a national caregiver strategy and expand the financial and emotional support programs currently offered to informal caregivers. 4. Continue to develop, implement and monitor mental health indicators that reflect both health system performance and population health, regularly report the results to the public and use them to improve the delivery of mental health services in Canada. 5. Increase funding for mental health research so that it is proportionate to the burden of mental illness on Canada’s health care system. Medical faculties, professional associations and the health care systems 6. Continue to develop evidence-based guidelines and professional development programs on mental health treatment and management, for all health care providers. 7. Continue to conduct research into best practices in mental health care and treatment and communicate the results of this research promptly to health care providers and the public. Appropriate provision and funding of mental health services Governments and health care systems Address current gaps in access to mental health services in the following ways: 8. Ensure that mental health services are appropriately funded to effectively meet the needs of Canadians. 9. Make mental health a priority with all levels of government and ensure stable and appropriate funding. 10. Establish standards for access to mental health services, including appropriate maximum wait times, and measure and report them on an ongoing basis. 11. Fund and support primary health care delivery models that include mental health promotion and mental illness treatment among the services they provide and identify and address the barriers to their implementation. 12. Increase funding for access to evidence-based psychotherapies and counselling services for mental disorders. 13. Establish a program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary drug therapies. 14. Continue to develop linkages between remote communities and larger health centres, including telehealth and e-health services, to ensure adequate access to mental health services by people in smaller communities. Health professional associations 15. Work with governments and other stakeholders to develop a mental health human resources plan that optimizes the scope of practice of every health professional, is culturally appropriate and takes into account Canada’s diverse geography. 16. Undertake a national study of ways to optimize the supply, mix and distribution of psychiatrists in Canada and present its findings/recommendations to governments. Adequate community supports outside the health sector Governments 17. Ensure the availability of school-based mental health promotion and mental illness prevention programs, and programs that address school-related problems, such as bullying, that are associated with mental distress. 18. Work with employers and other stakeholders to support mental health programs for workplaces. 19. Provide programs and services to improve the interface between people with mental illnesses and the criminal justice system. 20. Expand programs that provide housing for people with mental illness. Reduction of stigma and discrimination Governments and the health care system 21. Incorporate identification and elimination of stigma as a quality of care indicator in the ongoing monitoring of health system performance at all levels. 22. Implement and evaluate national public awareness and education strategies to counteract the stigma associated with mental illness. 23. Enforce legislation and regulations to guard against discrimination against people with mental illness. Professional education 24. Incorporate effective anti-stigma education into the entire medical education continuum (medical school, residency and continuing professional development) for all physicians and other health professionals. 25. Incorporate effective anti-stigma education into professional development programs at hospitals and other health care facilities. Introduction Mental health disorders impose a heavy burden on Canadians and their health care system. In any given year, one in five Canadians will suffer from a mental health problem or illness. It is estimated that 10% to 20% of Canadian youth are affected by a mental health disorder. By age 40, 50% of Canadians will have had a mental illness. Mental illness can shorten life expectancy; for example, people with schizophrenia die as much as 20 years earlier than the population average. This is due both to higher rates of suicide and substance abuse and to a poorer prognosis for conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Suicide is the second leading cause of death (after injuries) for Canadians aged 15 to 34. For people with mental health disorders, the effect on their lives goes beyond their interaction with the health care system; a person with serious mental illness is at high risk of experiencing poverty, homelessness and unemployment. Mental health disorders are costly to Canada’s health care system and to its economy. A third of hospital stays in Canada and 25% of emergency department visits are due to mental health disorders. It is estimated that mental illness costs Canada over $50 billion per year, including health care costs, lost productivity and reductions in health-related quality of life. Despite the widespread prevalence of mental health disorders, it is estimated that only one- quarter to one-third of people affected by them will seek treatment. This could be due in part to the stigma society attaches to mental illness, which deters many people from seeking needed treatment because they fear ostracism by their friends or discriminatory treatment in the workplace or the health care system. Those who do seek treatment may have a difficult time finding it. According to Statistics Canada, in 2012 almost a third of Canadians who sought mental health care reported that their needs were not met or only partially met. Lack of access to family physicians, psychiatrists and other health care providers contributes to this deficit. Though mental illnesses constitute more than 15% of the disease burden in Canada, the country spends only about seven cents of every public health care dollar on mental illness (7%), below the 10% to 11% of spending devoted to mental illness in countries such as New Zealand and the United Kingdom.4 Since 2000, however, Canadians’ awareness of mental health issues has risen considerably. The seminal 2006 report entitled Out of the Shadows at Last by the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, chaired by Senator Michael Kirby, made a number of recommendations aimed at increasing awareness, improving access to mental health services and reducing the stigma of mental illness. As a result of this report, in 2007 the federal government established the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) to be a catalyst for improving the mental health system and changing the attitudes and behaviours of Canadians around mental health issues. In 2012, the MHCC released Canada’s first mental health strategy, “Changing Directions, Changing Lives.” As part of her mandate from the prime minister following the 2015 federal election, Canada’s health minister has been asked to “engage provinces and territories in the development of a new multi-year Health Accord [that will] make high quality mental health services more available to Canadians who need them.” Nearly all provincial governments have also developed mental health strategies for their own jurisdictions. Much still needs to be done to translate heightened awareness into improvements in service provision to give Canadians who require mental health care timely access to the evidence-based, patient-centred treatment and support they need. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA) agree it is time to make mental health a high priority in Canada. The CMA and CPA recommend that all stakeholders, and governments at all levels, work together toward developing a mental health care system that is driven by needs-based plans with clear performance measures and that receives an appropriate share of health care funding. This position statement discusses and makes recommendations on issues relating to access to mental health care, with a focus on:
comprehensive, patient-centred care and evidence-based treatment for mental health disorders;
appropriately funded primary, specialty and community mental health treatment and support services;
adequate community supports for people with mental health disorders; and
reduction of the stigma and discrimination faced by Canadians with mental health disorders. Comprehensive, patient-centred care and evidence-based treatment The goal of mental health care in Canada should be to allow patients’ needs to be met in the most appropriate, timely and cost-effective manner possible. Current best practice suggests that care for patients with mental health disorders should be provided using models that incorporate the following principles. Patient-centred care One of the fundamental principles of health care is that it be patient centred. CMA defines patient-centred care as “seamless access to the continuum of care in a timely manner … that takes into consideration the individual needs and preferences of the patient and his/her family and treats the patient with respect and dignity.” For treatment of mental health disorders, it is essential that patients be core members of the health care team, working with health care providers to address their individual needs, preferences and aspirations and to seek their personal paths to well-being. Physicians and other health professionals can help patients make choices about their treatment and can provide information and support to patients and their families as they seek to cope with the effects of their illnesses and live functional lives. A continuum of mental health services Mental health disorders can be complex and can vary in severity. A patient may have short-term coping difficulties that can be resolved with counselling or a severe psychotic illness that requires frequent hospital care and intensive, lifelong support. This range of needs requires that the health care system provide different levels of care, including:
community-based programs to promote and maintain mental health and to facilitate early identification of problems requiring intervention;
community-based primary health care, including collaborative care teams, which focus on providing mental health maintenance programs and on treating high-prevalence conditions such as anxiety disorders, mood disorders and addictions;
specialized services in the community for patients with greater needs, which can be delivered through a variety of means, including community-based psychiatrists, interdisciplinary family health teams that incorporate psychiatric services and specialized interdisciplinary teams such as assertive community treatment (ACT) teams ;
acute-care mental health services including community crisis teams and beds, psychiatric emergency services and inpatient beds in community hospitals, and specialized psychiatric hospitals;
a continuum of residential care services including long-term care facilities;
seamless, integrated transitions from one level of care to another, and across age groups (e.g., from youth to adult to senior mental health services);
appropriate services for special populations, including children and adolescents, and adults with dementia;
specialized psychiatric services for patients with complex mental illnesses such as eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and personality disorders; and
community-based programs that provide housing, vocational support and other services to optimize community integration of people with mental illness. Mental health care should ideally be provided in the context of caring for the patient’s overall health, taking into account any physical conditions for which the patient is receiving or may receive treatment. Collaborative and team-based mental health care Within this continuum, a variety of health care professionals with different skills and education provide mental health services in Canada. They include:
primary care physicians (family physicians and general practitioners);
psychiatrists (hospital and community based);
other specialist physicians (including emergency physicians, paediatricians, geriatricians);
other health professionals (psychologists, nurses, pharmacists, occupational therapists, social workers); and
case managers, peer support workers and system navigators. Collaborative models enable a variety of mental health care providers to work with patients and their families to provide effective, coordinated care according to a mutually agreed plan. Collaborative partnerships in mental health care have demonstrated benefits including symptom and functional improvement, reduced disability days and improved adherence to medication. Elements of a successful collaborative partnership include:
effective linkages among psychiatrists, primary care providers and other mental health professionals, including a seamless process for consultation and referral;
effective communication and information flow;
use of technology, such as electronic health records and telemedicine, to facilitate collaboration among providers in all health care settings;
coordination of care plans and clinical activities to ensure the most effective care and efficient use of resources; and
integration of mental health and primary care providers within a single service or team (in some cases, providers may work in the same practice setting).13 Education and resources for health professionals Since mental health disorders are pervasive and are often associated with other chronic conditions such as heart disease, health care providers of all disciplines and specialties often encounter them while caring for their patients. The Mental Health Core Competencies for Physicians report, prepared collaboratively by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, the MHCC, the College of Family Physicians of Canada, CMA and CPA, proposes goals, principles and core mental health competencies to provide guidance to physicians of all specialties. The intent is to improve access to mental health services; improve the experience of care, including reducing stigma; recognize and address the interaction between physical and mental health; and provide practice support for physicians. To support physicians and other health care providers in treating mental health disorders, clinical and practice resources should be available to them, including:
early education in medical school and residency on mental health promotion, diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions, and liaison with other community resources, for all specialties;
clinical practice tools including practice guidelines, clinical pathways and online decision support including prescribing guidelines for the appropriate use of psychiatric drugs;
online continuing professional development (CPD) programs ;
enhanced interprofessional education for all providers (psychiatrists, family physicians, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, peer support workers, patients, their family members and others as relevant) ; and
evidence-based, user-friendly education and support tools for patients, which physicians can recommend to help them manage their conditions. Support for informal caregivers Often the burden of caring for a person with mental illness falls heavily on family or friends, and the role of the informal caregiver can be demanding financially, physically and/or emotionally. Though governments have instituted tax credits and other forms of support for caregivers, more help is required. A national caregiver strategy, developed by governments and other key stakeholders, could define a national standard of support for informal caregivers and expand the financial and emotional support programs that are currently offered. Research and evaluation Thanks to ongoing research, our knowledge of how to treat and manage mental health disorders is constantly growing and developing. However, there are still gaps in this knowledge, and research needs in the area remain substantial. CMA and CPA encourage a continued commitment to research into best practices in early identification, care and treatment of mental health disorders and to funding this research so that it is proportionate to the burden of mental illness on Canada’s health care system. Results of this research should be communicated to health professionals and the public as quickly and widely as possible, so that it can be rapidly incorporated into clinical practice. Mental health care interventions should also be routinely evaluated for their effectiveness in improving patient care, enhancing the sustainability of the health care system and increasing the overall health and well-being of Canadians. The MHCC has developed a set of 63 mental health indicators that focus on 13 specific areas, including access and treatment, the economy and workplace, and special populations such as seniors, children and youth. Other projects are underway to develop indicators to monitor and report more specifically on mental health system performance, such as use of emergency departments for mental health care, and physician follow-up after hospital treatment. Such indicators should be used on an ongoing basis to monitor the performance of the mental health care system and provide mental health professionals, planners and governments with reliable information that they can use to better meet the needs of Canadians. Recommendations Governments and health care systems 1. Develop and support a continuum of evidence-based, patient-centred services for the promotion of mental health and treatment of mental illness, in the community and in hospitals, with smooth transitions and linkages between each level. 2. Develop and implement models of collaborative mental health care in the community, with input from key stakeholders including the public, patients and their families, evaluate their effectiveness and encourage the adoption of those that demonstrate success. 3. Develop and implement a national caregiver strategy and expand the financial and emotional support programs currently offered to informal caregivers. 4. Continue to develop, implement and monitor mental health indicators that reflect both health system performance and population health, regularly report the results to the public and use them to improve the delivery of mental health services in Canada. 5. Increase funding for mental health research so that it is proportionate to the burden of mental illness on Canada’s health care system. Medical faculties, professional associations and health care systems 6. Continue to develop evidence-based guidelines and professional development programs on mental health treatment and management, for all health care providers. 7. Continue to conduct research into best practices in mental health care and treatment and communicate the results of this research promptly to health care providers and the public. Appropriate provision and funding of mental health services Appropriate provision of mental health services requires that people be able to access the right care in the right place at the right time, in both hospital and community settings. Unfortunately, because of the underfunding of the mental health care system, limited resources are available to accommodate all of those who need such services. The exact extent of lack of access to hospital and community mental health services is not well documented; for instance, provinces do not report wait times for psychiatric services. According to the 2015 Wait Time Alliance Report Card, no jurisdiction is measuring what proportion of patients is being seen within the benchmark time periods. In December 2015 the CPA expressed disappointment that “no visible progress has been made in measuring how well the health system meets the psychiatric needs of Canadians.” In the absence of community-based services, patients may have their discharge from hospital delayed. Once they are back in the community, they may be unable to find appropriate assistance, or assistance may be available but beyond their financial means. They may abandon treatment or rely on emergency departments for episodic crisis care.4 Canada should work to remedy the current deficiencies in access to mental health services so that people with mental health disorders have timely access to seamless, comprehensive care in the most appropriate setting. This includes ensuring an appropriate supply, distribution and mix of accredited mental health professionals, ensuring equitable coverage of essential health services and making appropriate services and supports available to populations with unique needs. Access to physician services Primary care For the majority of patients who seek treatment for a mental health problem, the first (often the only) point of contact is their primary care physician. As part of the comprehensive care they provide to patients, family physicians and general practitioners can provide mental health promotion and wellness counselling, detect and treat mental health disorders in their early stages and monitor the patient’s progress in the context of his or her overall health and well-being, referring to psychiatrists and other mental health professionals as needed.13 CMA has long recommended that every Canadian have an established professional relationship with a family physician who is familiar with his or her condition, needs and preferences. However, some Canadians may have difficulty finding primary medical care, since the proportion of family physicians and general practitioners to the population is not consistent across Canada. All stakeholders should continue working to ensure that every Canadian has access to comprehensive first-point-of-contact medical care. Psychiatric services Psychiatrists are physicians who complete five to seven years of specialty and subspecialty training to diagnose, treat and provide ongoing care for mental illnesses, particularly to people with complex illnesses that cannot be managed within a primary care setting alone. In addition to providing specialty treatment, psychiatrists are also active in the areas of education, research and advocacy about the importance of mental health promotion and mental illness prevention. They provide care across the lifespan, in both hospital and community settings. Patient access to psychiatrists is often limited by long wait times. It has been suggested that this is due to a shortage of psychiatrists, which is more severe in some parts of Canada than others. Recent surveys report that a number of specialists, including psychiatrists, are in the latter half of their careers, and there are concerns that the number of psychiatrists per Canadian population is declining. Though the Royal College notes that the number of psychiatric residency positions has increased in recent years, it is unclear if this is sufficient to meet current and future population needs. The CPA recommends the development of strategies to attract, train and retain practitioners in clinical psychiatry. Access to services not funded by provincial and territorial health systems Though Canada’s public health care system covers many mental health services and treatments, including physician consultations and hospital care, it does not cover all aspects of optimal treatment and care, and access to some therapies may be limited by the patient’s ability to pay. Psychiatric drugs, especially those that must be taken over many years, can pose a heavy financial burden for patients who do not have drug coverage through employer-provided benefit programs or provincial or territorial drug plans. Psychotherapies delivered by non-physician health care practitioners are generally not covered by government health plans and must, therefore, in most cases be paid for out of pocket or through private insurance plans, to which many Canadians do not have access. Federal, provincial and territorial governments should work to increase access to accredited psychological and counselling services that are evidence based and to provide comprehensive coverage of medically necessary prescription drugs for all Canadians. Some primary health care practices, such as family health teams in Ontario, have funding envelopes that they can use to contract with skilled mental health professionals to provide psychotherapy, stress management programs and other services that are not ordinarily funded through provincial health budgets. Models such as these help to make publicly funded mental health care available to patients who might otherwise have been unable to afford it. Access to mental health services for special populations For some populations, access to mental health services may be particularly problematic. For example, stakeholders should consider the needs of the following populations:
Children and youth: As up to 70% of mental health conditions first appear in adolescence or young adulthood, it is important that young people have access to mental health promotion and to appropriate assessment and treatment of mental health disorders. At present only one out of four children who need mental health services receives them.1,3 CMA and CPA particularly recommend increased supports for children in high-risk situations, such as those in foster care. The transition from the youth to the adult mental health service sectors should be smooth and well organized.
Remote areas: People in the North and other remote parts of Canada may have to travel many miles to access mental health and other health care services. This gap should be remedied by using technologies such as telehealth and e-mental health services and by strengthening communication and coordination between small communities and the larger health centres to which their residents travel for care.
Immigrants and refugees: New arrivals to Canada may have problems understanding our language and culture and may also face mental health problems as a result of traumatic experiences in their countries of origin or the stress of relocation.
Indigenous Peoples. Rates of mental health disorders, addictions and suicide are high among Canada’s First Nations, Inuit and Métis. Much of this is linked to past experience of forcible separation from their traditional languages and culture. Health service providers should work with Indigenous communities to address their distinct mental health needs appropriately.
Seniors: An estimated 10% to 15% of seniors report depression, and the rate is higher among those with concomitant physical illness and those living in long-term care facilities. Depression among older people may be under-recognized and under-treated or dismissed as a normal consequence of aging. Poor mental health is often associated with social isolation, a common problem among seniors. The majority of older adults in long-term care settings have dementia or another mental health condition. Recommendations Governments and health care systems Address current gaps in access to mental health services in the following ways: 8. Ensure that mental health services are appropriately funded to effectively meet the needs of Canadians. 9. Make mental health a priority with all levels of government and ensure stable and appropriate funding. 10. Establish standards for access to mental health services, including appropriate maximum wait times, and measure and report them on an ongoing basis. 11. Fund and support primary health care delivery models that include mental health promotion and mental illness treatment among the services they provide and identify and address the barriers to their implementation. 12. Increase funding for access to evidence-based psychotherapies and counselling services for mental disorders. 13. Establish a program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary drug therapies. 14. Continue to develop linkages between remote communities and larger health centres, including telehealth and e-health services, to ensure adequate access to mental health services by people in smaller communities. Health professional associations 15. Work with governments and other stakeholders to develop a mental health human resources plan that optimizes the scope of practice of every health professional, is culturally appropriate and takes into account Canada’s diverse geography. 16. Undertake a national study of ways to optimize the supply, mix and distribution of psychiatrists in Canada and present its findings/recommendations to governments. Adequate community supports outside the health sector People with mental health disorders often require not only treatment and care from the health sector but also support from the community at large to function optimally. Ideally, the community should provide an environment that supports patients as they work toward recovery and well-being. In addition, schools, workplaces and other community agencies can play an important role in promoting mental health and identifying problems that require attention. Schools Education and information should be made available to parents, teachers and health professionals to help them identify signs of mental illness or distress in children and adolescents, so they can intervene early and appropriately. School health education programs should include the promotion of mental health and incorporate self-management techniques such as mindfulness training to help young people develop resilience. Schools should also ensure that they minimize possible threats to children’s mental health, such as bullying, that may occur on their premises. Workplaces Unlike many other chronic conditions, mental illness frequently affects younger people and those in their most productive years, so the burden it imposes on Canada’s economy is high. Mental health disorders account for 30% of short-term workplace disability claims,1 and the Conference Board of Canada has estimated that six common mental health disorders cost the country’s economy more than $21 billion a year and predicts that this cost will increase to $30 billion by 2030. However, often employees do not disclose mental health problems to their employers for fear of losing their jobs, being ostracized by colleagues, or other negative consequences. Workplaces can support the mental health of their employees by:
offering mental health promotion assistance through stress management seminars, employee assistance and other programs;
training managers to identify potential mental health issues in their staff and to intervene early and appropriately;
eliminating stigma and discrimination and providing an environment in which employees feel safe disclosing their mental health issues; and
offering adequate benefits, including supplementary health insurance and supportive leave-of-absence programs. The MHCC’s Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, released in 2013, provides guidance to employers on how to promote the mental health of their staff and intervene in cases of mental distress. Correctional services People with mental illnesses are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. Estimates suggest that rates of serious mental illness among federal offenders upon admission have increased by 60% to 70% cent since 1997.4 This places a heavy burden on corrections and law enforcement staff, who are often inadequately trained to deal with mental illness. Programs and services are needed to ensure that people with mental health disorders who run afoul of the law are identified early, given appropriate treatment throughout their incarceration and followed up on release. These could include:
training for police and other frontline criminal justice and corrections workers in how to interact with people with mental illnesses;
diversion programs, such as mental health courts, to redirect people with mental illnesses who are about to enter the criminal justice system;
comprehensive psychiatric screening, assessment and treatment for incarcerated patients with mental illnesses and common co-occurring conditions such as addiction; and
Careful handover of clinical care at the point of release from custody with engagement by mental health services in the community. Housing Mental illness increases a patient’s risk for poverty and homelessness. It is estimated that two- thirds of Canada’s homeless population have a serious mental illness. Homelessness and poverty can exacerbate existing mental health and addiction problems, hinder access to treatment and reduce life expectancy. Programs such as the MHCC’s Housing First research demonstration project can improve the social and economic circumstances of people with mental illness. The MHCC project provided no-strings-attached supportive housing for people with chronic mental health problems, giving them a secure base from which they could pursue their treatment and recovery goals. Evaluation showed that this approach reduced the rate of homelessness, improved access to treatment and support services and led to cost savings, particularly for the program participants who had the highest service-use costs. Recommendations Governments 17. Ensure the availability of school-based mental health promotion and mental illness prevention programs, and programs that address school-related problems, such as bullying, that are associated with mental distress. 18. Work with employers and other stakeholders to support mental health programs for workplaces. 19. Provide programs and services to improve the interface between people with mental illnesses and the criminal justice system. 20. Expand programs that provide housing for people with mental illness. Reduction of stigma and discrimination Many believe that the primary reason for the underfunding of the mental health care system and for the reluctance of people with mental health disorders to seek treatment is the stigma attached to their conditions. Mental illness is the most stigmatized disease state in Canada, and discriminatory behaviour toward people with mental health disorders is widespread. This can include ostracism and lack of support from peers, discrimination in the workplace and distorted public perceptions, such as the tendency to equate mental illness with violent behaviour. Discriminatory behaviour can also occur in the health care system. Experts acknowledge that stigma affects health care providers’ attitude toward patients with mental health problems.29 Though many health care providers are unaware that their language or actions can be harmful, their attitude may have negative effects on the treatment their patients receive. For example, if a patient who has been treated for a psychiatric condition reports physical symptoms, these symptoms might be attributed to the mental illness rather than to a physical condition, and as a result the patient may not receive necessary treatment. This is known as diagnostic overshadowing. , CMA and CPA recommend comprehensive efforts to change the culture of stigmatization of mental illness, in the health care system and in society. A number of interventions are underway to help reduce stigma and discrimination related to mental illness. These include public awareness programs such as the Bell Let’s Talk campaign, Mental Illness Awareness Week, sponsored by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health, and the Opening Minds program of the MHCC, which focuses on specific populations including youth and health care providers. The current consensus among experts is that the most effective interventions are those that:
are aimed at changing behaviour rather than modifying attitudes;
are ongoing rather than time limited;
are targeted to specific groups rather than to the general population; and
involve direct contact with people with mental illness. Within the health care system, professional education is a potentially important means of addressing stigma and discrimination. It has been recommended that anti-stigma education be incorporated into the medical education continuum at all levels (including residency and CPD) and for all specialties and that this education incorporate direct contact with people with mental illness, to share their stories of recovery.27 All health professionals and their associations should be encouraged to address the elimination of stigma in their educational programs. CMA and CPA have worked with partners to provide education to physicians, through workshops, online materials and other means. Recommendations Governments and the health care system 21. Incorporate identification and elimination of stigma as a quality of care indicator in the ongoing monitoring of health system performance at all levels. 22. Implement and evaluate national public awareness and education strategies to counteract the stigma associated with mental illness. 23. Enforce legislation and regulations to guard against discrimination against people with mental illness. Professional education 24. Incorporate effective anti-stigma education into the entire medical education continuum (medical school, residency and CPD) for all physicians and other health professionals. 25. Incorporate effective anti-stigma education into professional development programs at hospitals and other health care facilities. Conclusion Despite increased public awareness about mental illness, ensuring access to effective mental health services and supports remains a challenge in Canada, and the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness remain high. CMA and CPA believe that change is possible. In an ideal future, all Canadians would feel safe acknowledging their mental health problems and seeking help for them, a range of effective, evidence-based treatments would be available for every Canadian who needs them, and communities would support Canadians as they work to promote and maintain their mental health or to recover from mental illness. It is our hope that health care providers, governments, communities, patients and their families will work together toward realizing this future. References Mental Health Commission of Canada. The Facts. Calgary (AB): The Commission; 2012. Available: http://strategy.mentalhealthcommission.ca/the-facts/ (accessed 2015 May 05). Mental Health Commission of Canada. Making the case for investing in mental health in Canada. Calgary (AB): The Commission; 2013. Chesney E, Goodwin GM, Fazel S. Risks of all-cause and suicide mortality in mental disorders: a meta-review. World Psychiatry 2014; 13 (2):53–60. Mental Health Commission of Canada. 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