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Presentation to the Senate Special Committee on Aging

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9061

Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-01-28
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-01-28
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
Thank you Madam Chair and Committee members for the opportunity to speak to you today. I am Briane Scharfstein, Associate Secretary General at the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and a family physician by training. I am speaking on behalf of the CMA and our 67,000 physician members across the country. We commend the Senate for striking this Committee. We are concerned that the aging population has not received sufficient national policy attention. With regard to today's discussion I would note that the CMA has advocated for the elimination of mandatory retirement and we are pleased to see that in general, provincial jurisdictions have eliminated mandatory retirement based on what has become an arbitrary age cutoff. With some obvious exceptions, such as athletics, competence is not related to age per se for most areas of human endeavour. Where human activity may pose risk to the safety of others we believe that the best approach is to develop evidence-based tools and procedures that can be used to assess competence on an ongoing basis. While physicians play a significant role on a variety of fronts related to aging, I am going to focus my remarks on two specific areas: * Ensuring the competence of physicians; and * Fitness to operate motor vehicles and the role of physicians. Turning first to the competence of the medical workforce, physicians are making diagnoses and performing procedures on a daily basis, both of which may entail a significant amount of risk for our patients. I would add that this is being done in an era where medical knowledge is rapidly increasing. As a profession that continues to enjoy a high degree of delegated self-regulation, we recognize the importance of ensuring that physicians are and remain competent across the medical career lifecycle. This entails both an individual and collective obligation to: * engage in lifelong learning; * recognize and report issues of competence in one's self and one's peers; and * participate in peer review processes to assure ongoing competence. First and foremost, physicians have an individual ethical and professional obligation to maintain their competence throughout their career lifecycle. The CMA Code of Ethics calls on physicians to: * practise the art and science of medicine competently, with integrity and without impairment; * engage in lifelong learning to maintain and improve professional knowledge skills and attitudes; * report to the appropriate authority any unprofessional conduct by colleagues; and * be willing to participate in peer review of other physicians and to undergo review by your peers1 I would stress the importance of peer review in medicine, which is one of the defining characteristics of a self-regulating profession. Simply put, physicians are expected to hold themselves and their colleagues accountable for their behaviour and for the outcomes they achieve on behalf of their patients.2 The individual accountability that physicians have to themselves and to each other is reinforced by a collective accountability for lifelong learning and peer review that is mandated by the national credentialing bodies and by the province/territorial licensing bodies. With regard to lifelong learning, both national credentialing bodies require evidence of ongoing continuing professional development as a condition of maintaining credentials. The College of Family Physicians of Canada operates a Maintenance of Proficiency program that requires its certificants to earn 250 credits over five years.3 The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada operates a Maintenance of Certification Program that requires its Fellows to achieve 400 credits over a five year period with a minimum 40 in any single year.4 The Canadian Medical Protective Association, the mutual defence organization that provides liability coverage for the vast majority of physicians in Canada also plays a role in identifying high risk areas of medical practice and providing a range of educational materials and programs designed to mitigate such risk.5 Each province and territory has a licensing body - usually known as a College of Physicians and Surgeons that is established to protect the public interest. These colleges operate mandatory peer review programs that ensure that physician's practices are reviewed at regular intervals. These programs typically involve a review of the physician's practice profile based on administrative data, a visit to the physician's office by a medical colleague in a similar type of practice and an audit of a sample of patient charts, followed by a report with recommendations. In addition, most jurisdictions now have or will soon have in place a program pioneered in Alberta that provides a 360o assessment by administering questionnaires to a sample of a physician's patients, colleagues, and co-worker health professionals. These probe several aspects of competence and reports are provided back to the physician.6 Peer review is even more rigorous in the health care institutions where physicians carry out practices and procedures that involve the greatest potential risk to patients. Physicians are initially required to apply for hospital privileges that are reviewed annually by a credentials committee. These committees have the authority to renew, modify or cancel a physician's privileges. In between annual reviews a physician's day-to-day performance is subject to review by a variety of quality assurance processes and audit/review committees such as morbidity and mortality. Health care institutions in turn are subject to regular scrutiny by the Canadian Council on Health Services Accreditation which would include the oversight of physician practice among its review parameters. In summary, the medical profession subscribes to the notion that competence is something that must regularly be reviewed and enhanced across the medical career life cycle, and that such reviews and assessments must be grounded in evidence that is gathered from peers and other validated tools. Turning to our patients, one area that our members are regularly called on to assess competence is the determination of medical fitness to operate motor vehicles. To assist physicians in carrying out this societal responsibility, the CMA recently released our 7th edition of the Driver's Guide.7 What you will note about this 134 page guide is that the section on aging is only 3 pages long. The focus of the guide is on how substances such as alcohol and medications and a range of disease conditions such as cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease may impose risks on fitness to operate a range of motor vehicles including automobiles, off-road vehicles, planes and trains. It provides graduated guidelines that relate to the severity and stage of the condition. As is noted in the section on aging, while the guide acknowledges the greater prevalence of health conditions in older age groups and hence the higher crash rates among the 65 and over age group, it states that the high crash rates in older people cannot be explained by age-related changes alone. In fact, by avoiding unnecessary risk and possessing the most experience, healthy senior drivers are among the safest drivers on the road. Rather, it is the presence and accumulation of health-related impairments that affect driving that is the major cause of crashes for older people. Because older age per se does not lead to higher crash rates, age-based restrictions on driving are not supportable. Rather than focusing on arbitrary age cutoffs what are required are evidence-based tools such as the Driver's Guide that can be used to detect and assess conditions that may present at any point in the life cycle. I would like to return to the physician workforce and the practical implications of arbitrary age cutoffs. As you may know Canada is experiencing a growing shortage of physicians - the effects of which are about to be compounded as the first of the baby boomers turn 65 in 2011. Currently we rank 24th out of the 30 OECD countries in terms of physician supply per 1,000 population - our level of 2.2 physicians per 1,000 is one third below the OECD average of 3.0. As of January 2008, according to the CMA physician Master File there are just over 8,200 licensed physicians in Canada who are aged 65 or older. They represent more than 1 in 10 (13%) of all licensed physicians. Moreover, they are very active; they work on average more than 40 hours per week and in addition more than 40% of them still have on-call responsibilities each month. These doctors make vital contributions to our health care system. In conclusion, the CMA believes that the public interest is best served by ensuring that all competent physicians, regardless of age, are able to practice medicine. Artificial barriers to practice based on age are simply discriminatory and counter productive in an era of health human resource shortages. Finally Madam Chair, we hope that the CMA will be invited back to appear before your committee. We have long been concerned with the access of the senior population to health care services and I will leave you with a copy of our policy on principles of medical care of older persons.8 We also hope you will examine the issue of long-term care which has had little if any national policy attention. I will also leave you with a copy of our recent technical background report on pre-funding of long-term care that we tabled at the Federal Minister of Finance's Roundtable in November 2007.9 Thank you again for this opportunity and I would be pleased to answer any questions. REFERENCES 1 Canadian Medical Association. CMA Code of ethics.(Update 2004). http://policybase.cma.ca/PolicyPDF/PD04-06.pdf. Accessed 01/23/08. 2 Canadian Medical Association. Medical professionalism (Update 2005). http://policybase.cma.ca/dbtw-wpd/Policypdf/PD06-02.pdf. Accessed 01/23/08. 3 College of Family Physicians of Canada. Mainpro(r)Maintenance of Proficiency. http://www.cfpc.ca/English/cfpc/cme/mainpro/maintenance%20of%20proficiency/default.asp?s=1. Accessed 01/23/08. 4 Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Maintenance of Certification Program. http://rcpsc.medical.org/opd/moc-program/index.php. accessed 01/23/08. 5 Canadian Medical Protective Association. Risk management @ a glance. http://www.cmpa-acpm.ca/cmpapd03/pub_index.cfm?FILE=MLRISK_MAIN&LANG=E. Accessed 01/23/08. 6 College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta. Physician Achievement Review Program. http://www.cpsa.ab.ca/collegeprograms/par_program.asp. Accessed 01/23/08. 7Canadian Medical Association. Determining medical fitness to operate motor vehicles. CMA Driver's Guide 7th edition.Ottawa, 2006. 8 Canadian Medical Association. Principles for medical care of older persons. http://policybase.cma.ca/dbtw-wpd/PolicyPDF/PD00-03.pdf. Accessed 01/23/08. 9 Canadian Medical Association. Pre-funding long-term care in Canada: technical backgrounder. Presentation to the Federal Minister of Finance's roundtable, Oshawa, ON, November 23, 2007.

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Presentation to the Senate Subcommittee on Population Health

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9182

Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-05-28
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-05-28
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
On behalf of the CMA, I thank you very much for the opportunity to be here today and commend the Subcommittee for focusing on the critical issue of child health. My presentation today will focus on three areas: 1. What the CMA has done and plans to do in the area of children's health; 2. Why the CMA has chosen to focus on the early years as a priority; and 3. What the CMA recommends to the Subcommittee and government for action in the area of children's health. The CMA's Role & Next Steps Physicians see the adverse effects of poor child health all too often and we strongly believe that all children should have access to the best possible start in life. That healthy start includes opportunities to grow and develop in a safe and supportive environment with access to health services as needed. The CMA is proud to have been a partner in the Child Health Initiative (CHI), an alliance between the CMA and the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) and the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) that has pressed for improvements in child health and the development of Child Health Goals. The CHI held the Child and Youth Health Summit last year where it developed a child health charter based on three principles: * a safe and secure environment; * good health and development; and * a full range of health resources available to all. The Charter states that all children should have things such as clean water, air and soil; protection from injury and exploitation; and prenatal and maternal care for the best possible health at birth. Further, the charter recognizes the need for proper nutrition for proper growth and long term health; early learning opportunities and high-quality care, at home and in the community; and a basic health care including immunization, drugs, mental and dental health. Delegates at the Summit also endorsed the Child Health Declaration and the Child and Youth Health Challenge, a call to action to make the charter a reality. Going forward, the CMA will invest considerable time and effort to develop policy targeting children from birth to five years of age. To that end the CMA will host the Child Health Expert Consultation and Strategy Session on June 5-6, 2008. The purpose of this consultation is to create a discussion paper to: * First, identify how CMA can help physicians improve the health of children under five; and second, * Identify the key determinants of early child health and identify goals and recommend ways to achieve optimal health outcomes for children under five. This paper will inform a Roundtable Discussion of Child Health Experts in Fall 2008 where we hope to produce a final report on the Key Determinants of Children's Health for the Early Years. We then hope to be invited to come before this Subcommittee once again to present this report and discuss our conclusions and recommendations. Why the Early Years The CMA is focusing on the period from birth to five years old because it is a critical time for children and when the physicians of Canada are perhaps in the best position to make a difference. Recent human development research suggests that the period from conception to age six has the most important influence of any time in the life cycle on brain development. As well, we are all well aware that Canada could be and should be performing better in comparison to other OECD nations in a number of key areas such as infant mortality, injury and child poverty. We also know that: * Early screening for hereditary or congenital disease must take place between the ages of zero and five in order to provide effective intervention; and * Brain and biological pathways in the prenatal period and in the early years affect physical and mental health in adult life. Physicians are well positioned to identify and optimize certain conditions for healthy growth and development. Physicians can identify and prescribe effective interventions following many adverse childhood experiences in order to improve health outcomes for children and as they grow into adults. Recommendations The CMA believes that there are a number of actions government could be taking today in the area of children's health. First, Canada should not be at the bottom of the list of developed countries when it comes to spending, as a percentage of GDP, on early childhood programs and development. Investing in early development is essential for an optimal start to life and a physically, mentally and socially healthy childhood. Second, we need to improve our surveillance capability to better monitor changes in children's health because we can't manage what we can't measure. That is why the CMA recommends the creation of an annual report card on child health in Canada. Third, nearly one child in six lives in poverty in Canada. This can impact a child's growth and development, his or her physical and mental health and ultimately the ability to succeed as teenagers and adults. Governments can and must do more. Finally, there are a number of recommendations within the recently released Leitch Report in areas such as injury prevention, environment vulnerabilities, nutrition, aboriginal and mental health. The CMA strongly supports these recommendations and urges this Subcommittee to consider them. However, if there are two recommendations within the Leitch Report that the CMA believes government could and must act upon immediately, they would be the creation of a National Office of Child Health and a Pan-Canadian Child Health Strategy. Conclusion In conclusion, the CMA strongly supports the Subcommittee's work and its focus on child health. Again, we hope to return to see you again this fall with specific recommendations to address child health determinants, especially those affecting children from birth to age five. Canada can and should be among the leading nations on earth in terms of children's health status. Our children deserve no less. Thank you.

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Aboriginal peoples and mental illness

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9210

Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Resolution
GC08-21
The Canadian Medical Association urges Canadian medical schools to include in their curricula material related to the deleterious effect of negative stereotyping of Aboriginal peoples suffering from mental illnesses and substance use disorders.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Resolution
GC08-21
The Canadian Medical Association urges Canadian medical schools to include in their curricula material related to the deleterious effect of negative stereotyping of Aboriginal peoples suffering from mental illnesses and substance use disorders.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association urges Canadian medical schools to include in their curricula material related to the deleterious effect of negative stereotyping of Aboriginal peoples suffering from mental illnesses and substance use disorders.
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Acute care beds

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9224

Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
Resolution
GC08-43
The Canadian Medical Association and provincial/territorial medical associations will work with governments to implement transparent and publicly available principles for the supply and effective management of functional acute care beds.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
Resolution
GC08-43
The Canadian Medical Association and provincial/territorial medical associations will work with governments to implement transparent and publicly available principles for the supply and effective management of functional acute care beds.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association and provincial/territorial medical associations will work with governments to implement transparent and publicly available principles for the supply and effective management of functional acute care beds.
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Patient-focused funding

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9233

Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
Resolution
GC08-53
The Canadian Medical Association recognizes that any patient-focused funding model should incorporate an incentive for providing timely access to services close to the patient's home to minimize increases in medical travel costs.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
Resolution
GC08-53
The Canadian Medical Association recognizes that any patient-focused funding model should incorporate an incentive for providing timely access to services close to the patient's home to minimize increases in medical travel costs.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association recognizes that any patient-focused funding model should incorporate an incentive for providing timely access to services close to the patient's home to minimize increases in medical travel costs.
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Mental health services and Canadian Forces members

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9235

Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
Resolution
GC08-26
The Canadian Medical Association will work with the Department of National Defence to provide high quality evidence-based mental health services to Canadian Forces members and their families resulting from operational stress injury including post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
Resolution
GC08-26
The Canadian Medical Association will work with the Department of National Defence to provide high quality evidence-based mental health services to Canadian Forces members and their families resulting from operational stress injury including post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association will work with the Department of National Defence to provide high quality evidence-based mental health services to Canadian Forces members and their families resulting from operational stress injury including post-traumatic stress syndrome.
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Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health care and patient safety
Health systems, system funding and performance
Resolution
GC08-70
The Canadian Medical Association and provincial/territorial medical associations call on governments to work in close collaboration with health care stakeholders to include information on novel psychoactive substances as part of prevention activities aimed at avoiding devastating effects in Canadian provinces.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health care and patient safety
Health systems, system funding and performance
Resolution
GC08-70
The Canadian Medical Association and provincial/territorial medical associations call on governments to work in close collaboration with health care stakeholders to include information on novel psychoactive substances as part of prevention activities aimed at avoiding devastating effects in Canadian provinces.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association and provincial/territorial medical associations call on governments to work in close collaboration with health care stakeholders to include information on novel psychoactive substances as part of prevention activities aimed at avoiding devastating effects in Canadian provinces.
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Children's health and environmental toxins

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9239

Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health care and patient safety
Resolution
GC08-71
The Canadian Medical Association urges the federal government to participate in Canadian-based research studies on children's health and environmental toxins.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health care and patient safety
Resolution
GC08-71
The Canadian Medical Association urges the federal government to participate in Canadian-based research studies on children's health and environmental toxins.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association urges the federal government to participate in Canadian-based research studies on children's health and environmental toxins.
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Physician assistants

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9243

Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Resolution
GC08-75
The Canadian Medical Association will work with the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants and appropriate stakeholders to develop a national certification and licensing process for physician assistants that ensures competency and portability across Canada.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-08-20
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Resolution
GC08-75
The Canadian Medical Association will work with the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants and appropriate stakeholders to develop a national certification and licensing process for physician assistants that ensures competency and portability across Canada.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association will work with the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants and appropriate stakeholders to develop a national certification and licensing process for physician assistants that ensures competency and portability across Canada.
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Health equity and the social determinants of health: A role for the medical profession

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy10672

Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2012-12-08
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2012-12-08
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
Health equity is created when individuals have the opportunity to achieve their full health potential; equity is undermined when preventable and avoidable systematic conditions constrain life choices.1 These conditions are known as the social determinants of health. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines the social determinants of health as the circumstances in which people are born, develop, live and age.2 In 2002, researchers and policy experts at a York University conference identified the following list: income and income distribution; early life; education; housing; food security; employment and working conditions; unemployment and job security; social safety net; social inclusion/exclusion; and health services. 3 Research suggests that 15% of population health is determined by biology and genetics, 10% by physical environments, 25% by the actions of the health care system, with 50% being determined by our social and economic environment.4 Any actions to improve health and tackle health inequity must address the social determinants and their impact on daily life.5 THE SOCIAL DETERMINANTS OF HEALTH AND HEALTH STATUS Social status is one of the strongest predictors of health at the population level. There is a social gradient of health such that those with higher social status experience greater health than those with lower social status. The social gradient is evident not only when comparing the most disadvantaged to the most advantaged; within each strata, even among those holding stable middle-class jobs, those at the lowest end fare less well than those at the higher end. The Whitehall study of civil servants in the United Kingdom found that lower ranking staff have a greater disease burden and shorter life expectancy than higher-ranking staff.6 Differences in medical care did not account for the differences in mortality.7 This gradient has been demonstrated for just about any health condition.8 Hundreds of research papers have confirmed that people in the lowest socio-economic groups carry the greatest burden of illness.9 In 2001, people in the neighbourhoods with the highest 20% income lived about three years longer than those in the poorest 20% neighbourhoods (four years for men; two years for women).10 Dietary deficiencies, common in food insecure households, can lead to an increased chance of chronic disease and greater difficulty in disease management. It is estimated that about 1.1 million households in Canada experience food insecurity, with the risk increasing in single-parent households and in families on social assistance.11 Studies suggest that adverse socio-economic conditions in childhood can be a greater predictor of cardiovascular disease and diabetes in adults than later life circumstances and behavioural choices.12 Effective early childhood development offers the best opportunity to reduce the social gradient and improve the social determinants of health,13 and offers the greatest return on investment.14 Low income contributes not only to material deprivation but social isolation as well. Without financial resources, it is more difficult for individuals to participate in cultural, educational and recreational activities or to benefit from tax incentives. Suicide rates in the lowest income neighbourhoods are almost twice as high as in the wealthiest neighbourhoods.15 This social isolation and its effects are most striking in Canada's homeless population. Being homeless is correlated with higher rates of physical and mental illness. In Canada, premature death is eight to 10 times higher among the homeless.16 The gradient in other social determinants can have an adverse impact as well. A study conducted in the Netherlands estimated that average morbidity and mortality in the overall population could be reduced 25-50% if men with lower levels of education had the same mortality and morbidity levels as those men with a university education.17 Employment status also follows this gradient, such that having a job is better than being unemployed. 18 Unemployment is correlated with increased blood pressure, self-reported ill health, drug abuse, and reductions in normal activity due to illness or injury.19 Unemployment is associated with increases in domestic violence, family breakups and crime. Finally, job security is relevant.20 Mortality rates are higher among temporary rather than permanent workers.21 Canada's Aboriginal people face the greatest health consequences as a result of the social determinants of health. Poverty, inadequate or substandard housing, unemployment, lack of access to health services, and low levels of education characterize a disproportionately large number of Aboriginal peoples.22 The crude mortality rate for First Nations is higher and life expectancy lower than the Canadian average.23 Aboriginal peoples experience higher rates of chronic disease, addictions, mental illness and childhood abuse.24 Aboriginal peoples have higher rates of suicide, with suicide being the leading cause of potential years of life lost in both the First Nations and Inuit populations.25 THE SOCIAL DETERMINANTS OF HEALTH AND CANADA'S HEALTH SYSTEM These differences in health outcomes have an impact on the health care system. Most major diseases including heart disease and mental illness follow a social gradient with those in lowest socio-economic groups having the greatest burden of illness.26 Those within the lowest socio-economic status are 1.4 times more likely to have a chronic disease, and 1.9 times more likely to be hospitalized for care of that disease.27 Chronic diseases such as diabetes account for 67% of direct health care costs and 60% indirect costs.28 Research has shown that Canadians with low incomes are higher users of general practitioner, mental health, and hospital services.29 People in the lowest income group were almost twice as likely as those in the highest income group to visit the emergency department for treatment. 30 Part of this may be caused by differences in access to care. Low-income Canadians are more likely to report that they have not received needed health care in the past 12 months.31 Those in the lowest income groups are 50% less likely than those in the highest income group to see a specialist or get care in the evenings or on weekends, and 40% more likely to wait more than five days for a doctor's appointment.32 Barriers to health care access are not the only issue. Research in the U.K.33 and U.S.34 has found that compliance with medical treatment tends to be lower in disadvantaged groups, leading to pain, missed appointments, increased use of family practice services and increased emergency department visits, and corresponding increases in cost. In the U.S., non-adherence has been attributed to 100,000 deaths annually.35 Researchers have reported that those in the lowest income groups are three times less likely to fill prescriptions, and 60% less able to get needed tests because of cost.36 These differences have financial costs. In Manitoba for example, research conducted in 1994 showed that those in the lowest income decile used services totaling $216 million (12.2%). In the same year, those in the highest income decile consumed $97 million (5.5%) of expenditures. If expenditures for the bottom half of the population by income had been the same as the median, Manitoba would have saved $319 million or 23.1% of their health care budget. 37 According to a 2011 report, low-income residents in Saskatoon consume an additional $179 million in health care costs than middle income earners.38 To reduce the burden of illness and therefore system costs, Canada needs to improve the underlying social and economic determinants of health of Canadians. However, until these changes have time to improve the health status of the population, there will still be a large burden of illness correlated to these underlying deficiencies. As a result, the health system will need to be adequately resourced to address the consequences of the social determinants of health. AREAS FOR ACTION The WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health identified four categories through which actions on social determinants can be taken. These include: * reducing social stratification by reducing inequalities in power, prestige, and income linked to socio-economic position; * decreasing the exposure of individuals and populations to the health-damaging factors they may face; * reducing the vulnerability of people to the health damaging conditions they face; and * intervening through health care to reduce the consequences of ill health caused by the underlying determinants.39 All of these areas offer possibilities for action by the physician community. The following section provides suggestions for action by the medical profession through: CMA and national level initiatives; medical education; leadership and research; and clinical practice. CMA and national level initiatives Despite the strong relationship between the social determinants of health and health, little in the way of effective action has resulted. CMA and its partners can and should, advocate for research and push for informed healthy public policy, including health impact assessments for government policies. Additionally, targeted population health programs aimed at addressing the underlying determinants should be supported. All Canadians need a better understanding of the health trends and the impacts of various social and economic indicators. Information about the differences in specific health indicators, collected over time,40 is essential to the task of describing underlying health trends and the impacts of social and economic interventions. Data within primary care practices could be assembled into (anonymous) community-wide health information databases, to address this need. CMA recommends that: 1. The federal government recognize the relationship of the social determinants of health on the demands of the health care system and that it implement a requirement for all cabinet decision-making to include a Health Impact Assessment. 2. Options be examined for minimizing financial barriers to necessary medical care including pharmaceuticals and medical devices necessary for health. 3. Federal and provincial/territorial governments examine ways to improve the social and economic circumstances of all Canadians. 4. Efforts be made to educate the public about the effect of social determinants on individual and population health. 5. Appropriate data be collected and reported on annually. This data should be locally usable, nationally comparable and based on milestones across the life course. Medical education Medical education is an effective means to provide physicians with the information and tools they require to understand the impact of social determinants on the health of their patients and deal with them accordingly.41 In 2001, Health Canada published a report in which they stated that the primary goal of medical education should be the preparation of graduates who know how to reduce the burden of illness and improve the health of the communities in which they practice.42 Among the report's recommendations was a call for greater integration of the social determinants in medical curricula.43 Although the CanMEDS framework has been a part of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada's accreditation process since 2005, challenges to the integration of these competencies remain.44 The report called for a greater emphasis on providing medical students with firsthand experiences in the community and with distinct populations (service learning),45 which addresses the difficulties in teaching the social aspects of medicine within a traditional classroom or hospital setting.46 Many such programs exist across the country.47 However, these programs are still limited and there is a need to increase the availability of longitudinal programs which allow students to build on the skills they develop throughout medical school. Increasingly residency programs which focus on the social determinants of health are being offered.48 These programs are a means of providing physicians with the proper tools to communicate with patients from diverse backgrounds49 and reduce behaviours that marginalized patients have identified as barriers to health services.50 It also provides residents with physician role models who are active in the community. However, medical residents note a lack of opportunities to participate in advocacy during residency.51 Further, while experiential programs are effective in helping to reduce barriers between physicians and patients from disadvantaged backgrounds, greater recruitment of medical students from these marginalized populations should also be explored and encouraged. Finally, physicians in practice need to be kept up to date on new literature and interventions regarding the social determinants. Innovations which help address health equity in practice should be shared with interested physicians. In particular, there is a need for accredited continuing medical education (CME) and a means to encourage uptake.52 CMA recommends that: 6. Greater integration of information on the social determinants and health inequity be provided in medical school to support the CanMEDS health advocate role 7. All medical schools and residency programs offer service learning programs, to provide students with an opportunity to work with diverse populations in inner city, rural and remote settings, and to improve their skills in managing the impact of the social determinants on their patients. 8. CME on the social determinants of health and the physician role in health equity be offered and incentivized for practising physicians. Leadership and research Within many communities in Canada, there are physicians who are working to address social determinants and health equity within the patient populations they serve. This is done in many cases through collaboration with partners within and outside of the health care system. Providing these local physician leaders with the tools they need to build these partnerships, and influence the policies and programs that affect their communities is a strategy that needs to be explored. Evidence-based research about health equity, the clinical setting and the role of physicians is underdeveloped. Interested physicians may wish to participate in research about practice level innovations, as a means of contributing to the evidence base for 'health equity' interventions or simply to share best practices with interested colleagues. Further, physicians can provide the medical support to encourage the adoption of early childhood development practices for example, which support later adult health. In time, research will contribute to training, continuing medical education and potentially to clinical practice guidelines. Physicians can provide leadership in health impact assessments and equity audits within the health care system as well. Data is essential to identify health equity challenges within a program, to propose and test measures that address the issues underlying the disparities. Formal audits and good measurement are essential to develop evidence-based policy improvements.53 Innovative programs such as those within the Saskatoon Health Region and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto are examples of using these tools to improve access and reduce inequities. CMA recommends that: 9. Physicians who undertake leadership and advocacy roles should be protected from repercussions in the workplace, e.g., the loss of hospital privileges. 10. Physician leaders explore opportunities to strengthen the primary care public health interface within their communities by working with existing agencies and community resources. 11. Physician leaders work with their local health organizations and systems to conduct health equity impact assessments in order to identify challenges and find solutions to improve access and quality of care. 12. Physicians be encouraged to participate in or support research on best practices for the social determinants of health and health equity. Once identified, information sharing should be established in Canada and internationally. Clinical practice In consultation with identified health equity physician champions, a number of clinical interventions have been identified which are being undertaken by physicians across the country. These interventions could be undertaken in many practice settings given the right supports, and could be carried out by various members of the collaborative care team.1 First, a comprehensive social history is essential to understand how to provide care for each patient in the context of their life.54 There are a number of tools that can be used for such a consultation and more are in development.55 However, consolidation of the best ideas into a tool that is suitable for the majority of health care settings is needed. There is some concern that asking these questions is outside of the physician role. The CanMEDS health advocate role clearly sees these types of activities as part of the physician role.56 The 'Four Principles of Family Medicine' defined by the College of Family Physicians of Canada, affirms this role for physicians as well.57 Community knowledge was identified as a strategy for helping patients. Physicians who were aware of community programs and services were able to refer patients if/when social issues arose.58 Many communities and some health providers have developed community resource guides.59 For some physicians, developing a network of community resources was the best way to understand the supports available. As a corollary, physicians noted their work in helping their patients become aware of and apply for the various social programs to which they are entitled. The programs vary by community and province/territory, and include disability, nutritional supports and many others. Most if not all of these programs require physicians to complete a form in order for the individual to qualify. Resources are available for some of these programs,60 but more centralized supports for physicians regardless of practice location or province/territory are needed. Physicians advocate on behalf of their patients by writing letters confirming the medical limitations of various health conditions or the medical harm of certain exposures.61 For example, a letter confirming the role of mold in triggering asthma may lead to improvements in the community housing of an asthmatic. Additionally, letters might help patients get the health care services and referrals that they require. As identified leaders within the community, support from a physician may be a 'game-changer' for patients. Finally, the design of the clinic, such as hours of operation or location, will influence the ability of people to reach care.62 CMA recommends that: 13. Tools be provided for physicians to assess their patients for social and economic causes of ill health and to determine the impact of these factors on treatment design. 14. Local databases of community services and programs (health and social) be developed and provided to physicians. Where possible, targeted guides should be developed for the health sector. 15. Collaborative team-based practice be supported and encouraged. 16. Resources or services be made available to physicians so that they can help their patients identify the provincial/territorial and federal programs for which they may qualify. 17. Physicians be cognizant of equity considerations when considering their practice design and patient resources. 18. All patients be treated equitably and have reasonable access to appropriate care, regardless of the funding model of their physician. CONCLUSION Socio-economic factors play a larger role in creating (or damaging) health than either biological factors or the health care system. Health equity is increasingly recognized as a necessary means by which we will make gains in the health status of all Canadians and retain a sustainable publicly funded health care system. Addressing inequalities in health is a pillar of CMA's Health Care Transformation initiative. Physicians as clinicians, learners, teachers, leaders and as a profession can take steps to address the problems on behalf of their patients. REFERENCES 1 A full review of the consultations is provided in the companion paper The Physician and Health Equity: Opportunities in Practice. 1 Khalema, N. Ernest (2005) Who's Healthy? Who's Not? A Social Justice Perspective on Health Inequities. Available at: http://www.uofaweb.ualberta.ca/chps/crosslinks_march05.cfm 2 World Health Organization (2008) Closing the gap in a generation: Health equity through action on the social determinants of health: Executive Summary. Available at: http://whqlibdoc.who.int/hq/2008/WHO_IER_CSDH_08.1_eng.pdf 3 Public Health Agency of Canada (N.D.) The Social Determinants of Health: An Overview of the Implications for Policy and the Role of the Health Sector. Available at: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/ph-sp/oi-ar/pdf/01_overview_e.pdf 4 Keon, Wilbert J. & Lucie Pépin (2008) Population Health Policy: Issues and Options. Available at: http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/SEN/Committee/392/soci/rep/rep10apr08-e.pdf 5 Friel, Sharon (2009) Health equity in Australia: A policy framework based on action on the social determinants of obesity, alcohol and tobacco. The National Preventative Health Taskforce. Available at: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/preventativehealth/publishing.nsf/Content/0FBE203C1C547A82CA257529000231BF/$File/commpaper-hlth-equity-friel.pdf 6 Wilkinson, Richard & Michael Marmot eds. (2003) Social Determinants of Health: The Solid Facts: Second Edition. World Health Organization. Available at: http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/98438/e81384.pdf 7 Khalema, N. Ernest (2005) Who's Healthy?... 8 Dunn, James R. (2002) The Health Determinants Partnership Making Connections Project: Are Widening Income Inequalities Making Canada Less Healthy? Available at: http://www.opha.on.ca/our_voice/collaborations/makeconnxn/HDP-proj-full.pdf 9 Ibid 10 Wilkins, Russ; Berthelot, Jean-Marie; and Ng E. [2002]. Trends in Mortality by Neighbourhood Income in Urban Canada from 1971 to 1996. Health Reports 13 [Supplement]: pp. 45-71 11 Mikkonen, Juha & Dennis Raphael (2010) Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts. Available at: http://www.thecanadianfacts.org/The_Canadian_Facts.pdf 12 Raphael, Dennis (2003) "Addressing The Social Determinants of Health In Canada: Bridging The Gap Between Research Findings and Public Policy." Policy Options. March 2003 pp.35-40. 13 World Health Organization (2008) Closing the gap in a generation... 14 Hay, David I. (2006) Economic Arguments for Action on the Social Determinants of Health. Canadian Policy Research Networks. Available at: http://www.cprn.org/documents/46128_en.pdf 15 Mikkonen, Juha & Dennis Raphael (2010) Social Determinants of Health... 16 Ibid. 17 Whitehead, Margaret & Goran Dahlgren (2006) Concepts and principles for tackling social inequities in health: Levelling up Part 1. World Health Organization Europe. Available at: http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/74737/E89383.pdf 18 Wilkinson, Richard & Michael Marmot eds. (2003) "Social Determinants of Health... 19 Ferrie, Jane E. (1999) "Health consequences of job insecurity." In Labour Market Changes and Job Security: A Challenge for Social Welfare and Health Promotion. World Health Organization. Available at: http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/98411/E66205.pdf 20 Marmot, Michael (2010) Fair Society Healthy Lives: The Marmot Review: Executive Summary. Available at: http://www.marmotreview.org/AssetLibrary/pdfs/Reports/FairSocietyHealthyLivesExecSummary.pdf 21 World Health Organization (2008) Closing the gap in a generation... 22 Aboriginal Healing Foundation, Frequently Asked Questions (Ottawa: Canadian Government Publishing Directorate, 2009) Available at: http://www.ahf.ca/faq 23Health Council of Canada, "The Health Status Of Canada's First Nations, Métis And Inuit Peoples", 2005, Available at:http://healthcouncilcanada.ca.c9.previewyoursite.com/docs/papers/2005/BkgrdHealthyCdnsENG.pdf 24 Mikkonen, Juha & Dennis Raphael (2010) Social Determinants of Health... 25Health Council of Canada, (2005)"The Health Status Of Canada's First Nations, Métis And Inuit Peoples... 26 Dunn, James R. (2002) The Health Determinants Partnership... 27 CIHI/CPHI (2012) Disparities in Primary Health Care Experiences Among Canadians with Ambulatory Care Sensitive Conditions. http://secure.cihi.ca/cihiweb/products/PHC_Experiences_AiB2012_E.pdf 28 Munro, Daniel (2008) "Healthy People, Healthy Performance, Healthy Profits: The Case for Business Action on the Socio-Economic Determinants of Health." The Conference Board of Canada. Available at: http://www.conferenceboard.ca/Libraries/NETWORK_PUBLIC/dec2008_report_healthypeople.sflb 29 Williamson, Deanna L. et.al. (2006) "Low-income Canadians' experiences with health-related services: Implications for health care reform." Health Policy. 76(2006) pp. 106-121. 30 CIHI/CPHI (2012) Disparities in Primary Health Care Experiences Among Canadians... 31 Williamson, Deanna L. et.al. (2006) "Low-income Canadians'... 32 Mikkonen, Juha & Dennis Raphael (2010) Social Determinants of Health... 33 Neal, Richard D. et.al. (2001) "Missed appointments in general practice: retrospective data analysis from four practices." British Journal of General Practice. 51 pp.830-832. 34 Kennedy, Jae & Christopher Erb (2002) "Prescription Noncompliance due to Cost Among Adults with Disabilities in the United States." American Journal of Public Health. Vol.92 No.7 pp. 1120-1124. 35 Bibbins-Domingo, Kirsten & M. Robin DiMatteo. Chapter 8: Assessing and Promoting Medication Adherence. pp. 81-90 in King, Talmadge E, Jr. & Margaret B. Wheeler ed. (2007) Medical Management of Vulnerable and Underserved Patients... 36 Mikkonen, Juha & Dennis Raphael (2010) Social Determinants of Health... 37 Dunn, James R. (2002) The Health Determinants Partnership... 38 Saskatoon Poverty Reduction Partnership (2011) from poverty to possibility...and prosperity: A Preview to the Saskatoon Community Action Plan to Reduce Poverty. Available at: http://www.saskatoonpoverty2possibility.ca/pdf/SPRP%20Possibilities%20Doc_Nov%202011.pdf 39 World Health Organization (2005) Action On The Social Determinants Of Health: Learning From Previous Experiences. Available at: http://www.who.int/social_determinants/resources/action_sd.pdf 40 Braveman, Paula (2003) "Monitoring Equity in Health and Healthcare: A Conceptual Framework."Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition. Sep;21(3):181-192. 41 Royal College of Physicians (2010) How doctors can close the gap: Tackling the social determinants of health through culture change, advocacy and education. Available at: http://www.marmotreview.org/AssetLibrary/resources/new%20external%20reports/RCP-report-how-doctors-can-close-the-gap.pdf 42 Health Canada (2001) Social Accountability: A Vision for Canadian Medical Schools. Available at: http://www.medicine.usask.ca/leadership/social-accountability/pdfs%20and%20powerpoint/SA%20-%20A%20vision%20for%20Canadian%20Medical%20Schools%20-%20Health%20Canada.pdf 43 Ibid. 44 Dharamsi, Shafik; Ho, Anita; Spadafora, Salvatore; and Robert Woollard (2011) "The Physician as Health Advocate: Translating the Quest for Social Responsibility into Medical Education and Practice." Academic Medicine. Vol.86 No.9 pp.1108-1113. 45 Health Canada (2001) Social Accountability: A Vision for Canadian Medical Schools... 46 Meili, Ryan; Fuller, Daniel; & Jessica Lydiate. (2011) "Teaching social accountability by making the links: Qualitative evaluation of student experiences in a service-learning project." Medical Teacher. 33; 659-666. 47 Ford-Jones, Lee; Levin, Leo; Schneider, Rayfel; & Denis Daneman (2012) "A New Social Pediatrics Elective-A Tool for Moving to Life Course Developmental Health." The Journal of Pediatrics. V.160 Iss. 3 pp.357-358; Meili, Ryan; Ganem-Cuenca, Alejandra; Wing-sea Leung, Jannie; & Donna Zaleschuk (2011) "The CARE Model of Social Accountability: Promoting Cultural Change." Academic Medicine. Vol.86 No.9 pp.1114-1119. 48 Cuthbertson, Lana "U of A helps doctors understand way of life in the inner city." Edmonton Journal Dec 22, 2010. Available at: http://www2.canada.com/edmontonjournal/news/cityplus/story.html?id=943d7dc3-927b-4429-878b-09b6e00595e1 49 Willems, S.; Maesschalck De, S.; Deveugele, M.; Derese, A. & J. De Maeseneer (2005) "Socio-economic status of the patient and doctor-patient communication: does it make a difference?" Patient Education and Counseling. 56 pp. 139-146. 50 Bloch, Gary; Rozmovits, Linda & Broden Giambone (2011) "Barriers to primary care responsiveness to poverty as a risk factor for health." BioMed Central Family Practice. Available at: http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1471-2296-12-62.pdf; Schillinger, Dean; Villela, Theresa J. & George William Saba. Chapter 6: Creating a Context for Effective Intervention in the Clinical Care of Vulnerable Patients. pp.59-67. In King, Talmadge E, Jr. & Margaret B. Wheeler ed. (2007) Medical Management of Vulnerable and Underserved Patients. 51 Dharamsi, Shafik; Ho, Anita; Spadafora, Salvatore; and Robert Woollard (2011) "The Physician as Health Advocate... 52 UCL Institute of Health Equity (2012) The Role of the Health Workforce in Tackling Health Inequalities... 53 Meili, Ryan (2012) A Healthy Society: How A Focus On Health Can Revive Canadian Democracy. Saskatoon: Canada. Purich Publishing Limited. pp.36 54 UCL Institute of Health Equity (2012) The Role of the Health Workforce in Tackling Health Inequalities... 55 Bloch, Gary (2011) "Poverty: A clinical tool for primary care "Family & Community Medicine, University of Toronto. Available at: http://www.healthprovidersagainstpoverty.ca/system/files/Poverty%20A%20Clinical%20Tool%20for%20Primary%20Care%20%28version%20with%20References%29_0.pdf ; Bricic, Vanessa; Eberdt, Caroline & Janusz Kaczorowski (2011) "Development of a Tool to Identify Poverty in a Family Practice Setting: A Pilot Study." International Journal of Family Medicine. Available at: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijfm/2011/812182/ ; Based on form developed by: Drs. V. Dubey, R.Mathew & K. Iglar; Revised by Health Providers Against Poverty (2008) " Preventative Care Checklist Form: For average-risk, routine, female health assessments." Available at: http://www.healthprovidersagainstpoverty.ca/Resourcesforhealthcareproviders ; Based on form developed by: Drs. V. Dubey, R.Mathew & K. Iglar; Revised by Health Providers Against Poverty (2008) " Preventative Care Checklist Form: For average-risk, routine, male health assessments." Available at: http://www.healthprovidersagainstpoverty.ca/Resourcesforhealthcareproviders 56 Frank, Dr. Jason R. ed. (2005) "The CanMEDS 2005 Physician Competency Framework: Better standards. Better physicians. Better Care." Office of Education: The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Available at: http://rcpsc.medical.org/canmeds/CanMEDS2005/CanMEDS2005_e.pdf 57 Tannenbaum, David et.al. (2011) "Triple C Competency-based Curriculum: Report of the Working Group on Postgraduate Curriculum Review-Part 1 58 UCL Institute of Health Equity (2012) The Role of the Health Workforce in Tackling Health Inequalities... 59 Doyle-Trace L, Labuda S. Community Resources in Cote-des-Neiges. Montreal: St Mary's Hospital Family Medicine Centre, 2011. (This guide was developed by medical residents Lara Doyle-Trace and Suzan Labuda at McGill University.); Mobile Outreach Street Health (N.D.) Pocket MOSH: a little MOSH for your pocket: A Practitioners Guide to MOSH and the Community We Serve. Available at: http://www.cdha.nshealth.ca/mobile-outreach-street-health 60 Health Providers Against Poverty (N.D.) Tools and Resources. Available at: http://www.healthprovidersagainstpoverty.ca/Resourcesforhealthcareproviders 61 Meili, Ryan (2012) A Healthy Society: How A Focus...pp.61; UCL Institute of Health Equity (2012) The Role of the Health Workforce in Tackling Health Inequalities... 62 Rachlis, Michael (2008) Operationalizing Health Equity: How Ontario's Health Services Can Contribute to Reducing Health Disparities. Wellesley Institute. Available at: http://wellesleyinstitute.com/files/OperationalizingHealthEquity.pdf

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