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Chronic Diseases Related to Aging: CMA's Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy10226
Date
2011-10-17
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2011-10-17
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
The Canadian Medical Association wishes to commend the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health for undertaking this study of the issue of chronic diseases related to aging. It is a timely issue, since the first members of the Baby Boom generation turned 65 in 2011 and it's predicted that by 2031 a quarter of Canada's population will be 65 or older. Though chronic disease is not exclusive to seniors, its prevalence does rise with age: according to Statistics Canada, about 74% of Canadians over 65 have at least one chronic condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis or depression and nearly 25% have three or more. The proportion is higher among people 85 years old and over. What are the causes of chronic disease? There are many. Some of them are rooted in unhealthy behaviour: smoking, poor nutrition and, in particular, lack of physical activity. Physicians are concerned about rising obesity rates in Canada, for example, because obesity increases one's risk of developing chronic diseases later in life. But there is more to chronic disease than unhealthy behaviour. It is also affected by a person's biological and genetic makeup, as well as by his or her social environment. Lower income and educational levels, poor housing, and social isolation, which is a greater problem for seniors than for other populations, are all associated with poorer health status. Now the good news: chronic disease is not an inevitable consequence of aging. We can delay the onset of chronic disease, and perhaps even reduce the risk that it will occur. Patients who do have existing chronic disease, their conditions can often be controlled successfully through appropriate health care and disease management, so that they can continue to lead active, independent lives. Thus the CMA supports initiatives promoting healthy aging - which the Public Health Agency of Canada defines as "the process of optimizing opportunities for physical, mental and social health as people age." Healthy lifestyles should be encouraged at any age. For example, the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, which CMA supports, recommend that people 65 or older accumulate at least two-and-a-half hours per week of aerobic activity such as walking, swimming or cycling. Experts believe that healthy aging will compress a person's period of illness and disability into a short period just prior to death, enabling a longer period of healthy, independent and fulfilling life. For those who are already affected with chronic diseases, treatment is long term and can be very complex. People with diabetes, for example, need a continuous ongoing program to monitor their blood sugar levels and maintain them at an appropriate level; people with arthritis or other mobility problems may require regular physical therapy. For the patient, chronic disease means a long-term management that is much more complicated than taking antibiotics for an infection. People with two or more chronic conditions may be consulting a different specialist for each, as well as seeking support from nurse counsellors, dieticians, pharmacists, occupational therapists, social workers or other health professionals. Often, management requires medication. The majority of Canadians over 65 take at least one prescription drug, and nearly 15% are on five drugs or more, which increases the possibility that, for example, two of those drugs could interact negatively with each other to produce unpleasant and possibly serious side effects. Long-term, complex chronic disease care is in fact the new paradigm in our health care system. About 80% of the care now provided in the United States is for chronic diseases, and there is no reason to believe Canada is greatly different. Hence, it is worth considering what form, ideally, a comprehensive program of chronic disease management should take, for patients of any age. The CMA believes it should include the following four elements: * First, access to a primary care provider who has responsibility for the overall care of the patient. For more than 30 million Canadians, that primary care provider is a family physician. Family physicians who have established long-standing professional relationships with their patients, can better understand their needs and preferences. They can build a relationship of trust, so that patients are comfortable in discussing frankly how they want to treat their conditions: for example, whether to take medication for depression or seek counselling with a therapist. The family physician can also serve as a co-ordinator of the care delivered by other providers. This leads to our second recommended element: * Collaborative and coordinated care. The CMA believes that, given the number of providers who may be involved in the care of chronic diseases, the health care system should encourage the creation of interdisciplinary teams or, at minimum, enable a high level of communication and coordination among individual providers. We believe all governments should support: o Interdisciplinary primary care practices, such as Family Health Networks in Ontario, which bring a variety of different health professionals and their expertise into one practice setting; o Widespread use of the electronic health record, which can facilitate information sharing and communication among providers; and o A smooth process for referral: for example, from family physician to specialists, or from family physician to physiotherapist. The CMA is working with other medical stakeholders to create a referral process tool kit that governments, health care organizations and practitioners can use to support the development of more effective and efficient referral systems. The patient may also need non-medical support services to help cope with disability related to chronic disease. For example, a person with arthritis who wants to remain at home may need to have grab bars, ramps or stair lifts installed there. Ideally, a coordinated system of chronic disease management would also include referral to those who could provide these services. * The third necessary element is support for informal caregivers. These are the unsung heroes of elder care. An estimated four million Canadians are providing informal, unpaid care to family members or friends. About a quarter of these caregivers are themselves 65 or older. Their burden can be a heavy one, in terms of both time and expense. Stress and isolation are common among caregivers. The federal government has taken steps to provide much-needed support to informal caregivers. The most recent federal budget, for example, increased the amount of its Caregiver Tax Credit. We recommend that the government build on these actions, to provide a solid network of support, financial and otherwise, to informal caregivers. * The fourth and final element is improving access to necessary services. Only physician and hospital services are covered through the Canada Health Act, and many other services are not. All provinces have pharmacare programs for people over 65, but coverage varies widely between provinces and many, particularly those with lower incomes, find it difficult to pay for their necessary medications. Seniors who do not have post-retirement benefit plans - and these are the majority - also need to pay out of pocket for dental care, physiotherapy, mental health care and other needed supports. We recommend that all levels of government explore adjusting the basket of services provided through public funding, to make sure that it reflects the needs of the growing number of Canadians burdened by chronic disease. In particular, we recommend that the federal government negotiate a cost-shared program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage with provincial/territorial governments. In conclusion, the CMA believes the committee is wise to consider how we might reduce the impact - on individual patients, the health care system and society - of chronic disease related to aging. Chronic disease management is a complex problem, but warrants close attention as it is now the dominant form of health care in Canada. We look forward to the results of the Committee's deliberations.
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Elder Abuse and Disability Hearing: CMA's Presentation to the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy10060
Date
2010-10-25
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2010-10-25
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) wishes to commend the multi-party group of Members of Parliament who have come together to form the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care. The challenge we face today in caring for our aging population is only going to get greater. Statistics Canada has projected a rapid increase in the proportion of seniors in the population. The first wave of the baby boom generation turns 65 next year. By 2031, seniors will account for roughly one-quarter of the population, nearly double the 13.9% observed in 2009.1 Canadians are clearly concerned about their ability to cope with future health care expenses, either their own or those of their parents. Respondents to the CMA's 2010 Annual National Report Card on Health Care survey anticipate a range of implications associated with our aging population: * 29% reported that they will likely alter their retirement plans (e.g., work longer) to help pay for their own future costs or those of their parents; * Almost one in five (19%) anticipates moving their parents into their own home and supporting them financially; and * One in six (16%) anticipates paying for their parents to live in a nursing home.2 The CMA believes that the federal government could play a key role in allaying Canadians' concerns about the future by leading negotiations with the provinces and territories and taking direct action on extending access along the continuum of care. These actions should focus on three priority areas: * Increasing access by all Canadians to affordable prescription drugs; * Supporting informal caregivers; and * Increasing access to palliative care at the end of life. If nothing is done to extend Medicare to cover more of the continuum of care, it will erode over time as a national program. When the Canada Health Act (CHA) was passed in 1984, physician and hospital services represented 57% of total health spending; this had declined to 42% as of 2009.3 While there is significant public spending beyond CHA-covered services (more than 25% of total spending) for programs such as seniors' drug coverage and home care, these programs are not subject to the CHA principles and coverage across the provinces and territories varies significantly. Access to Prescription Drugs The federal government missed an excellent opportunity to modernize Medicare in July 2004 when Premiers called on it to upload responsibility for drug programs. The Premiers stated that "a national pharmaceutical program should immediately be established. The federal government should assume full financial responsibility for a comprehensive drug plan for all Canadians, and be accountable for the outcomes."4 The federal government did not give this offer even fleeting consideration. Instead, the September 2004 10-Year Plan to Strengthen Health Care contained a watered-down version of the First Ministers' 2003 commitment to ensure that all Canadians would have reasonable access to catastrophic drug coverage by the end of 2005/06. The 2004 Accord reduced this commitment to the development of costing options for pharmaceutical coverage, as part of a nine-point National Pharmaceuticals Strategy (NPS).5 Costing options were included in the 2006 progress report of the NPS but they included estimates of the cost of catastrophic coverage wildly exceeding those of Romanow and Kirby, ranging from $6.6 billion to $10.3 billion.6 Nothing further has been heard about the NPS since stakeholder consultations were held in fall 2007. As recently as September 2008, the provinces and territories (PTs) were still interested in federal participation in pharmaceuticals. In the communiqué from their annual meeting, the PT health Ministers called for a three-point funding formula to support a national standard of pharmacare coverage, including: * PT flexibility and autonomy in program design; * Prescription drug costs not to exceed 5% of net income; and * Federal and PT governments to cost share 50/50, estimated at $2.52 billion each in 2006.7 Again there was no reaction from the federal government. Since then the PT governments have appeared to be giving up hope of federal participation in access to pharmaceuticals. At their June 2009 meeting, the western Premiers announced they would develop a joint western purchasing plan for pharmaceuticals,8 and more recently at the August 2010 meeting of the Council of the Federation, Premiers agreed to establish a pan-Canadian purchasing alliance for common drugs, medical supplies and equipment.9 Health Ministers reaffirmed this commitment at their September 2010 meeting.10 One can speculate that had the federal government taken up the Premiers' offer in 2004, many aspects of the NPS would be in place by now. Meanwhile, access to prescription drugs presents a hardship for many Canadians. In the CMA's 2009 National Report Card survey, nearly one in six (14%) reported they had either delayed or stopped buying some prescription drugs. This ranged from more than one in five (22%) with annual incomes of less than $30,000 to just over one in 20 (7%) of those with incomes greater than $90,000.11 The wide geographic disparity in out-of-pocket drug expenditures is shown in the table below, which is compiled from Statistics Canada's 2009 Survey of Household Spending. Table 1 shows the percentage of households spending more than 3% and 5% of after-tax income on prescription drugs, by province, in the year prior to the survey. [Note - see PDF for correct display of table information] % of Households Spending Greater than 3% and 5% of After-tax Income on Prescription Drugs, Canada and Provinces, 2008 Geography >3% >5% Canada 7.6 3.0 Newfoundland and Labrador 11.6 5.4E Prince Edward Island 13.3 5.8E Nova Scotia 8.9 3.8 New Brunswick 9.1 4.1E Quebec 11.6 3.3 Ontario 4.7 2.2E Manitoba 12.0 5.2 Saskatchewan 11.5 5.9 Alberta 4.6E 2.2E British Columbia 7.5 3.6 E - Use with caution - high coefficient of variation Source: Statistics Canada, CANSIM Table 109-5012 Under both thresholds there is a more than two-fold variation across provinces in the incidence of catastrophic drug expenditures. At the 5% threshold the range is from 2.2% of households in Ontario and Alberta to 5.8% in PEI and 5.9% in Saskatchewan. With the growing availability of more expensive drugs, this variation is only likely to be exacerbated in the years ahead. Recommendation 1 The federal government should negotiate a cost-shared program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage with the provincial/territorial governments. This program should be administered through provincial/territorial and private prescription drug plans to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary drug therapies. Such a program should include the following elements: * A mandate for all Canadians to have either private or public coverage for prescription drugs; * Uniform income-based ceiling (between public and private plans across provinces/territories) on out-of-pocket expenditures on drug plan premiums and/or prescription drugs (e.g., 5% of after-tax income); * Federal/provincial/territorial cost-sharing of prescription drug expenditures above a household income ceiling, subject to capping the total federal and/or provincial/territorial contributions either by adjusting the federal/provincial/territorial sharing of reimbursement or by scaling the household income ceiling or both; * Group insurance plans and administrators of employee benefit plans to pool risk above a threshold linked to group size; and * A continued strong role for private supplementary insurance plans and public drug plans on a level playing field (i.e., premiums and co-payments to cover plan costs). In negotiating this plan, consideration should be given to the following: * Establishing a program for access to expensive drugs for rare diseases where those drugs have been demonstrated to be effective; * Assessing the options for risk pooling to cover the inclusion of expensive drugs in public and private drug plan formularies; * Provision of adequate financial compensation to the provincial and territorial governments that have developed, implemented and funded their own public prescription drug insurance plans; and * Provision of comprehensive coverage of prescription drugs and immunization for all children in Canada. Supporting Informal Caregivers As the population ages, the incidence of diseases associated with dementia is projected to increase dramatically. A 2010 study commissioned by the Alzheimer Society of Canada has reported that the 2008 level of an estimated 103,728 new dementia cases is expected to more than double to 257,811 per year by 2038. Over this period, the demand for informal caregiving will skyrocket. In 2008, the Alzheimer Society reports, the opportunity cost of unpaid care giving was estimated at almost $5 billion. By 2038 this cost is expected to increase by 11-fold, to reach $56 billion, as the overall prevalence of dementia will have risen to 1.1 million people, representing 2.8% of the Canadian population.12 The burden of informal care giving extends beyond the costs related to dementia. Statistics Canada's 2007 General Social Survey has documented the extent to which Canadians are providing unpaid assistance to family, friends or other persons with a long-term health condition or physical limitation. Nationwide, 1.4 million adults aged 45 or over living in the community were receiving care in 2007. Of this number almost one in two (46.9%) were receiving both paid and unpaid care, almost three in 10 (27.4%) were receiving unpaid care only, and just under one in five (18.8%) were receiving paid care only. This underscores the importance of the informal sector. In terms of who was providing this care, an estimated four million Canadians were providing care, of whom one million were aged 65 or over, while almost two million (1.8) were in the prime working age range of 45 to 54. The provision of unpaid care represents a significant time commitment. The caregivers who reported helping with at least one activity spent an average 11.6 hours in a typical week doing so. Those providing care reported significant personal consequences. One in three reported spending less time on social activities (33.7%) or incurring extra expenses (32.7%), almost one in five cancelled holiday plans (18.7%) or spent less time with their spouse (18.7%), and more than one in 10 (13.7%) reported that their health had suffered. The 2.5 million informal caregivers who were in the paid labour force were likely to report that caregiving had had a significant impact on their jobs. Almost one in four (24.3%) reported missing full days of work and one in six (15.5%) reported reducing hours of work. Compared to the total population, informal caregivers were more likely to report stress in their lives. Almost three in 10 (27.9%) reported their level of stress on most days to be either quite a bit or extremely stressful compared to fewer than one in four (23.2%) of the total population.13 As the demand for informal care grows, it seems unlikely that the burden of informal caregiving will be sustainable without additional support. The federal government took the positive step in 2004/05 of introducing Employment Insurance (EI) Compassionate Care Benefits for people who are away from work temporarily to provide care or support to a family member who is gravely ill and at risk of dying within 26 weeks.14 So far, however, this program has had limited uptake. In 2007/08, 5,706 new claims were paid.15 This pales in comparison to the 235,217 deaths that year (although not all of these would be candidates for this type of care).16 Recommendation 2 The federal government should implement measures within its jurisdiction, such as the use of tax credits, to support informal caregivers. Increasing Access to Palliative Care at the End of Life The Senate of Canada, and Senator Sharon Carstairs in particular, have provided exemplary leadership over the last 15 years in highlighting both the progress and the persistent variability across Canada in access to quality end-of-life care. The Senator's 2005 report Still Not There noted that only an estimated 15% of Canadians have access to hospice palliative care and that for children the figure drops even further to just over 3%.17 The 2005 report repeated the 1995 call for a national strategy for palliative and end-of-life care. To date, palliative care in Canada has primarily centred on services for those dying with cancer. However, cancer accounts for less than one-third (30%) of deaths in Canada. Diseases at the end of life, such as dementia and multiple chronic conditions, are expected to become much more prevalent in the years ahead. The demand for quality end-of-life care is certain to increase as the baby boom generation ages. There will be an estimated 40% more deaths a year by 2020. While the proportion of Canadians dying in hospital has been decreasing over the past decade, many more Canadians would undoubtedly prefer to have the option of hospice palliative care at the end of their lives than current capacity will permit. In the 2004 Health Accord, First Ministers built on their 2003 Accord by agreeing to provide first dollar coverage for certain home care services by 2006, including end-of-life care for case management, nursing, palliative-specific pharmaceuticals and personal care at the end of life. Seven years later we have no comprehensive picture of the availability of end-of-life care across Canada. The Health Council of Canada's last detailed reporting on the implementation of the 2003 Accord was in 2006. At that time, the only province to report comprehensive end-of-life care was British Columbia.18 For most other jurisdictions, end-of-life care was discussed under "next steps." Since then, the Health Council has ceased comprehensive reporting on the Accord. In the 2007 National Physician Survey, doctors across Canada were asked to rate the accessibility of the range of services for their patients. Just one in three (32%) rated access to palliative care services as either excellent or very good.19 In 2006, the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association and the Canadian Home Care Association jointly issued a 35-point "gold standard" for palliative home care, covering the areas of case management, nursing care, pharmaceuticals and personal care, which they commended to governments.20 In its April 2009 report, the Special Senate Committee on Aging recommended a federally funded national partnership with provinces, territories and community organizations to promote integrated, quality end-of-life care for all Canadians, the application of gold standards in palliative home care to veterans, First Nations and Inuit, and federal inmates, and renewed research funding for palliative care.21 In 2010, the Quality End-of-Life Care Coalition of Canada (QELCC), of which the CMA is a member, released its Blueprint for Action 2010 to 2020. The four priorities are: * Ensure all Canadians have access to high-quality hospice palliative end-of-life care; * Provide more support for family caregivers; * Improve the quality and consistency of hospice palliative end-of-life care in Canada; and * Encourage Canadians to discuss and plan for end-of-life.22 This blueprint embodies the sound ideas that have emerged over the past decade. In June 2010, Senator Carstairs released her latest report Raising the Bar, which, while acknowledging some of the achievements that have been made in palliative care, repeats her previous calls for a national role and active engagement of the federal government.23 A wide range of stakeholders either have, or should have, a significant stake in the issue of palliative care. They include patients and the organizations that advocate on their behalf, caregivers (both formal and informal), the institutional and community health sectors, and the employer/business community. Recommendation 3 The CMA urges the federal government to collaborate with the provincial and territorial governments to convene a national conference in 2011 to assess the state of palliative care in Canada. Notes 1 Statistics Canada. Population projections for Canada, provinces and territories 2009 to 2036. Catalogue no. 91-520-X. Ottawa. Minister of Industry, 2010. 2 Canadian Medical Association. 10th Annual National Report Card on Health Care, August, 2010. http://www.cma.ca/multimedia/CMA/Content_Images/Inside_cma/Media_Release/2010/report_card/2010-National-Report-Card_en.pdf. Accessed 09/28/10. 3 Canadian Institute for Health Information. National health expenditure trends 1975 to 2009. Ottawa, 2009. 4 Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat. Premiers' action plan for better health care: resolving issues in the spirit of true federation. July 30, 2004. http://www.scics.gc.ca/cinfo04/850098004_e.html. Accessed 09/28/10. 5 Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat. A 10-year plan to strengthen health care. http://www.scics.gc.ca/cinfo04/800042005_e.pdf. Accessed 09/28/10. 6 Health Canada. National Pharmaceuticals Strategy Progress Report. June 2006. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hcs-sss/alt_formats/hpb-dgps/pdf/pubs/2006-nps-snpp/2006-nps-snpp-eng.pdf. Accessed 09/28/10. 7 Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat. Annual Conference of Provincial-Territorial Ministers of Health. September 4, 2008. http://www.scics.gc.ca/cinfo08/860556005_e.html. Accessed 09/28/10. 8 Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat. Premiers taking action on pharmaceuticals. June 18, 2009. http://www.scics.gc.ca/cinfo09/850114004_e.html. Accessed 09/28/10. 9 Council of the Federation. Premiers protecting Canada's health care systems. http://www.councilofthefederation.ca/pdfs/PremiersProtectingCanadasHealthCareSystem.pdf. Accessed 09/28/10. 10 Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat. P/T health Ministers work together to advance common issues. September 13, 2010. http://www.scics.gc.ca/cinfo10/860578004_e.html. Accessed 09/28/10. 11 Canadian Medical Association. 9th Annual National Report Card on Health Care. http://www.cma.ca/multimedia/CMA/Content_Images/Inside_cma/Media_Release/2009/report_card/Report-Card_en.pdf. Accessed 09/28/10. 12Alzheimer Society of Canada. Rising tide: the impact of dementia on Canadian society. http://www.alzheimer.ca/docs/RisingTide/Rising%20Tide_Full%20Report_Eng_FINAL_Secured%20version.pdf. Accessed 09/28/10. 13 Statistics Canada. 2007 General Social Survey: Care tables. Catalogue no. 89-633-X. Ottawa, Minister of Industry, 2009. 14Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. Information for health care professionals: EI Compassionate Care. http://www.rhdcc-hrsdc.gc.ca/eng/publications_resources/health_care/ei_ccb.shtml. Accessed 09/28/10. 15 Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. Table 2.12 Compassionate care benefits. http://www.hrsdc.gc.ca/eng/employment/ei/reports/eimar_2009/annex/annex2_12.shtml. Accessed 09/28/10. 16 Statistics Canada. Deaths 2007. The Daily, Tuesday, February 23, 2010. 17 Carstairs S. Still not there. Quality end-of-life care: a status report. http://sen.parl.gc.ca/scarstairs/PalliativeCare/Still%20Not%20There%20June%202005.pdf. Accessed 09/24/09. 18 Health Council of Canada. Jursdictional tables on health care renewal. Companion document to Health care renewal in Canada Measuring up? Annual report to Canadians 2006. Toronto, ON, 2007 19 College of Family Physicians of Canada. Canadian Medical Association. Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. National Physician Survey 2007. Q25a. Please rate the accessibility of the following for your patients. http://www.nationalphysiciansurvey.ca/nps/2007_Survey/Results/ENG/National/pdf/Q25/Q25aALL.only_NON.CORE.only.pdf. Accessed 09/28/10. 20 Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association. Canadian Home Care Association. The pan-Canadian gold standard for palliative home care. http://www.chpca.net/resource_doc_library/pan-cdn_gold_standards/Gold_Standards_Palliative_Home_Care.pdf. Accessed 09/28/10. 21 Special Senate Committee on Aging. Final report: Canada's aging population: Seizing the opportunity. April 2009. http://www.parl.gc.ca/40/2/parlbus/commbus/senate/com-e/agei-e/rep-e/AgingFinalReport-e.pdf. Accessed 09/28/10. 22 Quality End -of-life Coalition of Canada. Blueprint for action 2010 to 2020. http://www.chpca.net/qelccc/information_and_resources/Blueprint_for_Action_2010_to_2020_April_2010.pdf. Accessed 09/28/10. 23Carstairs S. Raising the bar: a roadmap for the future of palliative care in Canada. June 2010. http://sen.parl.gc.ca/scarstairs/PalliativeCare/Raising%20the%20Bar%20June%202010%20(2).pdf. Accessed 09/29/10.
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Healthy Living: CMA's Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy10058
Date
2011-02-08
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2011-02-08
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
I would like to thank the Committee for inviting the Canadian Medical Association to appear on this very important topic. As a family physician in Saskatoon and the past president of the CMA, I can assure you that Canada's physicians have an acute interest in drawing attention to the health consequences of poor nutrition and lack of physical activity, and the challenge of obesity. We know that obesity is a contributor to a number of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and liver disease, as well as breast, colon and prostate cancer. We know that over-consumption of salt, sugars, and saturated and trans fats can be a factor in hypertension, cardiovascular disease and stroke, and kidney disease. And we know that Canadians have become dramatically less physically fit in recent decades. As a country, we need to espouse a culture of health and wellness, based on good nutrition and physical activity. Finding solutions will require a collaborative, system-wide approach involving all levels of government, the health, education, industry, finance and transportation ministries, and the private sector. We know that if provided with support when young, children can adopt healthy life styles. That is why the CMA continues to call on governments across the country to work with school boards to: * provide at least 30 minutes of active daily physical education for all primary and secondary grades, given by trained educators in the field; * provide access to attractive, affordable, healthy food choices and clearly post the nutrition content of the foods they sell; and * ban junk food sales in all primary, intermediate and secondary schools in Canada. The CMA has advocated policies and regulations for food safety, and promoted healthy eating and physical activity as key components of healthy living and the prevention of disease. The CMA policy statement Promoting Physical Activity and Healthy Weights calls for a Canada-wide strategy for healthy living that includes: * information and support for Canadians to help them make healthy choices; * support for health professionals in counselling patients on healthy weight and in treating existing obesity; * community infrastructure that makes healthy living choices easier; and * public policies that encourage healthy eating and physical activity. All Canadians need access to nutritious food at affordable prices. The price of milk, produce and other healthy foods varies greatly in different parts of Canada. In remote areas, they are even more expensive because of high transportation costs. In urban areas, nutritious food may be unaffordable for people on low incomes and unavailable as grocery stores move to the suburbs thus creating "food deserts". Among other strategies, governments should consider: implementing school meal programs; and taking into account the cost of nutritious food when setting social assistance rates. The proliferation of packaged, prepared foods and fast foods has contributed to excess amounts of salt, sugar, saturated and trans fat and calories in our diet. While we welcome the federal government's support for the reduction of trans fats and sodium levels in processed foods, reliance on the food industry to voluntarily reduce these ingredients has not been successful. We believe that regulation is needed to safeguard the health of Canadians. Healthy living begins with an awareness of the impact of food and exercise on health. While individuals must take responsibility for making healthy choices, the CMA believes that governments have an obligation to provide guidance on healthy eating and physical activity that can be easily incorporated into daily lives. We commend the federal and provincial/ territorial governments for their recent Framework for Action to Promote Healthy Weights. Physicians were also pleased to see the revised Canada's Food Guide in 2007, and the recent update to Canada's Physical Activity Guide. The CMA supports nutrition and caloric labeling on packaged foods to help Canadians make informed food choices. The federal nutrition labeling awareness initiative is useful to consumers but we think information can be simplified. For example, the UK is testing front of pack 'traffic light' coding for fats, salt, sugar and calories. The CMA has also called for a clear display of caloric counts, and sodium, trans-fats and protein levels on restaurant and cafeteria menus. The CMA believes encouragement of active transportation, that is walking and cycling, is a way to increase physical activity. Communities need to make it easier for Canadians to be physically active in their day-to-day life by providing sidewalks and pedestrian-friendly intersections; bike lanes, paths and parking spaces; and trails, parks and green spaces. One area that we believe warrants further study is the use of incentives to promote healthy behaviours. By transferring funds or other benefits to an individual, incentives provide immediate rewards for behaviours that can lead to long-term health gains. An example in Canada is the Children's Fitness Tax Credit, which is intended to help children be more active by off-setting some of the costs incurred by families for sports and leisure programs. Government disincentives largely involve the use of regulation and taxation in order to change individual behaviour. This helps to create an environment in which healthy choices are easier to make. It is impossible to overstate the importance of nutrition and physical activity to our health. Encouraging Canadians to make healthy choices requires a wide ranging, long-term and collaborative approach. The CMA believes this challenge should be met urgently. Canada's physicians are more than ready to work with governments to ensure that Canadians can improve and maintain their health.
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A Healthy Population for a Stronger Economy: CMA pre-budget consultation submission to the Standing Committee on Finance

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy10224
Date
2011-08-12
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2011-08-12
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance examines how increasing retirement income saving options, improving access to prescription drugs, and planning for a Canadian Health Quality Alliance to promote innovation in the delivery of high quality health care can enhance our health care system and, in turn, make our economy more productive. Higher quality health care and expanded options for meeting the needs of retired and elderly Canadians will contribute to the ultimate goals of better patient care, improved population health and help our country reach its full potential. Polls show that Canadians are becoming increasingly concerned about the future of their health care system, particularly in terms of their ability to access essential care. The CMA's 2011 pre-budget submission responds to these concerns and supports a healthy population, a healthy medical profession and a healthy economic recovery. Our recommendations are as follows: Recommendation # 1 The federal government should study options to expand the current PRPP definition beyond defined contribution pension plans. Also, the federal government should expand the definition of eligible administrators of PRPPs beyond financial institutions to include organizations such as professional associations. Recommendation # 2 Governments, in consultation with the life and health insurance industry and the public, should establish a program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage to be administered through reimbursement of provincial/territorial and private prescription drug plans to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary drug therapies. Recommendation # 3 The federal government should convene a time-limited national steering committee that would engage key stakeholders in developing a proposal for a pan-Canadian Health Quality Alliance with a mandate to work collaboratively towards integrated approaches for a sustainable health care system through innovative practices in the delivery of high quality health care. Introduction Over the past year, the CMA has engaged Canadians across the country in a broad-based public consultation on health care and heard about their concerns and experiences with the system. This exercise was undertaken as part of the CMA's Health Care Transformation (HCT) initiative, a roadmap for modernizing Canada's health care systemi so that it puts patients first and provides Canadians with better value for money. We have heard through these consultations that Canadians do not believe they are currently getting good value from their health care system, a feeling borne out by studies comparing Canada's health care system to those in leading countries in Europe. We also heard that Canadians are concerned about inequities in access to care beyond the basic medicare basket, particularly in the area of access to prescription drugs. While all levels of government need to be involved, it is the federal government that must lead the transformation of our most cherished social program. 1. Retirement Income Improvement Issue: Increasing retirement savings options for Canadians with a focus on improving their ability to look after their long-term care needs. Background The CMA remains concerned about the status of Canada's retirement income system and the future ability of Canada's seniors to adequately fund their long-term and supportive care needs. The proportion of Canadian seniors (65+) is expected to almost double from its present level of 13% to almost 25% by 2036. Statistics Canada projections show that between 2015 and 2021 the number of seniors will, for the first time, surpass the number of children under 14 years of age.ii The CMA has been working proactively on this issue in several ways, including through the recently created Retirement Income Improvement Coalition (RIIC), a broad-based coalition of 11 organizations representing over one million self-employed professionals. The coalition has previously recommended to the federal government the following actions: * increased retirement saving options for all Canadians, particularly the self-employed; * changes to the Income Tax Act, Income Tax Regulations and the Employment Standards Act to enable the self-employed to participate in pension plans; * the approval of Pooled Retirement Pension Plans (PRPP) as a retirement savings program for the self-employed; * changes to the current tax-deferred income saving options (increase the percentage of earned income or the maximum-dollar amount contribution limit for RRSPs); * a requirement that registration to all retirement saving options be voluntary (optional); and * opportunities for Canadians to become better educated about retirement saving options (financial literacy).iii The CMA appreciates that federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers are moving ahead with the introduction of Pooled Registered Retirement Plans (PRPPs). The CMA, as part of the RIIC, has been providing input into the consultation process. However, PRPPs represent only one piece of a more comprehensive retirement savings structure. Recommendation # 1 The federal government should study options that would not limit PRPPs to defined contribution pension plans. Target benefit plans should be permitted and encouraged. Target benefit plans allow risk to be pooled among the plan members, providing a more secure vehicle than defined contribution plans. Also, the administrators of PRPPs should not be limited to financial institutions. Well-governed organizations that represent a particular membership should be able to sponsor and administer RPPs and PRPPs for their own members, including self-employed members. The CMA also continues to be concerned about the ability of Canadians to save for their long-term health care needs. The Wait Time Alliance - a coalition of 14 national medical organizations whose members provide specialty care to patients - reported recently that many patients, particularly the elderly, are in hospital while waiting for more suitable and appropriate care arrangements. Mostly in need of support rather than medical care, these patients are hindered by the lack of options available to them, often due to limited personal income. The CMA has previously recommended that the federal government should study options for pre-funding long-term care, including private insurance, tax-deferred and tax-prepaid savings approaches, and contribution-based social insurance. This remains pertinent. 2. Universal access to prescription drugs Issue: Ensuring all Canadians have access to a basic level of prescription drugs. Background Universal access to prescription drugs is widely acknowledged as part of the "unfinished business" of medicare in Canada. In 1964 the Hall Commission recommended that the federal government contribute 50% of the cost of a Prescription Drug Benefit within the Health Services Program. It also recommended a $1.00 contributory payment by the purchaser for each prescription. This has never been implemented.iv What has emerged since then is a public-private mix of funding for prescription drugs. The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) has estimated that, as of 2010, 46% of prescription drug expenditures were public, 36% were paid for by private insurance and 18% were paid for out-of-pocket.v Nationally there is evidence of wide variability in levels of drug coverage. According to Statistics Canada, 3% of households spent greater than 5% of after-tax income on prescription drugs in 2008. Across provinces this ranged from 2.2% in Ontario and Alberta, to 5.8% in P.E.I. and 5.9% in Saskatchewan.vi Moreover, there is significant variation between the coverage levels of the various provincial plans across Canada. For example, the Manitoba Pharmacare Program is based on total income, with adjustment for spouse and dependents under 18, while in Newfoundland and Labrador, the plan is based on net family income.vii,viii The Commonwealth Fund's 2010 International Health Policy Survey found that 10% of Canadian respondents said they had either not filled a prescription or skipped doses because of cost issues.ix Moreover, there have been numerous media stories about inequities in access across provinces to cancer drugs and expensive drugs for rare diseases. The high cost of prescription drugs was frequently raised during our public consultations this year. The need for a national drug strategy or pharmacare plan was mentioned by an overwhelming number of respondents, many of whom detailed how they had been affected by the high cost of drugs. The cost to the federal government of a program that would ensure universal access to prescription drugs would depend on the threshold of out-of-pocket contribution and the proportion of expenses that it would be willing to share with private and provincial/territorial public plans. Estimates have ranged from $500 millionx, and $1 billionxi, to the most recent estimate from the provincial-territorial health ministers of $2.5 billion (2006).xii Recommendation # 2 Governments, in consultation with the life and health insurance industry and the public, should establish a program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage to be administered through reimbursement of provincial/territorial and private prescription drug plans to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary drug therapies. Such a program should include: * a mandate for all Canadians to have either private or public coverage for prescription drugs; * a uniform income-based ceiling (between public and private plans and across provinces/territories) on out-of-pocket expenditures, on drug plan premiums and/or prescription drugs; * federal/provincial/territorial cost-sharing of prescription drug expenditures above a household income ceiling, subject to capping the total federal and/or provincial/territorial contributions either by adjusting the federal/provincial/territorial sharing of reimbursement or by scaling the household income ceiling or both; * a requirement for group insurance plans and administrators of employee benefit plans to pool risk above a threshold linked to group size; and * a continued strong role for private supplementary insurance plans and public drug plans on a level playing field (i.e., premiums and co-payments to cover plan costs). 3. Innovation for Quality in Canadian Health Care Issue: Development of a proposal to establish a Canadian Health Quality Alliance to promote innovation in the delivery of high-quality health care in Canada. Background There is general agreement that Canada's health care system is no longer a strong performer compared to similar nations. Clearly, we can do better. However, progress has been slow on a comprehensive quality agenda for our health care system. At the national level, there is no coordination or body with a mandate to promote a comprehensive approach to quality improvement. Over the past two decades, health care stakeholders in Canada have gradually come to embrace a multi-dimensional concept of quality in health care encompassing safety, appropriateness, effectiveness, accessibility, competency and efficiency. The unilateral federal funding cuts to health transfers that took effect in 1996 precipitated a long preoccupation with the accessibility dimension that was finally acknowledged with the Wait Time Reduction Fund in the 2004 First Ministers Accord. The safety dimension was recognized with the establishment of the Canadian Patient Safety Institute (CPSI) in 2003. Competence has been recognized by health professional organizations and regulatory bodies through the development of peer-review programs and mandated career-long professional development. While six provinces have established some form of health quality council (B.C., Alta., Sask., Ont., Que., N.B.), there is no national approach to quality improvement beyond safety. Given that health care stands as Canadians' top national priority and that it represents a very large expenditure item for all levels of government, the lack of a national approach to quality improvement is a major shortcoming. In the U.S., the Institute for Healthcare Improvement is dedicated to developing and promulgating methods and processes for improving the delivery of care throughout the world.xiii England's National Health Service (NHS) has also created focal points over the past decade to accelerate innovation and improvement throughout their health system. Canadian advancements in the health field have occurred when the expertise and perspective of a range of stakeholders have come together. The CPSI, for example, was established following the deliberations and report of the National Steering Committee on Patient Safety.xiv It is estimated that it would cost less than $500,000 for a multi-stakeholder committee to develop a proposal for a national alliance for quality improvement, including the cost of any commissioned research. Recommendation # 3 The federal government should convene a time-limited national steering committee that would engage key stakeholders in developing a proposal for a pan-Canadian Health Quality Alliance with a mandate to work collaboratively towards integrated approaches for a sustainable health care system through innovative practices in the delivery of high quality health care. This alliance would be expected to achieve the following in order to modernize health care services: * Promote a comprehensive approach to quality improvement in health care; * Promote pan-Canadian sharing of innovative and best practices; * Develop and disseminate methods of engaging frontline clinicians in quality improvement processes; and * Establish international partnerships for the exchange of innovative practices. Such an alliance could be established in a variety of ways: * Virtually, using the Networks of Centres of Excellencexv approach; * By expanding the mandate of an existing body; or * Through the creation of a new body. REFERENCES i Canadian Medical Association. Health Care Transformation in Canada. Change that Works. Care that Lasts. http://www.cma.ca/multimedia/CMA/Content_Images/Inside_cma/Advocacy/HCT/HCT-2010report_en.pdf Accessed 13/07/11. ii Statistics Canada. Population Projections for Canada, Provinces and Territories. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/91-520-x/2010001/aftertoc-aprestdm1-eng.htm. Accessed 13/07/11. iii Retirement Income Improvement Coalition. Letter to the federal Minister of Finance and the Minister of State (Finance). March 17, 2011. ivHall, E. Royal Commission on Health Services. Volume 1. Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1964. vCanadian Institute for Health Information. Drug Expenditure in Canada, 1985 to 2010. Ottawa, 2010. viStatistics Canada. CANSIM Table 109-5012 Household spending on prescription drugs as a percentage of after-tax income, Canada and provinces, annual (percent). http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/pick-choisir?lang=eng&searchTypeByValue=1&id=1095012. Accessed 05/29/11. vii Manitoba Health. Pharmacare deductible estimator. http://www.gov.mb.ca/health/pharmacare/estimator.html. Accessed 07/28/11. viii Newfoundland Department of Health and Community Services. Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program (NLPDP). http://www.health.gov.nl.ca/health/prescription/nlpdp_application_form.pdf. Accessed 07/29/11. ixCommonwealth Fund. International health policy survey in eleven countries. http://www.commonwealthfund.org/~/media/Files/Publications/Chartbook/2010/PDF_2010_IHP_Survey_Chartpack_FULL_12022010.pdf. Accessed 05/29/11. x Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. The health of Canadians - the federal role. Volume six: recommendations for reform. Ottawa, 2002. xi Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada. Building on values: the future of health care in Canada. Ottawa, 2002. xii Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat. Backgrounder: National Pharmaceutical Strategy decision points. http://www.scics.gc.ca/english/conferences.asp?a=viewdocument&id=112. Accessed 23/07/11. xiii http://www.ihi.org. Accessed 29/07/10. xiv National Steering Committee on Patient Safety. Building a safer system: a national integrated strategy for improving patient safety in Canadian health care. http://rcpsc.medical.org/publications/building_a_safer_system_e.pdf. Accessed 23/07/11. xv http://www.nce-rce.gc.ca/index_eng.asp. Accessed 29/07/10.
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A Healthy Population for a Stronger Economy: The Canadian Medical Association's Presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance's pre-budget consultations

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy10228
Date
2011-10-18
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2011-10-18
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before this committee. Over the past year, the Canadian Medical Association has engaged in a wide-ranging public consultation on health care and heard from thousands of Canadians about their concerns and experiences with the system. This exercise was undertaken as part of the CMA's Health Care Transformation initiative, a roadmap for modernizing our country's health care system so that it puts patients first and provides Canadians with better value for money. The CMA found there is a groundswell of support for change among other health care providers, stakeholders and countless Canadians who share our view that the best catalyst for transformation is the next accord on federal transfers to provinces for health care. That said, while looking ahead to what we would like to see in the next health care accord, we have identified immediate opportunities for federal leadership in making achievable, positive changes to our health care system that would help Canadians be healthier and more secure and help ensure the prudent use of their health care dollars. During our consultation, we heard repeated concerns that Canada's medicare system is a shadow of its former self. Once a world leader, Canada now lags behind comparable nations in providing high quality health care. Improving the quality of health care services is key if Canada is ever going to have a high performing health system. The key dimensions of quality, and by extension, the areas that need attention are: Safety, Effectiveness, Patient-Centeredness, Efficiency, Timeliness, Equitability and Appropriateness. Excellence in quality improvement in these areas will be a crucial step towards sustainability. To date, six provinces have instituted health quality councils. Their mandates and their effectiveness in actually achieving lasting system wide improvements vary by province. What is missing, and urgently needed, is an integrated, Pan-Canadian approach to quality improvement in health care in Canada that can begin to chart a course that will ensure that Canadians ultimately have the best health and health care in the world. Canadians deserve no less and, with the resources at our disposal, there is no reason why this should not be achievable. The CMA recommends that the Federal Government funds the establishment, and adequately resources the operations, of an arms length Canadian Health Quality Council with the mandate to be a catalyst for change, a spark for innovation and a facilitator to disseminate evidence based quality improvement initiatives so that they become embedded in the fabric of our health systems from coast to coast to coast. Canadians are increasingly questioning whether they are getting value for the $190 billion a year that go into our country's health care system... with good reason as international studies indicate they are not getting good value for money. Defining, promoting and measuring quality care are not only essential to obtaining better health outcomes, they are crucial to building the accountability to Canadians that they deserve as consumers and funders of the system. We also heard during our consultation that Canadians worry about inequities in access to care beyond the hospital and doctor services covered within medicare, particularly when it comes to the high cost of prescription drugs. Almost 50 years ago, the Hall Commission recommended that all Canadians have access to a basic level of prescription drug coverage, yet what we have now is a jumble of public and private funding for prescription drugs that varies widely across the country. Last year, one in 10 Canadians either failed to fill a prescription or skipped a dose because they couldn't afford it. Universal access to prescription drugs is widely acknowledged to be part of the unfinished business of medicare in Canada. Our second recommendation, therefore, is that governments establish a program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage to be administered through reimbursement of provincial/territorial and private prescription drug plans to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary drug therapies. This should be done in consultation with the life and health insurance industry and the public. In the 21st century, no Canadian should be denied access to medically necessary prescription drugs because of an inability to pay for them. Our third and final recommendation relates to our aging population and the concerns Canadians share about their ability to save for their future needs. We recommend that the federal government study options that would not limit PRPPs to defined contribution pension plans. Target benefit plans should be permitted and encouraged as they allow risk to be pooled among the plan members, providing a more secure vehicle than defined contribution plans. As well, the administrators of PRPPs should not be limited to financial institutions. Well-governed organizations that represent a particular membership should be able to sponsor and administer RPPs and PRPPs for their own members, including self-employed members. The CMA appreciates that governments are moving ahead with the introduction of Pooled Registered Retirement Plans. However, we note that PRPPs represent only one piece of a more comprehensive saving structure. We also continue to be concerned about the ability of Canadians to save for their long-term health care needs. Many patients, particularly the elderly, are in hospital waiting for more suitable care arrangement. These patients are hindered by a lack of available options, often because they lack the means to pay for long-term care. They and their families suffer as a result, and so, too, does our health care system. While not in this pre-budget brief, the CMA holds to recommendations we have made in previous years that the federal government study options to help Canadians pre-fund long-term care. In closing, let me simply say that carrying out these recommendations would make a huge and positive impact, soon and over the long term, in the lives of literally millions of Canadians from every walk of life. Thank you for your time. I would be happy to answer your questions.
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Nutrition Labelling: CMA's Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy10085
Date
2011-03-03
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2011-03-03
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
Thank you very much for inviting the Canadian Medical Association back to this committee as you continue your study on healthy living. A few weeks ago my colleague Dr. Doig was here to talk about the health consequences of poor nutrition and lack of physical activity and the policies CMA has advocated to promote healthy living. Today I would like to expand upon nutrition labelling and health claims on foods, and on the labelling of foods regulated as natural health products. Nutrition facts tables can be an important source of information, but many Canadians have difficulty interpreting them. A 2009 Health Canada review of research on nutrition labelling indicated that: * those with little nutrition knowledge have difficulty using the tables and are unable to relate the information they contain to their own dietary needs; and that * the concept of percentage of daily value is often misunderstood. There has been an increase in the use of health claims on the front of packaging expressed as slogans or logos such as "healthy choice," as well as in disease reduction and nutrient content claims. Studies have shown that foods carrying health-related claims are seen by consumers as healthier choices. But the myriad of different claims can be confusing and may, in fact, draw attention away from the less healthy characteristics of a food, or oversimplify complex nutritional messages. We believe a standard consistent "at a glance" approach to front-of-package food labelling could reduce confusion and help consumers make informed dietary choices. The "traffic light" front-of-pack labelling currently in voluntary use in the UK is an example. The front-of-pack labels on composite processed foods use green, amber and red to indicate low, medium or high levels of the nutrients most strongly associated with diet-related health risks: fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt. Also included is calorie count per serving and percentage daily amount information. Research in the UK has shown that consumers generally understand these labels. Shoppers are most likely to use them when buying a product for the first time; to compare different products; when shopping for children; when trying to control intake of certain ingredients such as fat or salt, for health reasons; or when trying to lose weight. Not surprisingly, research in the UK and Canada also shows that those most likely to read nutrition labels are those who are already interested in healthy eating. For this reason, labelling policy must be embedded in a broader nutrition policy that uses multiple instruments to foster education and interest in healthy eating, and helps ensure that Canadians have healthy food choices by, for example, regulating amounts of salt in processed food. In addition, physicians have become quite concerned about a recent tendency toward regulating 'fortified foods 'as Natural Health Products. The Food and Drugs Act effectively prevents products classified as foods from being marketed as having medicinal benefits unless there is compelling scientific evidence that the claims are true and the products are safe. The same strong legislation does not apply to Natural Health Products (NHPs), which are regulated under a different act. This is a concern because a trend is emerging whereby manufacturers of products normally sold as foods fortify their products with approved natural health products such as vitamins or minerals. Examples of these are energy drinks and vitamin-enhanced juice, power bars, gums and candy. The manufacturer can then request federal approval to market the product as a 'health product in food format.' If approved, food labelling requirements no longer apply and health claims that would not be allowed under the Food and Drugs Act can be made. Without proper nutrition labelling, it is difficult, if not impossible, for consumers to make informed food choices. This can be particularly troubling for those with special diets or health concerns. Further, those misled by dubious health claims might be consuming empty calories or high amounts of fat or sodium, with no corresponding benefit. The result is that the health of Canadians may be compromised. The CMA has called on Health Canada to require compelling evidence of health benefits before changing a product's regulatory status from food to natural health product, and nutrition labelling for all foods regulated as a natural health product. Faced with an array of products and health claims, and a barrage of advertising extolling their benefits, Canadians can find it challenging to make healthier food choices. To find our way through to the right choice, we need good nutritional information, and the ability to access and understand this information. Governments and health care providers share a responsibility to help Canadians make choices that will help them achieve and maintain good health. Canada's doctors are partners in healthy living and are ready to work with governments and others toward a healthy population. I welcome your questions.
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Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy2044
Last Reviewed
2013-03-02
Date
2006-06-12
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2013-03-02
Date
2006-06-12
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
My name is Dr. Isra Levy, and as a public health physician and the Chief Medical Officer and Director in the Canadian Medical Association's Office for Public Health, I am pleased to be participating in your roundtable today. With me is Mr. John Wellner, Director, Health Policy at our sister organization the Ontario Medical Association. CEPA is, of course, a key piece of Environmental Legislation, but we at the CMA see it to be primarily about health. Similarly, Canada's doctors see the topic of today's hearings, "Measuring CEPA's Success" in terms of the impacts on our medical practices and, more particularly, on our patients. To us the measurement of success that matters is good health in our patients. And unfortunately I must tell you that we still see the negative impacts of environmental degradation on our vulnerable patients every day. We are pleased to participate in this review of CEPA, because for us, the measure of health benefits and health outcomes, over the short or long-term that stem from reduced exposure to environmental contaminants is an important measure of our health as a nation. The Canadian Medical Association, first founded in 1867, currently represents more than 63,000 physicians across the country. Our mission includes advocating for the highest standard of health and care for all Canadians and we are committed to activities that will result in healthy public policy. The environment, as a determinant of health, is a major concern for the general public as well as health care providers. And health outcomes are directly linked to the physical environment in many, many ways. We know from the crises in Walkerton, Collingwood, North Battleford and many First Nations communities, the devastating effects that contaminated water can have on individuals and families. We know from the smog health studies undertaken by the OMA, Health Canada and others, about the public health crisis of polluted air in many parts of Canada. And it is a crisis. We are now in a position where science allows us to more clearly show the long-term, lifetime burden of morbidity caused by some of these pollutants; we now know that there are thousands more premature deaths caused by air pollution in Canada than has previously been appreciated. We are learning that central Canada is not the only place that has a smog problem. The OMA has shown, through its Illness Costs of Air Pollution model, that it is plausible to think in terms of substantial costs to the health and pocketbooks of Canadians because of environmental risks across the country. The CMA has developed many environmental policies that are pertinent to our CEPA discussion today. * Prior to Canada's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, the CMA urged the Prime Minister to commit to choosing a climate change strategy that satisfies Canada's international commitments while maximizing the clean air co-benefits and smog-reduction potential of any greenhouse gas reduction initiatives. We realize that pollution prevention initiatives can have many health benefits and that pollution sources seldom emit contaminants in isolation. The smoke that you see, and often emissions that you can't see, represent a cocktail of potentially harmful substances. * The CMA has committed to working with the federal Ministers of health and the Environment to develop national strategies to reduce the unacceptably high levels of persistent organic pollutants amongst the peoples of the Arctic coast. * We have asked Environment Canada and Health Canada to initiate a review of the current Canadian one hour guideline for maximal exposure level to both indoor and outdoor NO2 and recommend that the federal Environment and Health Ministers commit their departments to improved health-based reporting by regularly updating the health effects information for pollutants of concern. Let me return to the issue of measuring success though - Doctors understand the concept that success from an intervention can be nuanced. In the case of disease, physicians know and accept that the benefit of treatment is not always cure of a patient. Sometimes we just reduce their symptoms, or slow their rate of decline. But when treating the natural environment, so critical to human health, we suggest that you cannot accept a palliative solution. We must aim for cure. We urge you to commit to measures of success in terms of real improvement, rather than merely accepting slight curtailments in the "inevitable increase" of environmental contamination. The issue of greenhouse gas reduction is one that illustrates this point. Just as slowing the progression of a disease can never be considered a cure, referring to an "inevitable increase" in emissions and attempting only to limit the growth of those emissions, cannot result in true success by any measure. We have seen 'good news' press releases on environmental initiatives from various federal and provincial governments, but the news isn't always worthy of praise. Although there have been some great environmental successes that Canadians should be proud of, the measure of overall success - on all contaminants of concern - has only been incremental at best. For example, when policy makers speak about industrial emission reductions of any kind, they often refer to "emissions intensity" - the emissions per unit of production, rather than total, overall emissions. To be health-relevant, the only meaningful way to report emissions reductions is to present them as "net" values, rather than the all-to-common "gross" valuation. An emission reduction from a particular source is only health-relevant if we can guarantee that there is not a corresponding emissions increase at another source nearby, because it is the absolute exposure that an individual experiences that affects the risk of an adverse health effect. This issue becomes especially tricky with regional pollutants like smog precursors, because you may have to take the whole air shed into account. For this reason, cross- jurisdictional pollution control initiatives are very important in Canada - and that means federal oversight. In fact, to our understanding, that is what CEPA does, it gives the federal government jurisdictional authority, and, dare I say, obligation to act to protect the health of Canadians. To the CMA, and we believe to most Canadians, the real measure of success is a reduction in the illnesses associated with pollution. It is not just important how we measure this ultimate success, but how we measure our progress towards it. Environmentally related illness is essentially the combined result of exposure and vulnerability. We are vulnerable because we are human beings; each human being has different physical strengths and weaknesses. Some vulnerabilities to environmental influences are genetic, and some the results of pre-existing disease. There is not much that government can do about this part of the equation. Our exposure, on the other hand is related to the air we breathe, water we drink and food we eat. This is where CEPA comes in. This is where your role is critical, and where the measures of success will be the most important. Proxy measures for the health outcomes that matter must be relevant from a health perspective. Health-based success can only be measured by quantifiable reductions in the exposure levels of contaminants in our air, water and foods. Canada has historically relied only on guidelines for contaminants of concern, memoranda of understanding with polluters and voluntary goals and targets. Our American neighbours prefer legally binding standards, strict emission monitoring, and pollution attainment designations. While there may be some benefit to the Canadian approach, we are clearly behind in this area. In many parts of the U.S., counties try desperately to avoid "non-attainment" designations based on the ambient air pollution target levels. If they are designated to be a non-attainment zone they risk loss of federal infrastructure transfer payments. In Canada, we have Canada-Wide smog Standards for 2010 - but of course these are non-binding, have no penalties for non-attainment, provide loopholes for any jurisdictions claiming cross-border pollution influences and allow provinces to opt-out with a mere three months notice. We must be more forceful. Indeed sufficient evidence exists on the health effects of a wide-range of CEPA-Toxic substances (smog precursors, for example) to justify more forceful action to reduce exposures. And there are many more chemicals of concern, for which all the evidence may perhaps not yet be in, but which require a precautionary approach in order to prevent potential human harm. So, although the presentation of environmental information (e.g., ambient pollution levels in a State of the Environment report, or a health-based Air Quality Index) is beneficial and may provide information that enables Canadians to reduce their exposures, ultimately this is not enough. The CMA believes that although enhanced environmental monitoring or pollutant exposure studies are important to our understanding of some contaminants, such studies in and of themselves will not improve the health of our patients. The true measure of success would go beyond reporting the danger, to actually reducing the danger. The CMA believes that is the purpose of CEPA. We look forward to working with you to improve CEPA and ensure that the measures of CEPA's success will benefit the health of our patients across Canada. Canadian Medical Association Ottawa, June 12, 2006
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Presentation to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy8564
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2006-09-21
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2006-09-21
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
While my remarks today will focus on the recognition of foreign credentials, mainly with reference to the medical profession with which I am most familiar, I want to emphasize that this is just one element of assuring a sustainable health workforce in Canada as my colleagues will be amplifying in greater detail. I want to impress upon Members of the Committee that the CMA does not test, credential, license or discipline physicians, nor is it empowered to act on complaints made by patients - this is the purview of the provincial/territorial licensing bodies. We are not directly involved in provincial or territorial benefit negotiations for physicians - this is the responsibility of our provincial/territorial Divisions. Nor do we control medical school enrolment or conduct clinical research. What we do, is carry out research and advocacy on short, medium and long term health and health care issues to ensure we can meet the current and emergent needs of Canadians. CONTRIBUTIONS OF INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL GRADUATES TO CANADA I would like to begin by dispelling the popular myth that Canada is a "closed shop" to persons with international medical credentials. In fact Canada has always relied on International Medical Graduates to make up a significant proportion of the medical workforce; this proportion has remained fairly steady at about one in four physicians for the past few decades. (Currently 23%). Our best estimate is that some 400 IMGs are newly licensed to practice in Canada each year. In fact, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, has for the past two years licensed more IMGs that Ontario medical graduates. A corollary of this myth is that IMGs are unable to access the postgraduate medical training system to complete any supplementary training they might need. In the Fall 2005, of the some 7,800 postgraduate trainees in Canada just over 900 or 12% were IMGs. Many more are participating in special assessment/supervised practice programs in the community. The fact of the matter is that Canada has historically trained fewer physicians than we need to meet our population needs. This can be clearly demonstrated by looking at relative opportunity to enter medical school. In the most recent year (2005/2006) Canada had 7.1 first year medical school places per 100,000 population. This level is just over one-half of that of the United Kingdom, with its 12.9 places per 100,000 population. While the United States has the same ratio of medical school places per 100,000 population as Canada - it has 1.5 first year postgraduate places per medical graduate and relies on bringing large numbers of IMGs in to fill these places and supplement production in this manner. Not only is Canadian undergraduate medical education capacity inadequate, but postgraduate medical training capacity is similarly insufficient to meet the demands of training Canadian medical graduates, providing training to IMGs, and permitting Canadians to retrain in specialties. In 2006 of the 932 IMGs registered in the second iteration run by the Canadian Resident Matching Service, just 111 or 12% were successful in obtaining a training position. There is clearly a backlog of IMGs who are eligible to receive the supplementary training they need to become eligible for licensure to practice in Canada should sufficient capacity be available. For those who are not eligible, opportunities should be provided to achieve credentials in other health professions such as physician assistants or paramedics. A recent pilot project in Ontario was funded to allow IMGs to qualify and work as physician assistants in supervised practice settings. Against this backdrop, it is no small wonder that Canada ranks 26th out of 29 OECD countries in the ratio of physicians per 1,000 population. For the past decade Canada's ratio has stood at 2.1 physicians per 1,000 population - one-third below the OECD average of 3.0 in 2003. NATIONAL STANDARDS Over the years, medicine has worked hard to promote national standards for medical education and the practice of medicine in Canada. Since 1912 the Medical Council of Canada (MCC) has been responsible for promoting a uniform standard qualification to practice medicine for all physicians across Canada. This qualification, known as the Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada (LMCC) is obtained by being successful on a two-part Qualifying Examination. While licensure of physicians is a provincial/territorial responsibility, there is a national standard for portable eligibility for licensure that was adopted in 1992 by the Federation of Medical Licensing (now Regulatory) Authorities of Canada (FMRAC), the Association of Canadian Medical Colleges (now Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada) (AFMC) and the MCC. The basis of this standard is that "in all provinces except Quebec the basis for licensure for most trainees will be the successful completion of the two-part Qualifying Examination of the Medical Council of Canada plus certification by either the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC)". A similar standard is applied by the Collège des médecine du Quèbec. This standard also applies to IMGs, although the provincial/territorial licensing bodies have the ability to grant exemptions in particular circumstances. SHORT, MEDIUM AND LONG TERM STRATEGY The CMA has advocated a short, medium and longer term strategy for integrating more IMGs into the Canadian medical workforce. In the short term the federal government should provide funding to clear the backlog of qualified physicians and other health professionals eligible to pursue supplementary training. In the medium term the federal government needs to work with the provincial and territorial governments and key stakeholders in the development of sufficient health professional education and training opportunities to accommodate: * Canadians who want to pursue careers as health professionals; * Currently practising health professionals who require supplementary training or who wish to retrain; * Internationally trained health professionals who are permanent residents and citizens of Canada who require supplementary training; and * International trained health professionals, non-residents of Canada who wish to pursue postgraduate training as visa trainees. In the long term Canada needs to adopt a policy commitment of increased self-sufficiency in the education and training of health professionals in Canada. In progressing these strategies I would stress the importance of the need for the federal government to engage the national health professional associations, as this is critical in moving the agenda forward. I would cite as one success story the outcomes of the multi-partite Canadian Task Force on Licensure of International Medical Graduates, which brought together federal and provincial/territorial governments and key medical organizations. Several initiatives are underway in follow-up to its 2004 report. An IMG database is being developed by the Canadian post-MD Education Registry of AFMC, sponsored by the federal government's Foreign Credential Recognition Program. The Physician Credentials Registry of Canada (PCRC) which is being developed under the leadership of the Medical Council of Canada (MCC) and the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada (FMRAC) will reduce duplication and increase the efficiency of data collection by providing a centralized uniform process to obtain primary source verification of a physician's diploma and other core medical credentials. Several provinces have greatly enhanced their ability to integrate IMGs, including supervised assessment programs in the community. We look forward to seeing results from a similar task force that is underway for nursing. CANADIAN AGENCY FOR ASSESSMENT AND RECOGNITION OF FOREIGN CREDENTIALS In conclusion, I would like to offer some ideas for the implementation of the Canadian Agency for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Credentials that was included in the 2006 federal budget. The Constitution Act 1867 clearly assigns the majority of responsibility for the delivery of health care to the provinces. On this basis, the licensure of physicians and other health professionals should continue to be a matter of provincial/territorial jurisdiction. In the case of medicine however, Canada has been well-served by the national standard for medical licensure that has been promoted by the MCC in concert with the national certification standards that are set by the RCPSC and CFPC. Based on the foregoing, it is proposed that the broad mandate for the Canadian agency is to promote and facilitate the adoption and awareness of national standards for certification and licensure with clearly articulated procedures for the assessment of the credentials of internationally trained professionals and pathways to licensure to practice in Canada. This might include the following activities: * promote understanding among educational institutions and professional organizations about the implications of the various international agreements that Canada is party to (e.g., NAFTA, WTO); * promote a sharing of leading practices between different disciplines; * facilitate international exchanges with regulatory bodies, within and between disciplines; * develop an evaluation framework that can assess the extent to which processes for the assessment of foreign credentials are fair, accessible, coherent, transparent and rigorous; * develop template materials that will help promote international sharing of information about career prospects in Canada for various occupations; * fund development and pilot projects on the application of information technology solutions; and * serve as a focal point for federal/provincial/territorial administrative requirements. I would stress that this will only be effective if representatives from the education and regulatory authorities and the practising community are at the table. Canadian Medical Association Ottawa, September 21, 2006
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