Federal government to tackle social determinants of health

Carolyn Bennett, federal Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs (photo credit: Sean Kilpatrick)

The following is from a November 30, 2015 article in iPolitics by Kyle Duggan:

Liberal cabinet minister and medical doctor Carolyn Bennett says the new federal cabinet will factor the social determinants of health into policy making across a range of issues. Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, made the comments speaking at the kickoff of a key Ottawa health policy conference hosted by Canada 2020, a progressive policy think-tank.

“I didn’t like sending asthmatics back into smog days,” Bennett said. “I now see the system as my patient. That’s actually what needs the care right now.”

The social determinants of health vary depending on geography and other factors, but in Canada include gender, race, education, housing, income, food security, social inclusion, health services, early childhood development and aboriginal status. Bennett said the new ministers of justice, environment, health, and fisheries will be her new best friends in “closing gaps in healthcare outcomes,” which she says will spill over into fixing problems related to education and the economy. “As the former minister of handwashing, I now move to the minister of the social determinants of health,” Bennett joked.

Of the new challenges the government faces,

the new health minister [Jane Philpott] is tasked with developing a new multi-year Health Accord with the provinces and territories. Speaking broadly, Bennett underscored addressing wellness and healthy living, rather than only thinking about the healthcare system as a “repair shop.” “We’re looking for a health accord, not just a health-care accord”.

The policy conference is a stage-setter to a different attitude toward approaching healthcare from the last federal government, with the new health minister signalling the government will pursue an “activist agenda.” The Canada 2020 Healthcare Summit’s other speakers include the new Health Minister Jane Philpott, other heavy-hitters such as the Canadian Medical Association’s Dr. Cindy Forbes and Deputy Minister of Health Canada Simon Kennedy.

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