The Next Big Idea for Ontario Health Care: Prevention

Dr. Rosana Pellizzari, Medical Officer of Health, Peterborough

GUEST BLOG: ROSANA PELLIZZARI
In December, Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews announced that Ontario health was offering up to $75,000 to Ontario’s 19 health-care centres for the next big idea that would save the system money while delivering quality health care.

They would each receive up to $75,000 and have 60 days to submit their proposals.

We asked Rosana Pellizzari, Chief Medical Officer of Health in Peterborough and the Hypertension Advisory Committee representative for the Public Health Physicians of Canada writes a response to the Ontario Ministry of Health to respond to the proposal.

The Next Big Idea is: Prevention Incentives

In Ontario, our health ministry officials are offering $75,000 for the next big idea that will save the system money while delivering quality care to the province’s most complicated patients.  Health Minister Deb Matthews gave 19 health-care centres the green light to submit business plans for better models of care. They will each receive up to $75,000 and have 60 days to submit their proposals. No doubt there will be some very good ideas, but my hunch is that many will focus on secondary or tertiary preventive measures, i.e. preventing complications in patients who are already ill.

What we need, as well, if not even more urgently, are good ideas to prevent chronic illness in the first place! As Chair of the Public Health Physicians of Canada’s External Communications and Advocacy Committee, and as a practicing public health specialist in Ontario, I have lots of good ideas that are supported in the literature.

Governments can use incentives and regulation to reduce the sodium content of prepared foods, which will help decrease the prevalence of hypertension. Governments can also take measures such as prohibiting the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children, make physical activity mandatory, invest in cycling and walking infrastructure to encourage more active living, and continue to invest in tobacco prevention and control strategies. Parents can limit screen time for their children and encourage more active play. Schools can become environments that promote healthier nutrition and lifestyle choices. All levels of government can support better labeling and disclosure so that consumers can make healthier choices. And any institution can introduce healthier food procurement policies. And last but not least, by eliminating poverty and reversing the trend for growing disparity between rich and poor in Canada, we can address the most powerful determinant of health and wellbeing, income and poverty, and achieve better health outcomes for all. This is all possible.

Rosana Pellizzari, MD, CCFP, MSC, FRCPC
Medical Officer of Health,
Peterborough County-City Health Unit

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