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Canadian Public Health Association

Plenary sessions

Session descriptions


Tuesday 29 May 8:30 - 10:00

There are very large health costs to our current way of life, and thus very large potential health benefits from a shift to a more sustainable society. What changes would be needed to achieve a sustainable economy within planetary boundaries in recognition of the relationships between resource use and human well-being? What role can public health play in achieving a “steady-state economy” where resource use and waste emissions are stabilized and kept within ecological limits? While economic growth is the dominant mantra in wealthy nations, there are a number of good reasons to question this perspective.

Environmentally, we are already exceeding four of nine ‘planetary boundaries’ related to key ecosystem processes (climate change, biodiversity loss, land-use change, and the nitrogen/phosphorus cycle). Socially, while per capita gross domestic product (GDP) has more than tripled in wealthy countries since 1950, people haven’t become any happier. Practically, economic growth is the exception in world history, not the norm. Dr. O’Neill will explore ways in which we can achieve a high quality of life for all people without economic growth.


Steven J. Hoffman, Scientific Director, CIHR Institute of Population and Public Health

Dr. Daniel O'Neill, Lecturer in Environmental and Ecological Economics, School of Earth and Environment, Faculty of Environment, University of Leeds


Métis Nation Approaches to Addressing Health and WellnesS

Wednesday 30 May 11:15-12:30

The Métis Nation is actively addressing the health and wellness of Métis people and communities through evidence- and culture-based approaches. The Métis Nation is committed to improving health and wellness outcomes in collaboration with federal and provincial governments and other partners. The Canada-Métis Nation Accord provides a distinctions-based, nation-to-nation mechanism to effectively advance health and wellness through Métis governments.

In this plenary, delegates will hear why Métis are a distinct culture and explore their holistic approach rooted in culture and history to promote health and wellness and reduce the burden of illness. Panelists will explore a Métis-specific health model, and how health and wellness is perceived in Métis communities. Delegates will come away with culturally-informed strategies and actions that can help to promote Métis health and wellness and reduce health disparity in Canadian society.


Dale Drown, Chief Executive Officer, Métis Nation British Columbia


  • Clément Chartier, President of the Métis National Council
  • Clara Morin Dal Col, Métis National Minister of Health and President of Métis Nation British Columbia


Health for All and the future of public health

Thursday 31 May 8:30-10:30

Public health service delivery has evolved over time from its original focus on the prevention of infectious disease. In the 1970s and 80s, the concepts embodied in the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion sparked a renaissance in the organization and delivery of these services along with an increased emphasis on health equity as embodied in the clarion call of “Health for All.”

During the 20th Century, Canadians gained an average of 30 years of life; 25 of those years were attributable to advances in public health. These advances were generally the result of the intersectoral, multidisciplinary, collaborative approach core to a public health approach. Since it is unlikely that we’ll gain another 30 years of life over the next century, the question becomes, “How must public health services be structured to reduce persistent health inequities and improve population health outcomes, including quality of life, for all Canadians?”

The panelists will identify some specific principles, actions and themes that led to success over the past 25 years and will propose some principles for the future structure of public health services that will result in improved population health outcomes and health equity. 


Cory Neurdorf, Medical Health Officer, Saskatchewan Health Authority


  • Marcia Anderson, Assistant Professor, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba
  • Richard Massé, Directeur de santé publique, CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l'Île-de-Montréal
  • Shovita Padhi, Medical Health Officer, Fraser Health Authority


Ways to Healthy Cities: Building Communities, Fostering Innovation, and Sustaining a Vision

Thursday 31 May 14:45 - 16:30

There is increasing recognition that cities have a key role to play to improve society’s health, equity, and sustainability. Important investments in infrastructure and built environments, at both local and regional levels, offer great opportunities for shaping local environments and designing urban systems that are conducive to citizen engagement and community building, sustainable environmental, economic and social conditions, and improved population health for all. Meanwhile, novel sensor networks, wearables, or social media generate increasing volumes of high-velocity ‘big data’ that document movements and interactions within cities and populations. Such data further pushes innovation – from new citizen science to artificial intelligence – possibly contributing to shaping tomorrow’s smart, resilient, sustainable and healthy cities.

This plenary session will explore current and future challenges and opportunities in our collective role to shape cities towards sustainability and health. We will hear from three panelists about how communities develop and grow, about how urban changes can serve as natural experiments to generate new evidence, and about how political decision-making can contribute to fostering intersectoral collaboration and innovation to tackle the future of cities and societies. If the current alignment in priorities suggests readiness for successful transformations, there is also an underlying sense of complexity – and emergency – that renders the creation of truly healthy and sustainable cities an important but exciting challenge that this plenary session will help us embrace!


Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer, Public Health Agency of Canada


  • Evelyne de Leeuw, Professor, Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales
  • Yan Kestens, Chaire Interventions Urbaines et Santé des Populations; Professeur agrégé, Département de médecine sociale et preventive, École de Santé Publique, l'Université de Montréal
  • Christian Savard, Directeur général, Vivre en Ville