The time has come to strengthen public health systems in Canada
Today, the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) launches an advocacy campaign calling for governments across Canada to strengthen the foundations of public health systems, making them cohesive, comprehensive and accountable. As a first step, our brief Strengthening Public Health Systems in Canada calls on federal leadership to:
- Underpin systems with a common understanding of core public health functions;
- Define a shared set of population health goals to shape services and accountabilities;
- Update a detailed, modernized set of public health workforce competencies;
- Develop accessible online professional training for the public health workforce; and
- Reshape governance practices to translate public health efforts and expertise for a greater impact.
“For decades it’s been known that Canada lacks cohesive, comprehensive and accountable public health systems,” said Ian Culbert, CPHA’s Executive Director. “The COVID-19 pandemic revealed that our nation-wide patchwork of fragmented public health systems weakens the capacity of public health professionals to deliver high-quality services for Canadians.”
These requests are not for funding increases. Rather, they are calls for the federal government to lead in establishing the systemic foundations needed to ensure that public health investments are spent smarter, resulting in better outcomes. We are asking for a sustained investment of federal leadership and convening power to strengthen the structural elements that shape how public health is defined, governed and delivered nation-wide. Doing so will enable public spending to keep Canadians healthy, prevent disease and injury, advance health equity across populations, and reduce the burden on the acute health care systems.
“Only by strengthening our public health systems collectively can each of us have real freedom: the freedom to work and socialize safely in good health, to send our kids to school and see them thrive, to cross open borders in Canada and beyond, to know that strong health care systems will be there for us when we need them,” said Culbert.
In 2023, CPHA will ask federal Parliamentarians and officials to address the structure of public health systems as a highest-priority issue. Subsequently, the Association will address its campaign to provincial, territorial, regional and municipal governments.
“We need our governments to think beyond today’s crises and collectively do what’s needed for a healthier future,” said Culbert. “We need governments to strengthen the public health systems that prevent us from getting sick and keep us all safe.”