The REAL Choice Facing Canadians
As we settle into 2012, Canada remains a country facing big questions about sustaining our health care system. The big question, facing Canadians is not choosing between private and public systems, or taming costs associated with our ageing population…both are circular. Thirty percent of health care is not covered under Medicare…pharma, complimentary therapies, vision, and dental care all out of pocket unless you have health benefits. AND the ageing thing, really?? Are we really going to blame our elders for getting older and living longer?? Hasn’t that been a goal? We knew this was going to happen? We just didn’t plan for it.
The big question is whether we want a health care system or a sick care system. And no, I’m not being clever here, they are very different systems.
One, the sick care system is essentially what we have in Canada today, it invests in the back end of care, it is there for the inevitability of illness. It promises through shorter wait times, greater access and touts that agenda as progressive health reform. When you need or want you’re hip or knee done, we promise you’ll get it as quick as possible. And yes, its been a successful political platform for successive governments, tangible, measureable results.
But is this really what we need??
The other, a health care system, is founded on health system avoidance, encouraging behaviors and community development that hopes you will never need that new hip or knee. This system addresses the causes of ill health and works to prevent them, creating livable healthy communities that see generations’ health outcomes improve. It is a system that has much more to do with social and community development and less to do with the health system. It is founded on the vast evidence that demonstrates that if every Canadians has access to early learning, clean water, safe walkable communities, good jobs with benefits and pensions, life long learning opportunities, they and ultimately their communities will be healthier, more prosperous with less instance of chronic disease and less reliance on health services.
Despite this undisputed truth and success in moving this agenda forward in other countries, Canada has not yet made this fundamental shift. It is hard to conceive that Canada, with our preoccupation, pride and frustration with health care, has just not made the connection. Instead we are quickly becoming a country where your postal code matters more than your genetic code, poverty is literally making segments of us sick.
Have we decided that it is okay for children in Canada to go to school without breakfast, to hide during lunch so that no one will see they have nothing to eat? To go home at the end of the day uncertain as to whether there will be a meal for them?
That after years of raising their families, working and contributing to their communities and their country that it is okay for seniors to go without. To make choices between paying rent, heating or groceries, where is the dignity in that?
That our shared Aboriginal heritage is not something to celebrate? That for so many, their rich heritage has become is a life sentence to live in catastrophic poverty, conditions that rival developing countries? That isolation, discrimination and hunger are simply regarded as a fault and not a symptom of discrimination?
That after fleeing persecution, war, torture and coming to Canada that going hungry and living on the social fringe is just part of settling into Canadian Society?
Clearly, it is time for a rethink….
We need to fix, not tweak, but fix our systems and structures outside of health care services, very few “sweeping health reforms” of the past have been reform at all, we tweak, fiddle around the edges, and miss the point that the fix cannot be found within the system. The system is doing what it can within a structure and approach that is flawed.
Canadians must adopt a new health narrative, one that demands, investment in our communities, our kids and each other, one that says, I know we have one of the best health care systems in the world, and I hope I never need it.