The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is calling on the federal government to conduct a health impact assessment as part of its policy development process to ensure that the health of Canadians is a key factor in every policy decision it makes.
CMA Past-President Dr. Jeff Turnbull today appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance during its study of Bill C-38, the budget implementation bill. He stated that the federal government must do more to ensure that an assessment of the impacts on the health of Canadians is a critical part of policy decisions. To adequately factor health concerns into policy development and decisions, the CMA recommends that a health impact assessment be carried out prior to any decision made by cabinet.
"Health remains a key priority for Canadians and the federal government, through its policies, has an important role to play, directly and indirectly, in this area," Dr. Turnbull said. "It is necessary to assess upstream the consequences of any policy on the health of Canadians rather than try to fix it after the policy is in place."
This would require that, based on evidence, all cabinet decisions take into account possible impacts on health and health care and whether they contribute to our country's overall health objectives.
"Evidence shows that every action with a negative effect on health will incur heavier costs to society down the road," added Dr. Turnbull. "Looking at policy development through a health lens would have a dramatic impact with regard to poverty, which hinders both Canada's human potential and economic growth."
Dr. Turnbull also told the committee that, while the CMA was encouraged that Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq has committed to work collaboratively with provinces, the federal government seems to be scaling back its traditional role in ensuring the health of Canadians.
The CMA reiterated its concerns that policy-makers are not paying adequate attention to the social determinants of health, factors such as income, job security, housing, food security and other areas that have a major impact on health outcomes.
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is the national voice of Canadian physicians. Founded in 1867, CMA's mission is to serve and unite the physicians of Canada and be the national advocate, in partnership with the people of Canada, for the highest standards of health and health care. The CMA is a voluntary professional organization representing over 76,000 of Canada's physicians and comprising 12 provincial and territorial medical associations and 51 national medical organizations.