Say It Ain't So: The Beginning Of The End For Health Promotion In Ontario?

If you don't live here in Ontario, you may not be aware that we had a provincial election last month. Shoot - even if you live here in Ontario, you still might not be aware that we had a provincial election last month, given the record low voter turnout of 49%. Anyways, that's another issue for another day. What was interesting to me as a healthcare professional was what happened shortly after the election.

Over the past few years, I've followed the comings and goings of the Ministry of Health Promotion & Sport, led by Minister Margarett Best. Health Promotion has always been an interest and passion of mine. For me, prevention is worth much more than cure, and I live with the aim of having total wellness, not just being free from chronic disease. In a nutshell, the World Health Organization's (WHO) definition of health does the best job of explaining things:

"Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. The bibliographic citation for this definition is: Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19 June - 22 July 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States (Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948. The definition has not been amended since 1948."

- Courtesy of the WHO

Compare that to the idea of the biomedical model of health, which is what the majority of our healthcare system is based on. As per this PowerPoint from the University of Toronto, the biomedical model states that "disease causation is biologically specific", and that "biological mechanisms are sufficient to explain disease." The biomedical model forms the basis of our reliance as a society on doctors, hospitals, and drugs - essentially, focusing on finding a cure or treatment vs. working to prevent said health issue in the first place. With the perspective that biology is enough to explain (and thus treat) diseases, not much room is given to explore the effects that things like stress and lack of societal connections can have on one's health.

There's a point to all of this.

Shortly after the election, a memo was sent out that the Ministry of Health Promotion & Sport was no longer. It had been folded into the Ministry of Health & Long Term Care, and Hon. Minister Best was now heading up the Ministry of Consumer Services. When I read the email, I did a Leyomi drop. HOW could they get rid of the Ministry of Health Promotion & Sport???? Given what I've learned and experienced in our healthcare system, health and health promotion are not the same, as some believe. Add to that the heavy reliance on the biomedical model, and I only saw this move to mean more prescriptions and less preventative care. More funding for long-term care facilities and less funding for community health education programs. Please don't get me wrong - our society requires elements from both perspectives, but the point remains, we need BOTH perspectives. My fear is that with the dissolution of the Ministry of Health Promotion & Sport, Ontarians are losing out on an important part of what constitutes health.

I'm waiting with bated breath to see what happens to the various facets of our healthcare structure. Will the Ministry of Health & Long Term Care expand in order to adopt the values of the Ministry of Health Promotion & Sport? How will this affect the planning, execution, and promotion of the 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games, if at all? How will funding be provided to various community health care centres and special programs for health education? I'm not sure what to expect, but I won't deny that a big part of me feels let down by our government. Do they not see the value in health promotion in our society? Hopefully this ends up working out for us Ontarians, but regardless, I'll always remain a health promotion fanatic :)

What say you? Did you know that the Ministry of Health Promotion & Sport had been dissolved? Do you even care? What do you think about the current state of health care in Ontario? Where is the room for improvement - does it lie more in the health promotion sector, or in the biomedical sector?

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