Canada’s top doctor has called for the end of “boom or bust” funding cycles for public health. Dr Theresa Tam, in her annual report to parliament wrote, ““The pandemic has highlighted the strengths of our system, but it has also exposed longstanding cracks in the foundation. The public health system lacks the necessary resources and tools to carry out its critical work, and is the subject of “boom and bust” funding cycles that leave us ill-prepared in the face of new threats. We must do better for the future.“
She pointed out that Canada’s public health workforce is stretched thin, after repeatedly rising to the challenges of the pandemic. The report calls for: The recruitment and retention of a more diverse and inclusive workforce that reflects the communities it is serving.
She also called for:
- Building surge capacity through partnerships to rapidly expand the workforce during crises.
- Filling long-standing gaps in our pan-Canadian data and surveillance systems, by ensuring the right data is available at the right time to detect emerging health issues, identify populations at risk, and improve predictive capabilities.
- Modernizing public health governance and collaboration structures: The pandemic has demonstrated the need for effective collaboration across governments, sectors and communities to address public health crises and the social factors that influence health.
- She also called for a strengthened role and mandate for public health within federal, provincial and territorial governments.
The report noted that in the 20th century alone, it has been estimated that advances in public health increased the average life expectancy at birth in Canada by 25 years. It estimated that public health in Canada only gets about six percent of total health spending.