The Health Council (not FKA The Style Council)

Canada has been going through a lot of handwaving and general low-grade panic about the state of our health care system. Health care is one of those things that tends to define us as Canadians (well, not really, but the joke is that “A Canadian is an American with Health Care and no Guns”), and we tend to take it very, very seriously.

And for good reason. We spend a lot of money on it and general consensus (including from me) is that we don’t get our money’s worth.

In an effort to come up with sane approaches to dealing with (or at least understanding) the problems involved, Canada created The Health Council in 2003. They released their first report yesterday. Not only am I surprised that a government committee managed to produce anything after only two years, I’m surprised by the things it apparently says. You can read the full Globe and Mail article over here, but here are some relevant bits that make it sound like that committee is actually competent.

…the Health Council report distinguishes itself in a couple of important ways. Nowhere in its 94 pages do you find the word “crisis.” There is no chest-beating call for massive increases in spending.

In fact, the report repeatedly says progress is being made in each of these areas, and offers up concrete examples of approaches that work. And the council members have the good sense — and the backbone — to wonder aloud if Canadians are actually getting value for money for the $130-billion that is spent annually on health-care delivery.

Hurry up and deal with the human-resources problem. Here, the council had a nuanced message. Not the typical cries of: “We have a doctor shortage” and “We have a nursing shortage,” but a call to start with a clean slate and determine how many and what kind of workers are needed to deliver health care in Canada, and create the multidisciplinary team that can do so in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

Hurry up and create a national system of electronic health records. Accelerating the use of information technology will improve patient care and safety and lift a bureaucratic burden from health workers.[*]

the Health Council also breaks new ground, making an explicit call to recognize the role socioeconomic determinants play in health and acknowledging that many factors other than health-care delivery — income, housing, inequality — have an impact on the health of individuals and communities.

[*] This part, after the fiasco that is the multi-billion-dollar-failure Gun Registry, sort of scares me. I just hope they hire some competent programmers and managers to do this.

I might actually see if I can dig up a copy of the full report sometime. It sounds, from this article, that it might be sane.

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