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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Our Time is Now: The Health Council of Canada’s year in review

Reporting on progress in health care renewal is what we do, and it’s what we’ve been doing consistently since we were formed seven years ago.

This past year, as the conversation on health care renewal ramped up, so did our reporting.

  • We released eight reports—our most yet—which were downloaded more than 32,000 times.
  • Our most popular report, Decisions, Decisions, was downloaded 6,300 times.
  • Our report outreach led to a record 209 million media impressions and 882 media stories (including radio, television, web, magazine, and newswire).
  • We reached 2.4 million people with our innovative use of social media, and now have over 1,700 Twitter followers.
  • We highlighted best practices in innovative ways, such as our new webinar series, which averaged 100 participants, and two new podcasts.
  • We produced five YouTube clips.
  • We hosted seven invitational regional sessions on Aboriginal promising practices to serve as the basis for our report on Aboriginal maternal and child health and a compendium of promising practices.
  • Our second annual Health Innovation Award received entries from 32 students.
  • We made our presence known through 28 poster or podium presentations at a variety of conferences across the country.

Released on August 31, 2011, Setting the Course, The Health Council of Canada’s Annual Report for 2010/11 provides an overview of the variety and volume of our work this past year.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Health care transformation: Hearing from Canadians – The Canadian Medical Association summarizes findings from cross-country town hall meetings

The Canadian Medical Association launched a discussion on health care in August 2010. They held town hall meetings across the country and collected feedback from thousands of citizens online. The result is a report released last week called Voices Into Action. In reading the report, it is clear Canadians are passionate about their health care system, and have some interesting insights into possibilities for the future. The report echoed many things discussed in our Progress Report 2011, including the importance of access to timely care, and the need for Federal leadership on issues like pharmacare. 

Read the full report and watch CMA President Jeff Turnbull’s Youtube video, or check out the public feedback online at  

Carolyn Young, Communications Coordinator, Health Council of Canada

Key Words: Patient Engagement, Health Care Transformation, Access and Wait Times

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What makes a difference to Aboriginal health?

  For the launch of our report on Aboriginal maternal and child health, our CEO, John G. Abbott, wrote an editorial piece called What makes a difference to Aboriginal health? The following is the editorial in full, which we have also distributed to news outlets across the country.
Read the full report

Many Canadians are aware that First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people have significantly worse health and more challenging living conditions than the larger Canadian population. In 2010, the Health Council of Canada began a multi-year project to learn about programs and strategies that have the potential to reduce these unacceptable health disparities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.

In January and February 2011, the Health Council of Canada held seven cross-Canada sessions that brought together front-line workers, government representatives, researchers, and others to identify programs and services that are helping to improve the health care of expectant Aboriginal mothers and young children. Each region had its own specific topics and programs to bring forward, but there were some common threads of discussion across the country.

Today we released a report about what we heard for Canadians and governments, titled Understanding and Improving Aboriginal Maternal and Child Health in Canada.  I’d like to highlight three important themes from this document.

First, embedded in many success stories we heard was the importance of rebuilding what was stripped from Aboriginal Peoples, such as knowledge of their language and traditions, pride in their culture, and self-determination. Participants expressed concern that many non-Aboriginal Canadians – including those who work in health care, child welfare services, and government offices – simply don’t understand or value the Aboriginal world view, and don’t understand how the multi-generational impact of colonialism and the residential school experiences have effected the entire culture. We heard about the importance of offering health care services that integrate mainstream Western medicine with traditional and culturally relevant Aboriginal practices. Front-line workers told us that a history of paternalistic treatment and racism, coupled with a continued lack of understanding, has created a sense of wariness among Aboriginal mothers they serve. Women can be afraid to seek out care because they’re afraid of racism, or of being judged for their lack of knowledge or behaviour. If they are treated insensitively, they may be reluctant to return.

Second, a number of successful programs have had to move beyond typical health care services to help Aboriginal women and families with other aspects of their lives, such as housing, social/emotional support, and education. The importance of education came up repeatedly at every regional session—specifically prenatal education, support for new parents, and preschool programs for young children. These early interventions help to lay a foundation for better lifelong physical and emotional health. Participants talked about the underlying issues of Aboriginal health at every regional session—factors such as poverty, addictions, family violence, self-esteem, and the intergenerational legacy of colonization and residential schools. They believed improving Aboriginal health required broader thinking and a more holistic approach. There are positive changes happening to address these factors in some communities and jurisdictions, but successful efforts are both tantalizing and frustrating to people in regions where change is moving more slowly.

Third, participants told us that politics, bureaucracy, and insufficient funding get in the way of their efforts to make things better. They told us that there are many programs and strategies that work to improve the health of expectant mothers and young children, but these good programs often lack stable, multi-year funding, or don't have enough funding to meet the needs of the population they serve. They said that governments start many great programs that are responsive to the needs of Aboriginal people, but then funding ends and many of the benefits are lost. They said they are frustrated that priorities and funding can shift with political agendas and changes in government; sometimes a good program will be dropped, retooled, and brought back a few years later. Several participants said they would like governments to recognize that new programs need time to develop, and perhaps even a generation to see evidence of success. In addition, funding applications and arrangements are often complicated and inflexible. Front-line workers are burning out in the process of trying to make programs work within these complexities.

Despite these issues, participants spoke positively about the many promising programs and strategies that they see making a difference in the lives of pregnant Aboriginal women and young children. While governments are looking at the bigger picture of Aboriginal relations, we encourage them to build on existing successes in maternal and child health by expanding programs that are clearly working and ensuring long-term, simplified funding arrangements.

As a country envied throughout the world, we owe it to our Aboriginal mothers and children to do better – for their sakes as well as ours.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Report on Aboriginal maternal and child health in Canada to be released next week

Earlier this year, the Health Council of Canada held a series of regional meetings across Canada to learn about promising programs and strategies that are improving the health of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis expectant mothers and young children.

At each session, participants were asked to list the issues facing Aboriginal communities and standing in the way of better maternal and child health. Poverty topped the list, along with its cascading effects on personal health, family relationships and communities. There were many discussions about the impact of the traumatic experience of colonization—the imposition of Western values and way of life—and residential schools.

Participants identified more than 100 programs and strategies that they believe are making improvements to the health of expectant Aboriginal mothers and young children. Many of these promising practices are integrating mainstream health care with traditional Aboriginal practices. Thanks to the wealth of information provided, next week we will be releasing a report on what we heard at these sessions and the promising practices that were identified.

The upcoming report, called Understanding and Improving Aboriginal Maternal and Child Health in Canada, is the first step of a multi-year project by the Health Council of Canada to learn more about programs and strategies that have the potential to reduce the unacceptable health disparities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians. Look for the report next week, August 9, on our website at

John G. Abbott, CEO, Health Council of Canada