Dr. Jeff Turnbull, outgoing president of the Canadian Medical Association, emphasized that addressing “devastating and epidemic” health inequities is crucial for creating a responsive and effective health system for the future, in an article in today’s Globe and Mail.
He called for improved access to services not currently funded such as prescription drugs and for more investment in health promotion. This is very much like what the founders of Medicare always saw as the crucial Second Stage of Medicare. They, and many contemporary health experts, argued that the next stages of the public system needed to cover not just hospitals, physicians and other acute care, but also home and community-based health services and the wide range of supports needed to keep people well.
But how to create an equitable health-care system? The Wellesley Institute has done a great deal of work on how to drive health equity strategies into practice, including:
- a comprehensive equity strategy for Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network — Ontario’s regional health authorities;
- a toolkit of strategic frameworks, planning tools and other resources to implement health equity at regional and local levels;
- primers, workshops and other resources for Health Equity Impact Assessment;
- analyses of equity strategies developed for particular sectors or providers, such as networks of hospitals and community health centres, and issues, such as mental health;
- many presentations, research and policy papers on driving health equity into action.
The experience of committed providers, public health, community groups and regional health authorities across Canada and in many other countries shows that a solid strategy and serious action can make a difference in addressing systemic health inequities. And this is critical not just for those facing inequitable health, but as Dr. Turnbull highlights, for the future of an excellent health-care system.