Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Hancock Supports a Health and Wellness Foundation for Albertans

One of the ways to measure the level of engagement in an election campaign is the number of organizations that put out party position questionnaires and candidate surveys and how groups co-ordinate their efforts and use the results.

One group I have been following is Health Vision 2020. They are a coalition of 15 prominent health organizations in Alberta. Their mission is to get political support for the creation of a dedicated health promotion foundation that has as its goal to have Albertans as the healthiest people in Canada by 2020. This is the kind of transformational thinking that has been lacking in this campaign from the main line parties. Nice to see it coming from engaged groups of citizens in this election.

The potential for this idea is that we can have improved quality of life outcomes. It will enhance our economy and reduce further demands on the healthcare system. The Mazankowski Report, released in 2002, has this wellness foundation idea as Job 1 in its recommendations…and the time to get on it is now.

The aging population in Alberta will make enormous demands on the healthcare system going forward in time. If we what a sustainable system the secret to that end is not just putting more money into the system but for Albertans to get healthy and to stay healthy and to make that a societal value goal of all Albertans.

So many of the proponents of such ideas only focus on the outcomes but tend to omit to consider what it would cost to achieve the goal and how it could be paid for. Health Vision 2020 is not like most groups in this regard. They propose the double benefit of a modest tax increase on tobacco and alcohol to offset the foundations costs and perhaps reduce the consumption of these products too.

A poll done in 2005 for the Canadian Cancer Society showed 77% of Albertans supported a wellness fund aimed at promoting healthy living in the province. There were 75% of Alberta who would funds for this idea from an increase in tobacco taxes and 69% supported an increased alcohol tax for this project as well.

I see my good friend and Minister of Health and Wellness, Dave Hancock, supports the Health Vision 2020 concept, because he said so in direct reply to another survey that included this idea from the Canadian Mental Health Association. Hancock is a big political champion of a wellness and prevention focus for health care. Well he is not as “big” a champion he once was. I say that because Dave has walked the talk on wellness and disease prevention. I mean that literally as he has dropped over 75 pounds in his own efforts at wellness and prevention.

I applaud the Health Vision 2020 folks and the CMHA for presenting and pushing this transformative idea. Hey Dave, tell Premier Stelmach this idea would be great candidate for Bill #1 after this election.