PROVINCIAL Heath Officer (PHO) Dr. Bonnie Henry on Friday released the report, “Taking the Pulse of the Population: An Update on the Health of British Columbians,” that shows that overall, British Columbians’ health is good by many accepted measures.
Diabetes incidence, mortality due to preventable causes, smoking during pregnancy and the incidence of hepatitis C all continue to decrease.
“We have made important progress in many areas of health in recent years,” said Henry. “However, not all British Columbians are experiencing these improvements, and there remain important differences in health status based on region of the province, between sexes and by age. As well, there are some measures where we are actually losing ground.”
Focus and action are needed in several areas to address worsening trends:
* the disparities in life expectancy between local health areas;
* fruit and vegetable consumption as a marker of healthy eating;
* early childhood development; and
* hazardous drinking behaviours.
“More targeted health prevention and promotion programs will help close those gaps and reverse worsening trends,” said Henry. “Other social and economic factors, such as income, housing and early childhood education play an important role in people’s health and well-being. Collaborations across all levels of government, health authorities and other health partners will be key to achieving our goal of a healthier B.C.”
There are seven recommendations to the Ministry of Health, health authorities and partners to advance public health in British Columbia. The recommendations are:
1. Establish a legislated health in all policies approach in B.C., using a health impact assessment model that includes a requirement for assessing health and equity impacts for all proposed, new or revised policy, legislation or programming across the B.C. government.
2. Develop and implement a comprehensive health-promotion strategy that recognizes sex- and gender-specific health needs, and supports all gender identities and sexual orientations through appropriately targeted interventions.
3. Increase support for government programs and policies across government that focus on health among women (including pregnant and post-partum women), children, youth and families.
4. Increase the focus on illness and injury prevention, as well as health promotion, for people living in rural and remote areas.
5. Develop a more robust and meaningful population health and public health surveillance system. This includes reviewing the performance measures in BC’s Guiding Framework for Public Health, identifying new or revised measures, and establishing regular and ongoing public health reporting.
6. Establish more relevant and applicable performance measures to monitor environmental health. This includes establishing and / or further developing mechanisms to monitor air, water, soil and food supplies, as well as the health impacts of climate change.
7. Commit to increasing the proportion of health authority budgets allocated to population and public health to 6%.
The impacts of increased alcohol consumption and of the opioid overdose crisis were two areas of challenge identified in the development of this report. A review of the provincial alcohol policy and the impact of the opioid overdose crisis will be examined in detail in future PHO reports.
“Understanding the health status of British Columbians is critical to effective program planning,” said Dr. Gord Miller, President, Public Health Association of BC. “The Public Health Association of BC welcomes the provincial health officer’s report. This population health report is an essential tool for addressing health inequalities and ensuring that health programs meet the real needs of our citizens.”