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Thursday, 3 November 2011

WHO conference on social determinants of health – Where does Canada stand now?

In follow up to Canada’s embarrassing political absence from the WHO social determinants of health conference drphealth October 18 2011, the collective global wisdom passed the Rio declaration which should be widely read and distributed WHO Rio declaration on social determinants.
Canada was supposedly represented by the Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO) Dr. David Butler-Jones as the senior Canadian official.   A contingent of an additional 6 senior representatives were involved, one of who was on the conference advisory committee. A solid Canadian government administrative representation.   A smattering of additional Canadian participants were also registered attendees to the conference. Regrettably drphealth was not invited to enjoy the sunshine. 
The declaration speaks to the inequities that exist, and that addressing the inequities is a shared responsibility of all sectors of government, society and the international community.  It affirms that inequities are unacceptable.   It speaks to the previous WHO leadership work which rightly deserves recognition. 
Section 7 almost appears to be a rewrite of the Canada Health Act.  Well not quite, but include 3 of the 5 Canadian principles (omits portability and public administration which are uniquely Canadian issues and includes equitable, effective and responsive).   Section 10 and the remainder of the document lay out a clear plan for addressing inequities through: (i) to adopt better governance for health and development; (ii) promote participation in policy-making and implementation; (iii) to further reorient the health sector towards reducing health inequities; (iv) to strengthen global governance and collaboration; and (v) to monitor progress and increase accountability. 

The declaration ends with a call for the endorsement by the 65th World Health Assembly (WHA) which will be held in Geneva May 21-26, 2012.  The declaration also calls upon member states to affirm actions under the 62nd WHA in resolution 62.14 – (which is also worth reading  62nd WHA resolutions and requires scrolling to the 14th resolution on page 21) .  It would be worthwhile to ask the CPHO for an accounting of Canada’s performance in implementing the actions requested of the member states. 
The questions for the moment are will the Canadian government endorse the declaration itself? And will the Canada vote in favour of supporting the endorsement of the declaration at the WHA meeting next May?
I’d welcome anyone with additional information on Canada’s political response to share your comments in case there is a need to escalate this as a public issue. 

1 comment:

  1. Very good questions. See my own reflections on Rio at www.chnet-works.ca/blog/ (for a Canadian audience) and http://www.healthypolicies.com/2011/10/social-determinants-of-health-life-after-rio/. A further problem, of course, involves the absence of mechanisms for ensuring that WHA resolutions are actually reflected in the budgetary and staffing priorities of WHO in Geneva. Member states have to take the lead in this.