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Tuesday, 4 November 2014

It’s here at last!!!! – the 2014 Canadian Public Health Officers report

At least this year there were a couple of Tweets as the report was released on October 29.  It should be the public health event of the year and we should be celebrating like a gallery opening for an artist.  It is the release of the annual (or so) Canadian Public Health Officer’s report.  This year brought to you by our new leader-in-arms, Dr. Greg Taylor.

Regrettably once again, what should be a huge celebration has been relegated to a silent launch.  Media attention is non-existent. There were no press releases or media briefings, so why should the media be aware?  The Minister of Health (what’s her name? One year of Minister Ambrose posting ) has made no notes or acknowledgement.  It appears that this annual event is looked forward to by the government with even less gusto than the Auditor General’s report.  ‘Tis a shame.

The easy to read, very focused and only slightly government promoting document is well worth the 15 minute read despite the 110 pages.   This year’s focus being on the future of public health, with a delving into three emerging public health topics in depth, ageing, climate change, and digital informatics.  To its credit the entire report does not once mention Ebola, which these days is a real accomplishment.

In a carefully crafted call to action, the report challenges the public health community to proactively address the public health issues of ageing.  Not through the lens of seniors needing care, but through the lens of the majority of persons past retirement age who are relatively healthy and wanting to maintain and sustain their relative well being in independent settings.   The report only falling off this to address the incoming tide of challenges faced by those with diagnosis of dementia, one of the few causes of mortality that is currently increasing. 

The second section acts as a primer for climate change and public health.  Nothing extraordinary or controversial other than a federal leader actually acknowledging that climate change is real and is happening, that should not be overlooked and credit to the CPHO for being so forthright in making the obvious a statement of fact.  Those who have followed the climate change and health discussions for the past two decades will note a distinct shift away from efforts to mitigate to a wholesome discussion on how public health has a role in adaptation.

The third section braves a topic that public health’s current innovators are exploring in how better to use the digital world.   In our opinion the weakest of the sections filled with longer discourse and less concrete recommendations, particularly where better examples of digital utilization exist, however DrPHealth acknowledges that after 414 posting and 3 ½ years of blogging and Tweeting, that perhaps we have a slightly skewed view of the digital world. Potential biases aside, the section could have been so much more given our current state of experimentation. Granted the section calls for research, evaluation and most importantly adoption by public health providers – something with which even we would concur.

After perusing the three sections, the reader should be left with a nagging question – is this the go forward agenda for Dr. Taylor?   There are many aspects in the report that reflect his thinking and we can hope that this is an initial statement of his vision for the future of the Public Health Agency of Canada, our national guide in public health matters.

Don’t stop reading at this point.   Just when you think the report is done lies the hidden gem.  Do not skip the Appendix A.  In the twenty pages of the appendix, the report lays out a solid statistical foundation on the Health of Canadians.   Ideal for future reference, and perhaps mandatory reading for any trainee and provider in public health to stay current on trends in health and wellbeing in Canada. 

The full report is available on line at 2014 CPHO report  or downloadable from the same link as a .pdf for future reference.

This is the first real action by the newly appointed Dr. Taylor, and deserving of a “well done Greg”.  We look forward to more of your leadership and willingness to test the boundaries. Perhaps next year you could add a press release? 

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