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Precaution, Prevention and Priorities; the Framing of B.C Health Care and Health: PDF Print E-mail
Earth News
Tuesday, 31 July 2007 23:33

2007 August 2

Precaution, Prevention and Priorities; the Framing of B.C Health Care and Health

Global Compliance Research Project

PEJ News - Submission to the BC Health Conversation - Joan Russow (PhD) - The BC government must prevent all encroachment into the public health care system through privatization, and ensure that the health care system is universally accessible, publicly funded, and a non-two tier system.. The emphasis of a health program should be accessibility and universality as well as disease prevention including the prevention of environmentally induced diseases, and of health related problems arising from poverty and other social conditions..



In 1985, in Victoria, during a conference on Science and Technology and Human Values, discussion arose over accessibility and funding of the health care system. A participant posed the dilemma raised of an emergency kidney transplant and the choice between the life of an impoverished 15 year old child with a future ahead and the life of a well-to-do 70 year old Nobel prize winner with an esteemed past. This dilemma poses difficult choices, the future of the Canadian and BC health system is "the issue is choices".

The issue is choices but not between who should survive or who can afford to survive.

In the mandate of the Romanow Commission, the following commitment is made:

"...to work together [governments and Canadians] [to] constitute the foundation for a public dialogue on the long-term sustainability of Canada's publicly funded health care system."


Long term sustainability of the publicly funded health care system necessitates sustainability not only of the health care system (including prevention through effective diagnostic measures) but also of public health itself through the embracing of healthy life styles, and through the prevention of environmentally-induced diseases and of poverty-related health problems.


Both provincially, federally, and internationally, the importance of prevention and the necessity of the linking of health, poverty and environment have been recognized. For example, in the Department of Health section of the 2000 Federal Treasury Board Estimates, the government emphasized the importance of the following:

"..of anticipat[ing}, prevent[ing]and respond[ing] to health risks posed by diseases, food, water, drugs, pesticides, medical devices, environmental and occupational hazards, consumer goods and other socio-economic determinants of health"

At the international level, the importance of linking health, poverty and the environment is also recognized:

"We are confronted with the perpetuation of disparities between nations, and a worsening of poverty, hunger, ill health and illiteracy and the continuing deterioration of the ecosystem on which we depend for our well being." (Agenda 21, UNCED, 1992).

And then reaffirmed at the International Conference on Population and Development:

"The growing awareness that population, poverty, patterns of production and consumption and other threats to the environment are so closely interconnected that none of them can be considered in isolation."(Preamble, 1.5, International Conference on Population and Development, 1994)

Canada along with the other member states of the United Nations recognized the urgency of the failure to address the important links among poverty, environment, consumption and health:

"In many locations around the world the general environment, (air, water, and land), workplaces and even individual dwellings are so badly polluted that the health of hundreds of millions of people is adversely affected. This is, inter alia, due to past and present developments in consumption and production patterns and lifestyles, in energy production and use, in industry, in transportation etc. with little or no regard for environmental protection." ( 6.39., Protecting and Promoting of Human Health Conditions, Agenda 21, UNCED, 1992)

"Improving human health is one of the most important objectives of development. The deterioration of environmental quality, notably air, water and soil pollution owing to toxic chemicals, hazardous wastes, radiation and other sources, is a matter of growing concern...Malnutrition, poverty, poor human settlements, lack of good-quality potable water and inadequate sanitation facilities add to the problems of communicable and non-communicable diseases. As a consequence, the health and well-being of a people are exposed to increasing pressures". ( 16.12., Protecting and Promoting of Human Health Conditions Agenda 21, UNCED, 1992)

Poverty is one of the major determinants of health problems, and, sadly, governments in Canada have failed to ensure the right to unadulterated food, the right to safe affordable housing, the right to safe drinking water, and the right to social security. Furthermore, Canada is obliged under the International Covenant of Social, Economic and Cultural Rights to prevent poverty through ensuring these rights.

Canadian governments have devolved power to corporations, and have not only permitted deregulation, privatization and voluntary compliance but also subsidized the production of substances and activities that are harmful to human health and the environment. Concurrently, in proportion to individual taxation, corporate taxation has decreased from 50% in the 1950's, and should be increased to assist in ensuring the sustainability of the publicly funded health care system.

Government policies and regulations must reflect traditional Canadian values by preventing harm to human health and to the environment, by supporting the poor and disenfranchised, and by ensuring sufficient funds for a universally accessible, publicly funded, not for profit, single tier health care system. Only then will Canadian society not have to face the difficult choices that may increasingly arise if profit and privatization supersede fundamental human values.


For years the federal and provincial governments have demonstrated misplaced funding priorities by funding corporations whose practices are harmful to human health and the environment. Funds in the form of subsidies to corporations such as the nuclear, chemical, agribusiness, arms, and fossil fuel dependent industries; to institutions, such as the military and its international intervention bodies (NATO, NORAD); to the "free trade" organizations (APEC, WTO, NAFTA, OECD), and to financial institutions (World Bank and IMF ) MUST END.

The call for privatization of the health care system often arises because of lack of funding. For this reason the BC government must demand that additional funds be redirected from (from the departments of Agriculture [agribusiness, Natural Resources unsustainable practices); relocated from Department of Defence, and Foreign Affairs (from unsustainable practices that are harmful to human health or the environment) and realigned from the Department of Industry into promoting accessible and universal health care, into actively promoting environmentally sound practices, into instituting a fair and just transition program for affected workers and communities. The BC government must support research that factors in all the determinants of health, and to evaluate policies by considering the well-being of future generations rather than relying only on short term indicators of progress.

In addition, the BC government must lobby the Federal government to no longer engage in ill-conceived US-led invasions which have not only impacted on the health of Canadians through death and injury but also drained financial resources which should be directed to providing for the health and welfare of citizens.


The BC government must recognize the interdependence of poverty, health and environment and call upon the federal government to address poverty related and induced health problems Canada as a signatory to the International Covenant of Social Cultural and Economic Rights must enact legislation to ensure compliance with key provisions such as the Right to housing, the Right to food right to education. In addition, the BC government should call for the Canadian government to introduce a guaranteed annual living income for all citizens. The BC government must also address the need for a fully subsidized dental program.

The BC government must also prevent the location of toxic, hazardous and atomic production, practice and waste disposal on the lands and areas inhabited by the poor, disenfranchised, and first nations.


For too long at all government levels the impact of environmentally induced diseases has been ignored. The BC government should take the following actions either by implementing what is possible under provincial legislation or by lobbying the federal government to implement what is possible under federal legislation:

• To invoke the precautionary principle to justify the banning of practices and activities that could undermine the health of citizens: the precautionary principle was adopted under the Ministry of Environment as a fundamental principle. The principle which has become a peremptory norm and has been perceived to be a fundamental principle of international law reads as follows:

Where there is a threat to human health or the environment, the lack of full scientific certainty shall/should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent the threat,

• To allocate significant research funding to the prevention of environmentally-induced diseases, and work closely with the office of the Commissioner on Sustainable Development,

• to ban practices such as uranium mining [and ensure that the existing moratorium is not lifted], and genetically engineered foods and crops; to prohibit recycling of materials such as hazardous wastes into fertilizer and to phase-out the use of chemical pesticides, and production of toxic, hazardous and atomic products and waste,

* To oppose any relaxing of current environmental standards and oppose the current Federal Security and Prosperity Partnership which will be in the name of harmonization leading to the lowering of standards which in Canada, US and Mexico are already too low,

• To include the health status of the human population and the ecosystem as criteria in any scale or method for assessing prosperity,

* To oppose the federal proposal for offshore drilling for oil, and to address the serious consequences to health and the environment of accidents resulting in pipe lines,

* To revoke the Seabed agreement and close Nanoose Bay testing site, and thus eliminate the serious environmental consequences resulting from testing, and to lobby the Federal government to ban all further circulation and berthing of US nuclear powered and nuclear-arms capable vessels; and all war games such as Exercise Trident Fury, thus eliminating the potential of a serious environmental and health disaster,

* To oppose the proposal made by the Federal Minister of Resources, the Hon Gary Lund, to use Nuclear energy to fuel the oil sands, because of not only the serious impact on the health and environment of the citizens of Alberta but also the potential of serious accidents which do not respect provincial boundaries,


The BC government relies on the Federal government for determining food safety from the registering of pesticides , and the testing and release of seeds etc including genetically engineered foods and crops. The BC government must oppose the practice at the Federal level of the government relying on industry research, and advocate that before any product is deemed to be safe the government must rely on arms length research., and the precautionary principle.


• To initiate an effective program of public education about the health benefits of unadulterated uncontaminated food, water and air

• To establish environmental standards to protect health, and to prevent environmentally induced health problems

• To ensure that doctors and hospitals continue to serve their valuable role in our communities while also engaging resources for the health promotion and disease prevention.

• To work co-operatively to address and respect First Nations' health concerns and practices.


The BC government should oppose all corporate funding of institutes and universities, and provide sufficient funding for ensuring that whatever is introduced into the health care system such as pharmaceuticals, is properly researched by qualified researchers with no ties to the corporate sector.


• To include health research and health services responsive to women's needs and reflective of the diversity of women's life stages.

• To ensure the continued support for a woman's right to choose.


• To reorient the priorities of the Health Protection Branch to provide a more stringent and holistic review process for new and existing human-made chemicals, and technologies

* To lobby the Federal government for supporting the funding of integrative medicine

• To take a friendlier approach to the views of herbalists and citizens who use time-tested, naturally occurring substances in health care.

• To build on the strong foundation of the Canada Health Act by providing research funding for healing techniques that complement drugs and surgery; and by including reportedly effective techniques from world medicine and traditional practices.

• To establish channels to align Canada's research excellence more closely with effective techniques from world medicine and traditional practices.

• To ensure an admonitory labeling strategy for all non-nutritive substances and processes affecting our food

• To ensure the availability of less expensive generic prescription drugs

• To replace the current Canada Food Guide with a New Canada Food Guide modeled on the recommendations of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (P.C.R.M.) as a model. A New Canada Food Guide will recommend the New Four Food Groups which the P.C.R.M. recommends, i.e. (1) fruits, (2) vegetables, (3) grains, and (4) legumes, with other items mentioned as foods that people may choose to eat, but not recommended as ideal or necessary for health.


• To respect the wishes of patients who are of sound mind as to the manner and duration of their treatments.


The BC government must not contribute to harm in other states, and should lobby as well the Federal government to end practices that affect the health and environment of other states around the world and act on the following commitment:

• To prevent the transfer to other states of substances and activities that cause environmental degradation or are harmful to human health as agreed to in the Rio Declaration (1992).

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 July 2015 13:47

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