In all the talk about health care sustainability we lose sight of the fact that the interventions that cost the least and are likely to have the biggest impact on population health take place outside the confines of the Ministry of Health.
Regulation has become a dirty word, made so by those who have a vested interest in making profits from activities that may not necessarily be in our best interests.
As a public we all subsidize this bad behavior in part through higher health care costs. Ottawa’s Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, for example, points out that a single serving Coca Cola bottle of our grandparents’ generation was less than a third of the size of what kids buy today at a typical vending machine or corner store. Three times the sugar, three times the calories. While I can hear the howls of freedom of choice from here, we have less freedom of choice when it comes to all of us paying the health costs related to rising rates of diabetes.
What if we were to regulate the soft drink industry to establish a standard size for a single-serving beverage? Would the wheels of industry come to a halt? Would thousands be thrown out of work? Of course not.
We don’t regulate for several reasons. For starters we keep on electing people to office who oppose the idea of government. Secondly, these same people have persuaded us that we can’t trust government. Third we have replaced our faith in government with a blind faith in business even though the root of many of our modern-day scandals is in the relationship between the two.
We love our booze. It’s our drug of choice.
Given 83 per cent of men and 74 per cent of women are drinkers; we don’t want to hear about the negative health effects. Most of us know about the repercussions of binge drinking, such as those who choose to drive while under the influence, but only one in three Canadians know that alcohol places you at an elevated risk for at least six cancers, including colorectal and breast cancer. That’s a national embarrassment. Alcohol-related cancers affect between 6200-9900 Canadians each year.
“People are very uncomfortable with this in our society,” veteran journalist Ann Dowsett Johnston said on Friday during a Toronto forum on cancer and alcohol. Public health advocacy groups have set low risk guidelines – two drinks per day for men, one for women, none for pregnant women – but Johnston says there has been very little traction on these guidelines.
The LCBO has distributed more than a million such leaflets on the guidelines. Did anyone actually read them?
Dowsett Johnston says we have become an alcogenic society. The promotion of alcohol is everywhere, from the glossy newspaper inserts to the media content itself. She calls the Saturday style section of the Globe and Mail the “cocktail section.”
Part of the problem is there is no consistent communication around how big the problem is. The reality is there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. When more than three quarters of Canadians are consumers, you try to mitigate risk, you don’t eliminate it. Evidence would suggest the more you drink, the higher the risk.
It is very unlikely that Deb Matthews personally wrote the letter sent to a member of the Quinte Labour Council about local hospital funding. She did sign it, which suggests she may have actually read it. Maybe.
The letter has been circulating recently, serving to raise more ire than balm.
There it was again – the claim that “without change of course, health spending would eat up 70 per cent of the provincial budget within 12 years.”
If you really want to scare people, try suggesting alien spaceships will land in Nathan Phillips Square disembarking a robot army that will change life forever. The two scenarios, the 70 per cent and the robot army are about equally likely. At least in the latter scenario we would be rid of Rob Ford.
Perhaps Matthews should tell her letter-writing minions to cool it on the rhetoric about how health care is about to consume huge portions of the provincial budget if not for their heroic efforts to reform the system. It’s getting old and most sensible people know by now that it is simply not true.
While health care tops the polls in this fall’s provincial election, the City of Toronto is also staring down major cuts to service, including health care. What’s being billed as a demonstration/flash mob is being organized September 26 at 5:30 pm in front of City Hall.
Watch this fun music video made for the event: