Canada’s new health minister Jane Philpott is getting some advice from her medical peers, whether she likes it or not.
The editors of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, in a piece called “A letter to our colleague, Canada’s new Minister of Health” say they have some ideas that would ensure this government does a better job improving the health of Canadians than their predecessors did.
“We congratulate you on becoming Canada’s new Minister of Health,” writes the editorial team, which consists exclusively of medical doctors. “As the first physician to hold this post in 80 years, your appointment is a historic achievement.”
The editors framed their advice to Philpott as a comparison to the departed Harper administration, which they clearly feel did a terrible job.
“Prime Minister Trudeau’s choice of a physician for the health portfolio is particularly laudable following the lack of interest toward health policy displayed by the previous government,” says the letter. “Your long clinical career affords you a considerable advantage over your predecessors, and Canadians have high expectations that you will be able to draw upon this as a political leader. Although you bring to Parliament ample experience as a leader and innovator, being a government minister brings new challenges.”
The first order of business the doctors propose?
“First, keep your promises,” they say. The letter says that with the reinstatement of the long form census, healthcare for refugees, the unmuzzling of Canadians scientists, an effort to improve vaccination rates, and a promise to require plain packaging for tobacco the Liberal Party already has an ambitious agenda of promises to uphold.
The second recommendation of the letter is that the minister “let science be her guide”.
“We are pleased that your colleagues in cabinet seem to understand this too, based on campaign pledges to consider science in government decisions, create advisory councils of scientific experts, and legislate, based on past scientific advice, to help Canadians make healthy food choices,” says the letter.
The third recommendation is to ensure that the government implement universal pharmacare, something they say would be the single greatest achievement of any Minister of Health in generations.
The fourth recommendation is that the minister vigorously defend the Canada Health Act, which they say has made Canada’s health care system “a defining national value”.
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The fifth recommendation is that Philpott address the economic inequities that underly health care, especially for Aboriginal Canadians.
“Last, never forget that you are a physician,” say the doctors. “You carry with you the values and responsibilities of our profession — most saliently the expectation to advocate for the health and well being of Canadians — as do we.”
Philpott was appointed Minister of Health by Justin Trudeau on November 4. The 55-year old Toronto-native was a was a family doctor in Markham between 1998 and 2015, and has been a noted advocate for refugee rights. She follows Conservative Party health ministers Rona Ambrose, Leona Aglukkaq, and Tony Clement.
Founded in 1911, the Canadian Medical Association Journal has published landmark articles such as the 1922 paper that led to the Nobel Prize for Banting and Best, and a 1938 paper that warned about the relationship between sun exposure and skin cancer.