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Doctors in the House: CMA delivers demographic warning to MPs

When physicians descended on Parliament Hill May 23 for the CMA's Doctors in the House lobby day, they brought a warning with them.

Ignore at your peril, they told MPs, the impact a greying wave of baby boomers is going to have on Canadian society and Canada's health care system.

The message that was delivered to dozens of MPs by 30 CMA members was simple: the seniors who now account for roughly 15% of Canada's population will account for 25% by 2031, and it is time to get ready for this societal transformation.

CMA President Anna Reid says the problems that will accompany the demographic change - increased rates of dementia, chronic disease and use of long-term-care services - can only be dealt with by proper planning.

"Many countries have already developed strategies for dealing with the dementia epidemic that we can expect," said Reid. "Our message to MPs was that it is time for Canada to do the same."

That message tied in nicely with another one delivered by the CMA visitors - that Canada's health care system must be transformed and become more efficient if it is to meet the demographic challenges that lie ahead. "It was a pretty simple message, but an important one," said Reid. "We said that with political leadership, starting at the federal level but involving all levels of government, we can build a system that will be able to meet the changing needs of society."

The physician visitors also told MPs about the impact the social determinants of health have on their constituents. "We reminded them that there can be differences in health outcomes within their own ridings based on issues such as income and education," said Reid.

During the 2013 lobby day, Reid was accompanied by members of the CMA Board and participants in the CMA's MD-MP Contact program. They fanned out on Parliament Hill to meet roughly 50 MPs and senators, including Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, Conservative MP Joy Smith, who chairs the Commons Health Committee, Liberal MPs (and physicians) Hedy Fry and Carolyn Bennett, and NDP MP Libby Davies.

"The face-to-face meetings are very useful," said Reid. "The MPs find out what we're concerned about as a profession, and we learn about the issues at the top of their agenda."

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