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Physician health “is political”

Physician health goes beyond helping physicians maintain a work-life balance. It’s actually a political issue.

So say Drs. Joy Albuquerque and Dorian Deshauer in a CMAJ commentary published online in advance of the International Conference on Physician Health (ICPH) starting in London, UK, on Sept. 15. The article is part of a series that CMAJ has produced in conjunction with the upcoming conference; most of the articles are posted on CMAJBlogs.

The international conference involves a partnership of the American Medical Association, Canadian Medical Association and British Medical Association, and this year’s theme at the sold-out meeting is ‘Milestones and Transitions — Maintaining the Balance’.

In the solicited commentary, Albuquerque, a psychiatrist and associate medical director of the Ontario Medical Association’s Physician Health Program, and Deshauer, a CMAJ associate editor, discuss why physician health has broad implications in today’s health care system in Canada.

They argue that physician health is “best understood as a set of risk-management practices aimed at shifting perceptions of wellness from being a private matter to something closer to a shared resource.” In part, they state, this is because of studies pointing to a link between physician burnout and perceived medical errors.

In addition, they note that physician assistance programs over the past decade have shifted from dealing solely with those with severe addictions or mental health issues to being more proactive role in raising awareness about individual health risks. For these and other reasons, they say, the concept of physician health is moving from being a private matter to an issue of public concern, and therefore a political issue.

“Given the transformation of physician health to a proxy for risk, it is not surprising that health itself is becoming a core professional value,” Albuquerque and Deshauer write.

Other physician health topics recently covered by CMAJ on its online blogging site have been the experiences of a physician dealing with hearing loss and how physicians should overcome self-reliance in maintaining their health.

CMAJ Editor-in-Chief John Fletcher is attending ICPH, joining a large contingent of Canadian organizers, speakers and delegates.

Forward any comments about this article to: cmanews@cma.ca.