The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) strongly supports the federal government’s focus on housing and affordability as Parliament resumes this week. We also remind political leaders and their respective parties that many people in Canada are still struggling to access the health care they need. Collectively, these challenges are leaving the health and wellness of far too many Canadians at risk and worsening an already profound health care crisis.
Political leaders have been appropriately focused on housing and inflation as Canadians are facing an historic affordability crisis. We support government action on this front as the consequences on health and health equity attributable to food and housing insecurities are well documented. A 2020 study published in the CMAJ identified that 1 in 8 households suffer from food insecurity and that adults who experience food insecurity die 9 years earlier than those with a secure food supply. The health consequences of food insecurity include heart disease, mental health challenges and other chronic health conditions. Similarly, lack of housing also leads to poor health outcomes, including mental health issues, injuries and chronic disease.
Working on policies that contribute to better health is important, however it is only one part of the equation. Without access to health care, all other measures will fall short. Following another summer plagued by emergency department closures and with more than 6 million people lacking regular access to a primary care provider, Canadians remain deeply concerned about their inability to access care. A survey conducted in partnership with the CMA in August 2023 clearly illustrates that Canadians are losing hope in their health system. Only one quarter of Canadians (25%) are optimistic about health system improvements in the next two years, and over 80% believe that federal and provincial/territorial governments need to make health care a bigger priority.
We urge government leaders to work collaboratively to resolve these critical issues.
The CMA looks forward to engaging with the federal government to improve the health care system for everyone in Canada. We continue to advocate for ongoing investment and structural changes to increase access to care, including expanding physician mobility and team-based care, implementing pan-Canadian workforce planning, modernizing health care data systems and reducing administrative burden for health care providers.
Dr. Kathleen Ross