When our Progressive Conservative Caucus launched “ENGAGE”, we asked “how can we create a culture of increasing quality of life & improving health outcomes, while decreasing healthcare costs?”; & “how do we ensure that AB’s have access to the best quality health care system, while ensuring that costs are kept under control”?
In the past decade, national per-capita healthcare spending has risen 55%; & today, AB spends the second-most per-capita in the country; however, we are contracting chronic illness at unprecedented rates, regardless of spending increases! According to Kim Elmslie, Federal Ass’t Deputy Minister for Health Promotion & Chronic Disease Prevention, one in four children & one in six adults over the age of 20 are obese or overweight…& obesity is a precursor for a wide range of chronic ailments such as diabetes, cancer, lower back pain, depression, & hypertension.
In AB alone, the total economic burden of chronic illness is at least $904 million--according to Professor Tapan Chowdhury--U of A Professor & author of the report “Chronic Disease Management & Primary Care in AB”. How can we continually spend more on healthcare, & still see steady increases in disease prevalence? Where is our return on investment?
When the Progressive Conservatives were last in gov’t, I truly appreciated the privilege of serving as the Assoc- Minister of Wellness. I was tasked with brainstorming programs & policies to help keep AB’s healthy, happy, & out of hospital…as much as possible. I was also responsible for designing actions that were positive, preventative, & proactive, in an effort to improve return on investment for healthcare spending. It was a tremendous honour; & we made great strides with the introduction of the most comprehensive document of its kind: “Alberta’s Strategic Approach to Wellness”…a framework that was the result of rigorous & comprehensive province-wide consultation. Extremely successful programs emerged from this consultation, including U-Walk, the Premier’s Awards for Healthy Workplaces, AB Workplace Wellness Summits, Int’l Wellness Symposia, the Tobacco Reduction Act, & many more.
Sadly though, since taking office, the NDP gov’t has been taking AB in the wrong direction on this file. The internationally acclaimed Healthy-U campaign, which educated AB’s on healthy lifestyles has been eliminated; & the AB Get Outdoors (“GO!”) Weekend--enshrined in legislation--was completely overlooked this year by this gov’t. They have deprioritized the issue of wellness by not assigning the file to a minister, & by letting all the world-leading work done by the previous gov’t fall by the wayside.
Despite all of this, my honourable PC colleagues & I will continue to implore this gov’t to concentrate on the root causes of illness, so that AB’s can enjoy a better quality of life--while reducing health care costs!