Since 2006, national, per-capita healthcare spending has risen 55% and today, Alberta 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 Assistant Deputy Minister for Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention, one in four children and one in six adults over the age of 20 are obese or overweight in Canada. Obesity is a precursor for a wide range of chronic ailments such as diabetes, cancer, lower back pain, depression and hypertension. In Alberta, the total economic burden of chronic illness is $904 million, according to Professor Tapan Chowdhury, University of Alberta Professor and author of the report titled Chronic Disease Management and Primary Care in Alberta. How can we continually spend more on healthcare, and still see steady increases in disease prevalence? Where is our return on investment?
When the Progressive Conservatives were last in government, I truly appreciated the privilege of serving as the Associate Minister of Wellness. I was tasked with brainstorming programs and policies to help keep Albertans healthy, happy and out of hospital as much as possible. I was also responsible for designing actions that were positive, preventative and proactive in an effort to improve return on investment for healthcare spending. It was a tremendous honour and 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 and comprehensive province-wide consultation. Extremely successful programs emerged from this consultation, including U-Walk, the Premier’s Awards for Healthy Workplaces, Alberta Workplace Wellness Summits, International Wellness Symposia, the Tobacco Reduction Act and many more.
Sadly though, since taking office, the NDP government has been taking Alberta in the wrong direction on this file. The internationally acclaimed Healthy-U campaign, which educated Albertans on healthy lifestyles has been eliminated and the Alberta Get Outdoors “GO!” Weekend, enshrined in legislation, was completely overlooked this year by this government. They have deprioritized the issue of wellness by not assigning the file to a minister and by letting all the world-leading work done by the previous government go by the wayside.
Despite all of this, my honourable PC colleagues and I will continue to implore this government to concentrate on the root causes of illness, so that Albertans can enjoy a better quality of life, while reducing health care costs.