This election, help make child and youth health a priority
Posted on Sep 22 2015 by the Canadian Paediatric Society | Permalink
By Mike Dickinson, MD, FRCPC
Vice President, Canadian Paediatric Society
Chair, Action Committee for Children and Teens
With the federal election just around the corner, it is time for Canadian paediatricians to step up to ensure that child and youth health and wellness are a priority for the next government. While there is never a bad time for advocacy efforts, elections offer a unique opportunity for paediatricians to influence public policy. Political parties and candidates are particularly eager to please and promises made on the campaign trail can lead to important changes in future legislation. At a time when issues of public concern are discussed and debated publicly, it is vital that child and adolescent health issues be part of that debate.
Although children and teens make up about a quarter of our population, they are uniquely disadvantaged in our political system because they are unable to vote and often lack a mechanism for their voices and concerns to be heard. As paediatricians, we must advocate on behalf of our patients and ensure that the health and social needs of this vulnerable population are addressed.
Politicians are typically naïve and unaware of the challenges that face the paediatric population. They often fail to realize that investments in the health and well-being of children more than pay for themselves over time. In fact, investments in early childhood have been shown to yield benefits in academic achievement, crime reduction, and labor market success. Even small investments in our paediatric population generate a return to society, ranging from $1.80 to $17.07 for each dollar spent.
Paediatricians often underestimate how much politicians and policy makers value our opinions when it comes to child and youth health issues. Our education, training, and experience make us uniquely situated as a credible and unbiased source of information. We can be proud of our successful advocacy track record. Current legislation on bike helmets, booster seats, vaccines, smoke-free environments, and most recently labelling of nosodes and homeopathic products are just a few examples of changes to public policy that were influenced by individual paediatricians and the CPS.
Although health care is mainly a provincial responsibility, there are issues critical to paediatric health that are the responsibility of the federal government. The CPS has chosen to focus on four issues during this election campaign:
- the need for a federal commissioner for children and youth
- the need to fully implement Jordan’s Principle
- the need to reinstate interim federal health benefits for refugee children and youth, and
- the need to take meaningful steps to eliminate child poverty.
The embarrassing physical and mental health status of our Aboriginal children and youth must also be a priority for future federal governments.
Fortunately, it is easy for you to advocate for children’s health during this election campaign and it doesn’t have to take much of your time:
- Write a brief letter or email to the candidates in your riding.
- Attend an all-candidates debate and ask a question.
- Be active on social media about child and youth health issues.
- Write a letter to the editor of your local paper about a paediatric issue that affects your patients and your community.
Don’t wait! October 19 is just around the corner, so join forces with your fellow paediatricians to ensure that child and youth health issues are top of mind during this election campaign.
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