Tag Archive | government

Cuts to health advocacy in Canada: Part of a troubling trend?

The Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) issued a press release today announcing that Health Canada will be cutting funding to the Health Council of Canada (HCC) as of March 2014. Founded in 2003 as part of an agreement between the federal government and the provincial and territorial premiers, the council has served as an independent assessor of the Canadian health care system. Its primary duty has been to monitor the spending of two accords between the federal and provincial governments, which respectively provided $24-billion and $41-billion for health care. Through its work it has also identified health inequities in Canada. This has included the publication of “general progress reports and themed reports on Aboriginal health, wait times, home and community care, health indicators and other topics” (CMAJ, 2013). The HCC has advocated for an approach to improving the health of the population through addressing the root causes of inequitable health outcomes, such as poverty. The HCC accomplishes this work with a relative modest sum. At the time of the announcement, the federal government funding for the HCC with $6.5-million per year, an amount that is hardly notable in the context of the entire federal budget. To put this figure in perspective, the Canadian government recently spent $21-million on ads promoting its Economic Action Plan in one year alone.

The federal government has argued that the cuts are justified on the basis that the HCC’s ten-year mandate is coming to an end in 2014. Moreover, some have argued that the council has been ineffectual in its assessment of the accords’ implementation. André Picard of The Globe and Mail posits that the council has been unable to adequately assess changes in wait times and that its efforts to highlight inventive health-care projects have not resulted in their implementation elsewhere in the country.

However, the cuts to the HCC appear to be part of a troubling trend in the relationship between the federal government and institutions that serve as essential resources. Since the election of the Conservative government in 2006, we have witnessed cuts in funding for other organizations and agencies that provide important data on health and demographics in Canada, such as the recent reduction in funding for Statistics Canada. The elimination of the mandatory long-form census back in 2010 was another major blow to researchers working in a variety of fields.

To take an unabashedly political stance, I would argue that the cutting of funding to the HCC represents an effort to silence those who do not agree with the current government’s priorities. There is certainly no lack of precedent: the ongoing muzzling of federal government scientists and the recent closure of the experimental lakes area are two excellent examples of this effort.

The degradation in data quality—or the complete lack thereof—that results from cuts to organizations and agencies such as the HCC or Statistics Canada makes it harder for those in both primary care and public health to advocate for evidence-based interventions. I strongly believe this will detrimentally affect the health of the country and put additional strain on public health agencies as they seek ways of filling this newfound data gap in a time of fiscal austerity. As current and future public health practitioners we should find these cuts troubling and make efforts to lobby not only our federal representatives, but also to raise awareness in the general public about these cuts and what their implications are for health in Canada.


Canadian Medical Association Journal. (2013). Advocates decry health council’s demise.   Retrieved from http://www.cmaj.ca/site/earlyreleases/18apr13_advocates-decry-health-councils-demise.xhtml.


A chat show with 1.6 million followers on facebook, compelling the government to frame new policies

Last week we talked about Sabido Methodology and how “Simplemente Maria” or “Simply Maria” was an impressive example of this methodology and how each episode of this soap opera from the 80’s showcased social issues and highlighted them. The Show was so popular even in countries as far as erstwhile Soviet Union, where I was studying at that time,  that it was aired dubbed in Russian during prime time. In the transit and public places it was public’s favorite topic for starting conversation, share views and predictions about what will happen next?

Times have changed from the 80s and it will be difficult to expect or predict now that any soap opera will be as popular and effective in highlighting social vices on such a large-scale.

I  always wondered  about  talk shows which appeared on TV, with expert’s views, discussions and recommendations on wide range of topics. I was skeptical about the utility of these talk shows and their effectiveness in bringing changes to quotidian problems faced by common man.I got my answers last year when i learnt about the impacts of  chat show “Satyamev Jayate”.

Worldwide many celebrities from Angelina Jolie to Bono of U2 fame are supporting and bringing the media attention to global issues from environment to poverty to health. In India Aamir Khan Image is doing his bit in a different way.He is considered the  Tom Hanks of “Bollywood” (Bollywood-Indian film industry, where roughly 900 movies are made per year, coming to Vancouver on 6th April for TOIFA awards night). Aamir Khan is known for doing things differently. He is among the top three Bollywood actors and three years ago he thought of entering the world of television. He is a social activist at heart and had been talking about environmental issues in the public. Aamir and his team took two years to do the research work and identified issues affecting common people. In May, 2012 with the support of Star Network in India, his chat show on social issues ,  titled “Satyamev Jayate” meaning Truth triumphs, was launched. The show was aired on Sundays morning at 11:00 and it was said that roads had remarkably less traffic as had happened before in India only during cricket matches between India and Pakistan. There are 1.24 billion (1,249,440,319) connections, 1.6 million followers on Facebook and 91.4 K followers on twitter for “Satyamev Jayate”. There are more than eight million (8,115,739) Community Members.Through this  a total of  223,064,210 Indian rupees (more than 3 Million CAD) in donations, have been received for various organizations and NGOs working directly on these  issues. In the first season 13 episodes were aired, each  focusing on issues of national and global importance including water conservation, community based health Insurance (CBHI) , intimate partner violence (IPV),neoliberalism, medical negligence, and pesticides. The themes of 13 episodes were :

The Idea of India – Episode 13

Water – Episode 12

Old Age – Episode 11

Untouchability – Episode 10

Alcohol Abuse – Episode 9

Toxic Food – Episode 8

Domestic Violence – Episode 7

Persons With Disabilities – Episode 6

Intolerance To Love – Episode 5

Every Life Is Precious – Episode 4

Big Fat Indian Wedding – Episode 3

Child Sexual Abuse – Episode 2

Female feticide – Episode 1

Each episode is of around one hour duration. A summarizing episode on all the 13 episodes and their impacts on policies and society  with English subtitles is available at : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COrjitFiSXg&playnext=1&list=PL6AF7C1545DB4BA76&feature=results_video

All the 13 episodes with English subtitles are available at:


A few radical  solutions for example live in relationship for senior citizens and heart surgeries for $1100 were brought to public attention that were hard to envisage in India  few years back.

The impact of this chat show has been nationwide ranging from a national bill on child protection passed in the upper house of Indian parliament to cancellation of registration of doctors involved in female feticide. Few of the successful changes that happened in response to this chat shows are:


Show on the Disabled Jolts Govt into Action

Satyamev Jayate gets AA drunk on its own success


March against female feticide

Lok Sabha passes child protection bill courtesy Aamir

Madhya Pradesh suspends licence of 65 MTP centres

NGO flooded with child abuse cases after Satyamev Jayate

Women & Child Dev Min promises action

Satyamev Jayate Impact: Five Rajasthan doctors booked

Kids make MMS of child abuser, get him arrested

Schools plan workshops on good touch, bad touch

Satyamev Jayate effect: 7 abortion centre’s licence cancelled

Generic drugs to be available by Oct-Nov: Min after Aamir pitch


Unwanted womb removal: Registration of nine private doctors suspended

Satyamev Jayate Impact? Karnataka government to open generic drug stores


‘Satyameva Jayate’ inspires sarpanch to act against female foeticide

The URL of its website is www.satyamevjayate.in

Satyamev Jayate, which has struck the right chord with the audiences, has reportedly inspired a British talk show host Tim Sebastian. In case you don’t know who he is – Sebastian is the man behind popular talk show Hard Talk on BBC.
It’s hard to recall a television show from recent with so much impact on policies and social issues of a common man interest.The next season of Satyamev Jayate is planned post September this year.