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FIRST REPORT OF THE SELECT COMMITTEE ON HEALTH CARE

WELLNESS STRATEGY PROGRESS REPORT

Second Session

54th Legislative Assembly of the Province of New Brunswick

June 2000

June 15, 2000

To the Honourable
The Legislative Assembly of
The Province of New Brunswick

Mr. Speaker:

Your Select Committee on Health Care begs leave to submit this their First Report of the Session. Your Select Committee was appointed by Resolution of the House adopted July 6,1999 and charged with examining, inquiring into, and reporting to the House with respect to the delivery of health care in New Brunswick and, to consider such other matters and materials referred to your Committee by the Minister of the former Department of Health and Community Services, now the Department of Health and Wellness.

At the request of the Minister, Hon. Dennis Furlong, the Committee undertook to review, as its first item of business, the issue of wellness and the matter of developing a wellness strategy for the province.

This Report is a progress report of your Committee's deliberations on developing a Wellness Strategy to help New Brunswickers to stay healthy longer. Your Committee looks forward to submitting a comprehensive Wellness Strategy document to the House during the next session.

A. WELLNESS STRATEGY: OUR WORKPLAN

The Committee has received several presentations related to health and wellness, worked to define wellness, and taken a first look at health and wellness related programs and policies across government departments.

To date, the Committee heard the following presentations:

· The Minister of Health and Wellness, the Honourable Dennis Furlong, provided an overview of the former Department of Health and Community Services and emphasized the need to focus more attention on wellness as opposed to illness;

· Dr. Mark Tremblay of the UNB Department of Kinesiology presented on wellness, the negative effects of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, and emphasized the important link between physical activity and health and wellness, particularly for our children;

· Officials of the Department of Education (Anglophone and Francophone) provided an overview of department programs and policies related to health and wellness;

· Officials of the former Department of Municipalities (including the former Sport Recreation and Active Living Branch, now part of the Culture and Sport Secretariat) reported on their programs; and

· Hon. Margaret Norrie McCain, reported on her work with Dr. Fraser Mustard on early childhood development - the 1999 Ontario report The Early Years Study: Final Report.

The Committee has developed an inventory of programs, policies and initiatives that impact on health and wellness across all government departments. The inventory was developed with input from all government departments, following a request for information to all Deputy Ministers.

As next steps, the Committee plans to:

· Engage New Brunswickers in discussion about wellness, and identify community and workplace wellness programs, through a public consultation process to be held this fall. Details about the process will be advertised in late summer/early fall and posted on the Legislative Assembly web-site;

· Additional meetings with government departments instrumental to wellness; and

· Complete the Wellness Strategy document, and submit it to the Legislative Assembly.

Your Committee anticipates that the Wellness Strategy will reflect what we hear from New Brunswickers about wellness, and will include recommendations identifying priority areas for action.

B. WHAT IS WELLNESS?

The Committee proposes the following definition of wellness:

"Wellness is a state of emotional, mental, physical, social and spiritual well-being, that enables people to reach and maintain their personal potential in their communities."

Wellness is about:

· The promotion of healthy lifestyles;

· The prevention of illness;

· Encouraging New Brunswickers of all ages to take responsibility for preserving their health and making healthy choices; and

· Providing services that assist individuals and communities to improve their health.

There is strong and growing evidence that many factors, in addition to health care, contribute to wellness. These factors are called the determinants of health, and they include:

· Income and social status

· Social support networks

· Education

· Employment and working conditions

· Physical environments

· Biology and genetic endowment

· Personal health practices and coping skills

· Healthy child development

· Health services

· Gender

Social capital, poverty, resiliency, and literacy are other complementary factors that have a strong influence on health and wellness.

Individuals, families, communities, government, and the private sector all have roles and responsibilities in helping New Brunswickers to stay healthy. More importantly, we need to work together to ensure that future generations of New Brunswickers enjoy the benefits of wellness.

Wellness is everyone's responsibility!

C. WHY WELLNESS?

Investing in the wellness of New Brunswickers will help to ensure a sustainable health care
system, and will result in long term societal benefits, including:

· Better health,

· Improved quality of life, and

· Increased productivity.

Recent reports such as Toward a Healthy Future: The Second Report of the Health of Canadians, released by the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Ministers of Health in September 1999, and Health Care in Canada: A First Annual Report, released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information in April of this year, provide statistics that help us to identify areas where New Brunswick is doing well and areas where we may need to take action.

In comparison with other provinces, New Brunswick fares well with long life expectancy, low infant mortality and low birth-weight rates, and low breast cancer and respiratory disease mortality rates. However, the number of teenagers who smoke (especially young females), the lung cancer mortality rate, and obesity are significant challenges.

The Committee will continue to examine the available evidence and will offer recommendations in the Wellness Strategy to identify areas where action is needed to ensure New Brunswickers realize the benefits of wellness in the years ahead.

D. WHAT IS GOVERNMENT DOING?

To some extent, all government departments contribute to wellness, through the delivery of health and wellness related programs, or through the impact of their policies and programs on New Brunswickers.

As part of the process to develop a Wellness Strategy, the Committee has completed an initial inventory of government programs that impact on health and wellness (Appendix A). This is a first step to ensure that all government departments will be `aware' and `conscious' of their impact on wellness, and to make sure they think about this when implementing or developing programs.

The inventory was developed with input from all government departments in response to a request to Deputy Ministers to provide information on health and wellness related programs, policies and initiatives, and to identify programs, policies and initiatives that impact on the determinants of health.

The Committee will continue to explore the determinants of health, and further build on and analyze the inventory in areas such as children and youth, seniors, workplaces, etc.

In light of the recent restructuring of government, the committee has identified the opportunity for all government departments to explore, identify and document their contribution to wellness in their corporate strategic planning processes.

CONCLUSION

The Committee plans to develop a Wellness Strategy to:

· Engage individuals, families, communities and the private sector in the challenge to achieve wellness;

· Ensure that all government departments develop policy with an awareness of their impact on wellness; and

· Ensure that government departments are accountable for their impact on the health and wellness of New Brunswickers.

Your Committee looks forward to engaging New Brunswickers in a discussion about wellness, and to submitting a final Wellness Strategy document, including recommendations, to the House during the next session.


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