Health is the backbone that supports all work and activities. The importance of health is even greater under a demanding student life that easily becomes taxing to the mind and body. Stories for Humanities (SFH)—an international participatory media organization—focused on health for their latest magazine issue.
On Nov. 25, an event held at the McCord Museum celebrated the launch of the new issue of SFH STORIES magazine on the theme of Quebec health care. Over five months, submissions from individuals, organizations, businesses, and elected officials on their perspectives and experiences in Quebec health care were collected and published in the magazine. The launch event engaged the public as participants in an expert-led panel discussion.
Among the many topics discussed was the subject of prevention and sustainable health. Dr. Alain Poirier, former national director of public health for Quebec, vice-president at the Institut National de Santé Publique du Québec (INSPQ) and a panelist at the event, believes that most solutions to health problems do not lie exclusively within the health care system, but extend into all other sectors.
“When we think about health, we think about the health [care] system […,] the doctors, the nurses, the surgeons, the medication, and all that stuff,” Dr. Poirier said. “That’s important. I’m not saying it’s not, […,] but globally, when you take a step back, and you look at the system, the improvement in the past and those that will come are coming from other sectors [.…] All these things, you can put globally into the term ‘prevention.’”
During the panel discussion, Dr. Poirier gave an example of the increase in Canadian life expectancy from 50 years at the beginning of the 20th century to 80 years by the end. While the 30 year gain in life expectancy over 100 years is significant, only eight years of those 30 years came from improvements in the accessibility or quality of health services. In other words, the increased life expectancy came mainly due to improvements in other environmental factors, such as poverty reduction, better education, and improvements in water and air quality.
“The way we translate this situation is to say that health is in all policies,” Dr. Poirier said. “[…] When you start analyzing health care problems, you [must] go upstream to see what is the cause and what is the solution.”
In Dr. Poirier’s holistic view of health, health care is everyone’s business and responsibility.
“Sustainable health is prevention, not cure,” Dr. Poirier said. “Cure is important […,] but […] most of the solution will come from [other sectors and specialists] who will transform our way of improving our GDP with sustainable jobs […] and ecological way of thinking about our society, not only […] growth for growth or jobs for jobs.”
Health is closely tied to surrounding environmental factors such that human health is most often a reflection of the lifestyle choices presented by one’s environment.
“Our environment facilitates our choice,” Dr. Poirier said. “[…] We are asking more of the planet than the planet can deliver. We [must] focus on an ecological viewpoint of health, so [that] the planet is our health system and the doctors are not.”