Opinion

Letnick: Let’s focus on health prevention

I’m sure most of you have heard these old expressions: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure;” or “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

Both basically mean it’s almost always less painful and more efficient to adopt good practices rather than wait for something to fall apart.

When that “something” is your body, this is especially important. For example, is it better to brush and floss every day, or just let your teeth fall out and get dentures?

These questions are a vital part of our provincial health care system. Obviously, we wish nothing but good health for all British Columbians.

But wishes aren’t enough, as we have to find a way to pay for provincial health care. And it’s vastly more economical to invest in healthy practices than in expensive treatments and care.

Health economics is an area of keen interest to me. I’m actually working on my PhD on the subject and have led many discussions on the subject in caucus and with various groups around the province.

That’s why I’m excited about the strategy announced this week by Premier Christy Clark and Health Minister Michael de Jong.

It’s comprehensive, innovative, and forward-thinking. Some of the highlights include:

• $24 million for a new program called Prescription for Health, giving doctors more tools and resources to work with individuals to develop unique and individual illness prevention programs.

• 50,000 participating patients will be eligible for a subsidy towards a gym membership, comparable physical activity-based program, or a nutritional program.

• Several new and expanded specialty services, such as dietician services at HealthLink BC, and QuitNow, an innovative service for people who wish to quit smoking or chewing tobacco. This is crucial. Chronic disease caused by unhealthy lifestyles (for example, lung cancer in smokers, or diabetes caused by obesity) costs the heath care system more than $2 billion every year.

There are also programs aimed at peer coaching and stress reduction—two sometimes under-appreciated but fundamental aspects of healthy living.

I’m enthusiastic about this program precisely because these aren’t cookie-cutter solutions.

If, for example, you don’t smoke, get regular exercise and eat a balanced diet, those kinds of incentives and programs may not interest you. But if you experience, say, unusually high amounts of stress, make no mistake; that can be just as harmful over the long term.

So a program like Bounce Back: Reclaim Your Health—a free, skills-building program for adults with low mood or high stress, with or without anxiety—might be very beneficial.

In total, the province is investing $68.7 million for this program—and invest is the correct word. Investing in healthy families isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s a smart investment, one that will pay off for generations to come.

Norm Letnick is the Liberal MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country.

www.normletnickmla.bc.ca

 

 

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