Questioning BC’s Political Parties and Where They Stand on Healthy Living

In January, I answered my phone and it was Rob Shaw from the Times Colonist wanting to know what we thought about an Auditor General report that said BC spends too little on prevention.  But this is not new. Public Health Advocates have been calling for investments in prevention for decades, often called the ‘six percent solution’.

Prevention has always taken second-place to acute care. And that is understandable, if you’re sitting in an emergency room or waiting for surgery for a loved one, you expect those healthcare systems to be there and to be first rate.

And yet, when it comes to chronic disease, we are dealing with a slow but mammoth-sized epidemic and you know what they say about “the bigger you are, the harder you fall”. And like the cliché about turning around the titanic, turning the rates of chronic disease around is going to take time.

The Provincial Health Officer estimates that the cost of chronic diseases takes 80% of the combined budgets of acute care, pharmacare and the Medical Services Plan.[i] And more than 50% of chronic diseases are preventable through healthy living.i  So,  if we can find a way to invest more in upstream prevention – it may be what ends up slowing the growth rate in health spending. And ironically what may be needed to increase the sustainability of our public healthcare system.

Given what we know about what is needed to prevent chronic disease, BCAHL (like so many other NGOs) is asking the political parties where they stand on these issues.  We recently sent all four major parties a letter asking them to answer the questions below. We hope to have the answers back in April and we’ll share them with you right here.

What about you, what would you like to see in a healthy living platform?

  1. Does your party have a specific chronic disease prevention (healthy living /health promotion) plan? 
    1. Would you consider increasing the amount allocated to disease prevention (healthy living/health promotion) within the health or provincial budget?
  1. Does your party have a poverty reduction strategy?
    1. If not, are there any measures your party will implement to reduce the number of people living below the poverty line in BC?
    2. If yes, please detail the specific policies and actions that will comprise your strategy.
    3. If yes, will the strategy have targets and timelines? What will those be and who will be held responsible for achieving them?
  1. Will your party adjust income assistance rates on an ongoing basis to account for the real costs of a nutritious diet and market rental housing?
  1. What will your party do to increase access and affordability of fresh vegetables and fruit in rural and remote communities?
    1. Will you provide incentives to encourage local agricultural production and apply disincentives for those using designated farmland for non-agricultural purposes?
  1. Would your party be willing to introduce a tax on sugary drinks to limit their over-consumption?
  1. What will your party do to increase access and affordability of quality childcare?
    1. What measures will you take to ensure BC’s most vulnerable children are provided with quality childcare, early childhood development and family wellness services?
    2. Will you work towards an affordable, universal childcare system delivered by early childhood educators?
  1. What will your party do to increase the ability of British Columbians to walk, cycle or be more active on a regular basis?
    1. Would your party provide additional new funding to local governments to assist with the renovation and/or replacement of ageing recreation facilities?
    2. Would your party provide resources for communities to audit and design or retro-fit their communities according to age-friendly guidelines?
    3. Would your party be willing to increase the amount allocated to support cycling and pedestrian facilities?
  1. What policies will your party put in place to prevent British Columbians from starting to smoke, to protect citizens from second-hand smoke and assist smokers to quit?
    1. Will your party expand smoke-free housing options in BC?
    2. Will your party ban the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies?
    3. Will your party change provincial film ratings to protect youth audiences from tobacco promotion by making tobacco imagery criteria for 18A classification? (with the exception of depictions of historical figures and/or the dire health consequences of tobacco use)
    4. Will your party make youth related films with tobacco imagery ineligible for provincial film subsidies?
  1. Please outline any other initiatives in your party’s platform that would promote/support healthy living for British Columbians.


[i] Perry Kendall, Investing in Prevention: Improving Health and Creating Sustainability, BC Office of the Provincial Health Officer(September 2010)