Aging with grace the evolution of health care

October 2010   Comments

I have recently noticed a surge in the number of media reports claiming that Canada’s medicare system is unsustainable. Several pundits, particularly those who favour increased privatization of health care, are actively perpetuating the idea that the population bulge of aging baby boomers will put an unbearable strain on the public health system and, ultimately, bankrupt it.

Rachel Bard

As part of our mandate to advocate for healthy public policy, CNA wants to uncover the facts surrounding this issue. Early next year, the association, in collaboration with partners from a variety of sectors, will lay out plans for a comprehensive national strategy on aging and health.

The words aging and health are purposeful. Nurses do not see aging as a disease, but rather as a life transition that brings with it health and social challenges that need to be managed. Imagined to be broad in scope, the strategy will have to take into account the thorny and interconnected issues of housing, poverty and income, along with delivery of services in diverse areas of care — including primary health care, community care, home care, mental health and chronic disease management. What is needed is a holistic plan that connects the dots surrounding these issues, makes projections over an extended time horizon and takes into consideration the cost of inaction. According to auditor general Sheila Fraser, a failure to invest in long-term projections means there is no way of knowing if the health system is sustainable. CNA agrees that it is high time we started to fill this gap in our knowledge.

The key to a sustainable medicare system is a well-planned, long-term strategy that addresses the evolving health needs of an aging population and ensures that Canadians are realizing full value for their health dollar. Making strategic investments now in various areas of care would yield important health-system savings and reduce the increasing financial and emotional burdens on the elderly and their families. Now is the time to build a comprehensive plan to ensure that medicare continues to serve us all well into the future.

Rachel Bard, RN, M.A.Ed.

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