Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit Barrie Office
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Board meeting notes Feb. 17, 2016

Mar 10, 2016
Health unit’s plan to address climate change; Report finds barriers to universal dental care

Health unit’s plan to address climate change

The Simcoe Muskoka District’s board of health provided input to health unit staff last week about how they are preparing for climate change.

Local surveys show that a growing number of people now believe climate change has serious consequences for people’s health, and that there is growing support for action to mitigate and adapt to it. Environmental health director Steve Rebellato explained that the goal of the health unit’s action plan on climate change is to increase the local population’s resiliency to climate change, and increase their ability to reduce its negative health outcomes. Early steps in the overall plan include a vulnerability assessment, which will help in determining how communities in Simcoe Muskoka are vulnerable to the various impacts of climate change, and will identify actions for reducing these impacts. Once completed, the vulnerability assessment will be shared with municipal partners and will provide an opportunity for community engagement for action.

Municipal councillors on the board of health noted that their municipalities have already begun preparing for climate change through measures such as redesign of storm system culverts; identifying locations for electric vehicle charging stations; replacing street lighting with efficient LED systems; wetland conservation policies; enlarging public transit systems; and switching to hybrid public transit vehicles. They also pointed out that the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and its Small Urban Municipalities Caucus have been calling on municipal governments to take a leading role in managing climate change. Medical officer of health Dr. Charles Gardner noted that the health unit’s strategic plan identifies climate change as an urgent public health issue.

Report finds barriers to universal dental care

While the idea of providing universal dental care for all citizens is popular, achieving this approach in Ontario is not likely. A policy analysis provided to the board of health showed a variety of barriers including: the current economic climate; unpopularity of potential tax increases; resistance to move from a privatized model of care to a wholly publicly funded model; and clauses within the North American Free Trade Agreement. The board of health called on the health unit to develop an alternative proposal to advocate for publicly funded dental care for low-income adults, working poor and seniors with low income or in institutional settings. With less than half of Canada’s low and lower middle income households insured for visits to the dentist, the burden of illness is on those with the least financial ability to access dental care.


Next Meeting

The next meeting of the board of health takes place March 16 at 9:15 a.m.
in the Barrie office, 15 Sperling Drive.

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