Google Translate Disclaimer

Translation on this website is provided by Google Translate, a third-party automated translator tool. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of translations performed by Google Translate, or for any issues or damages resulting from its use.

simcoe and muskoka regions with health unit locations
print header


Inquiries from members of the media can be directed to [email protected] or

705-721-7520 ext. 8533.

Public health is vital to our community

Apr 15, 2024
Public health is a sector within Canada’s health care system that frequently works in the background and often goes unnoticed when things are well.

Dr. Gardner 2023 106x159

By Dr. Charles Gardner, Medical Officer of Health

Public health is a sector within Canada’s health care system that frequently works in the background and often goes unnoticed when things are well. When the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, public health agencies across Canada and around the world moved into the spotlight and stayed there throughout the course of the pandemic. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) played a critical role locally in the front-line pandemic response, providing case and contact management, outbreak response, surveillance and reporting, infection prevention measures, immunization and communications for our residents.

However, responding to infectious disease outbreaks is only one aspect of the ongoing work the health unit does to help keep everyone in our community healthy. Local public health agencies in Ontario are mandated by the province to provide services and advocate for changes that will help to prevent injuries, illness and premature death and promote and protect health. SMDHU offers programs, services and resources to the community that cover a wide range of public health topics and issues.

While people may be aware of the immunization clinics we operate to ensure people can stay up to date with their routine vaccinations, the health unit also offers other clinical services that provide emergency, essential and preventive dental care to eligible children, adults and seniors; and confidential sexual health services including emergency contraception, testing for sexually transmitted infections and free treatment if required.

The health unit inspects many retail businesses and local facilities and educates operators to ensure they understand and follow laws that restrict the sale of tobacco and vapour products to minors and to ensure that smoke-free area rules are obeyed, particularly around local schools. Public health inspectors help to ensure safe drinking water, that restaurants and food premises are safely storing, preparing and handling food, and that personal service settings such as barber shops, salons, spas and tattoo parlors follow essential infection prevention and sanitation measures. The health unit also responds to rabies and other environmental hazards.

We support community and family health by offering prenatal education and breastfeeding support groups throughout Simcoe Muskoka and providing positive parenting resources. We focus on the healthy growth and development of children and youth in many ways, including through working with school boards and other partners to provide educational resources and programs on such topics as physical activity, healthy eating, smoking and vaping, and mental health and well-being.

Collaboration is a key part of public health’s work and we partner with a variety of community organizations and municipalities to address issues affecting our community, such as household food insecurity, substance use and harm reduction, injury prevention, healthy community design, climate change, and emergency preparedness, planning and response.

Health is complex and the conditions of daily living (also known as the social determinants of health), such as where we live and work, the amount of money we have and our social connections can affect our health and well-being. These factors can mean fewer opportunities for good health for some individuals and groups of people. We collaborate with partners and work to address these factors to reduce the negative effects they can have on people’s health. This is done through community engagement and advocating for healthy public policies.

Our work is performed by a staff of dedicated and highly-skilled professionals that include nurses, dietitians, dental hygienists, dental assistants, dentists, public health inspectors, medical doctors, and specialists in epidemiology, research, evaluation, health promotion, communications, human resources, information technology, finance, administration and infrastructure. We operate eight offices in Barrie, Collingwood, Cookstown, Gravenhurst, Huntsville, Midland and Orillia.

For more information about the health unit and its programs visit, or call Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520 Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

Dr. Charles Gardner is the Medical Officer of Health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. To learn more about public health topics, visit

- 30 -

Did you find what you were looking for today?
What did you like about this page?
How can we improve this page?

If you have any questions or concerns that require a response, please contact Health Connection directly.

Thanks for your feedback.
Failed to submit comment. Please try submitting again or contact us at the Health Unit.
Comment already submitted ...