10/07/2013 05:39 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure

It has been an honour to serve as the chair of the Standing Committee on Health over the past six years. During this time, I have had the privilege of hearing testimony from dedicated health-care professionals, health researchers, and scientists, and numerous Canadians who are suffering from an illness or disease or have an ailing family member.

Weaved through the testimonies heard by the Standing Committee on Health is a constant theme: Canada's health-care system must not be limited to taking care of those who are already sick, but help prevent disease and injury in the first place.

An emphasis on prevention means that Canadians and their families will be less likely to live with the devastating effects of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. These diseases are largely preventable.

Prevention also reduces the strain on our health system. That's why our government has made significant investments to ensure that we are supporting Canadians in making well-informed healthy choices for themselves and their families from physical activity and healthy eating to preventing injuries, and smoking cessation. Healthy behaviour, combined with early detection and treatment can greatly reduce the risk of developing heart disease or a stroke. These measures all add up they contribute to a healthier population and reduce our reliance on emergency care.

Supporting cutting-edge health research and innovation is one of the key factors in preventing the development of chronic diseases. That is why our government currently invests approximately $100-million annually in cardiovascular disease research.

We know that cardiovascular disease affects Canadians of all walks of life, and also has a devastating economic impact, costing the economy approximately $22.2 billion per year.

Cancer represents another major health challenge and is one of the leading causes of death in Canada. A sobering statistic finds that approximately two in five Canadians will develop cancer in his or her lifetime and one in four Canadians will die of the disease.

Our government has taken preventative steps by funding the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer to lead the implementation of the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control. The partnership is promoting and accelerating the use of new knowledge and research to bring the benefits of prevention and control of cancer to Canadians. Furthermore, we invest significantly in cancer research through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). By investing in research and health promotion, and supporting efforts to prevent cancer before it begins, our government has made the fight against cancer a key priority.

Our government also works to assist those who are most at risk of developing diabetes by making them aware of practical ways they can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes. And if we reach them sooner, we can help reduce the harm that diabetes complications can cause. That is why our government invests $18 million a year for the Canadian Diabetes Strategy. It focuses on prevention, early detection, and management of diabetes.

Our efforts to improve the health of Canadians are not limited to our physical wellbeing. We have made the mental wellbeing of Canadians a priority as well with significant investments made in this area to ensure that the mental health community is better able to address the needs of Canadians.

In 2007, our government created the Mental Health Commission of Canada. This commission was provided with $130 million over 10 years to develop and promote a national mental health strategy; evaluate and develop anti-stigma campaigns, including public awareness and education; and facilitate knowledge exchange.

Mental illness is something that can affect Canadians of any age, culture or income level. Helping Canadians better understand the impact of mental health on their overall health and wellbeing is critical.

We all agree that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Our government is committed to helping Canadians lead healthy and active lifestyles that will prevent disease and injury while ensuring that Canada's healthcare system is there for Canadian families when they need it.

Together with our partners, our government will continue to work to improve and sustain the health of all Canadians.

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