Keynote: Health Minister points to three keys to sustainable health care

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Philpott FMF 2016

Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott shared three key lessons her patients have taught her about building a sustainable health care system in Thursday’s well-attended keynote speech at Family Medicine Forum.

Dr Philpott delivered her remarks as the recipient of the 2016 CFPC/Scotiabank Family Medicine Lectureship Award, which recognizes an outstanding national or international figure who has contributed significantly to medicine, family medicine, and/or the health and well-being of the population in Canada and/or around the world.

Framing her speech around the case of a family she treated in her family health team in Markham, Ontario, before entering politics, Dr Philpott said the three lessons she wanted to share with her family medicine colleagues are:

  1. Insist on equity (or fairness)
  2. Stretch and share
  3. Be a strong champion for primary care

Expanding on each point, Dr Philpott said insisting on equity involves addressing unacceptable health care inequities, such as those related to poverty. She pointed to the relatively high rates of diabetes, suicide, and infectious diseases among Indigenous populations as crises to address. Dr Philpott noted progress is being made but there is still much to do, and said the government is committed to working with health care providers to address these concerns.

Dr Philpott’s call to “stretch and share” referred to the need for family physicians to expand their scope of practice and recognize the benefits of interdisciplinary care. She said the family in her story had complex needs, including the consequences of unmanaged diabetes, and she had to stretch her skills and share the workload with her interdisciplinary colleagues to care for these patients. Stretching also refers to taking on new roles, such as academic and research opportunities, to extend your reach in health care.

Dr Philpott said delegates’ attendance at FMF reflected their dedication to stretching their skills and applauded the FMF theme of “Connect, Learn, Grow.”

As for Dr Philpott’s third point, the need to be a strong champion of primary care, she said evidence shows that health systems grounded in primary care have the best health outcomes while also being sustainable. She added that some provinces are moving in this direction, and the more they do so the more we will see these results. In her patients’ case, the family dealing with complications of diabetes was connected with a team of advanced paramedics who were also linked to her family health team. Through this regular contact, the paramedics discovered the two family members who had diabetes were not taking their insulin properly; once this was addressed, one of the individuals went from having five hospitalizations in a 12-month period to zero.

Concluding her speech by repeating her three tenets as a musical mantra, Dr Philpott received a standing ovation.

The College of Family Physicians of Canada thanks Dr Philpott for joining us at FMF.