In a recent opinion poll, Canadians were asked to choose the one symbol or achievement that best represents their country. Things like the maple leaf, hockey, cold weather or even donuts may come to mind, but they didn’t make the top spot. The winner, you may ask? Our public, universal health care system.
Canadians really do take things for granted, and health care is certainly one of them. Sure, there are always problems. Waiting lists for some services are still too long, but by and large, we enjoy perhaps the most advanced and cost-effective medical systems in the world. It wasn’t always this way, however. Former Saskatchewan Premier Tommy Douglas founded the first universal health insurance system back in the early 1960s, and it was only a few years later that the first national system was created by the federal government.
South of the border, special congratulations should be given to President Barrack Obama for finally establishing long-overdue health care reform.
The rest of the world isn’t so fortunate, and developing countries struggle every year to provide their citizens with health care coverage. In fact, sixty years ago this week, the World Health Organization celebrated its first World Health Day, an annual celebration that takes place every April 7th. The goal of the event is to create awareness about health care issues throughout the world.
Each year has a different theme, and this year’s is called “1,000 Cities – 1,000 Lives.” It focuses on opening up public spaces to health, such as parks, town hall meetings, clean-up campaigns, or closing off portions of streets to motorized vehicles. It’s a way of cleaning up our cities and making them healthier places to live and work. It’s an example of taking preventative action to ensure people don’t get sick in the first place, which is real health care in action (as opposed to “sick care,” which rehabilitates people only after they have an illness).
Cities all over the world are creating “car-free zones” to allow bikers, pedestrians and families to enjoy the beautiful spring weather outdoors without the traffic jams and the resulting noise and air pollution from automobiles.
But focus should also be placed on the hundreds of millions of people around the world, many of them children, who cannot afford to see a doctor or go to a hospital when they’re sick. Perhaps the saddest fact is that diseases which are entirely preventable, such as malaria and diarrhea, lead to millions of deaths every year. These could easily be prevented by providing communities in the developing world with basic medical care and committing greater resources towards clean drinking water and proper sanitation.
Canadians may not have to worry about issues like these anymore, but it doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility towards helping others throughout the planet have the kind of health care we do. If we work together, we can eradicate preventable diseases so that some time in the future, the annual World Health Day event may become unnecessary.
“Together We Can Make A Difference”