McGuinty government wants new national public health agency hub in Ontario

Archived Release

McGuinty government wants new national public health agency hub in Ontario

Ministry of Health

Toronto-Hamilton-Guelph Research Triangle a Public Health Powerhouse TORONTO, April 6 - The McGuinty government is urging the federal government to locate the new national public health agency in Ontario to take advantage of the critical mass of world-class public health, research and medical expertise within the Toronto-Hamilton-Guelph "health research triangle," Health and Long-Term Care Minister George Smitherman said today. "Toronto is the ideal location for a regional hub, giving the new agency strong international visibility and direct access to the combined health care and scientific might of Toronto, Hamilton and Guelph," Smitherman said. "Ontario's recent experience with SARS demonstrated that critical public health care capacity needs to be located near major population centres. "The synergies between Toronto, Hamilton and Guelph are second to none. Among other attributes, Toronto brings the real-world experience of managing the SARS outbreak. When you add to that McMaster University's international reputation in health policy, evaluation and information, and the University of Guelph's world-renowned expertise in animal and water-borne illnesses, you have a public health powerhouse here in Ontario." The minister noted that the Toronto-Guelph-Hamilton triangle is home to the largest training program for public health specialists, the largest public health unit in the country, the largest concentration of academic, scientific and health research capacity, the strongest critical care and trauma care community, world-class biomedical research, and international expertise in zoonotic (animal to human) disease. Smitherman emphasized the government's support for a national network of regional hubs supporting a common national system, with the Toronto-Hamilton- Guelph being one key centre. The Ontario government is committed to develop a pan-Canadian partnership with the federal government and other provincial public health centres. The first Walker Report (The Expert Panel on SARS and Infectious Disease Control) recommended the creation of a provincial public health agency for Ontario. Smitherman said this proposed new provincial agency would have a close link to the new national agency. "It would be an enormous benefit to co-locate the provincial public health function and the national agency's administrative function in the Toronto region to foster effective federal and provincial collaboration," said Smitherman. This news release is available on our website at: http://www.health.gov.on.ca Version fran├žaise disponible Honourable Carolyn Bennett, P.C., M.P. Minister of State (Public Health) Brooke Claxton Building Tunney's Pasture Ottawa, ON K1A 0K9 Dear Minister Bennett: I would like to thank you once again for the opportunity to meet with you on March 2, 2004 to discuss the establishment of the new national public health agency. I found the interaction very enlightening and I am eager to continue to work together in moving forward with this important component of Canada's public health infrastructure. I want to make it clear that Ontario endorses the vision set out in the Naylor Report of a "hub and spoke" model for the development of the agency. As you are aware, the Initial Report of Ontario's Walker Panel also recommended that Ontario establish its own public health agency with strong linkages to the proposed national agency. Close ties between what could become the two largest public health agencies in Canada clearly would be facilitated and promoted by both organizations being located in close proximity to each other. Ontario has the population base, academic, scientific, research and logistical capacity to ensure that the national agency maximizes opportunities for linkages and strategic partnerships with other provinces and countries. In the world of scarce public dollars, economies of scale are increasingly important in providing public services. This principle is equally important for health research. By locating the proposed national agency within Ontario's health research triangle, consisting of Toronto, Guelph and Hamilton, we would maximize the ties between these cities and improve the opportunities to undertake high quality, health research. But, equally importantly, by building on the existing clinical and research infrastructure in and around the triangle, we would minimize the cost to taxpayers. This geographic triangle forms a world-class centre of biomedical research, with the largest concentration of academic and health science expertise in Canada. Hamilton has McMaster University and its world-renowned team of scientists in medicine, geography, biology and biochemistry and established networks within the international scientific and medical communities. The city also has major hospital systems - Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton - that focus on research. In addition, Hamilton has appropriate level three laboratory facilities and expertise, certainly as much as is required for most work done by a Canadian public health. McMaster also has, through the Faculty of Health Sciences' world-renowned Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, strengths in research transfer, health policy development, evaluation of care and health infomatics. Its Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis (CHEPA) has an international reputation for the development of evidence-based medicine. The University is also home to one of the province's five Public Health Research Education and Development (PHRED) programs. The Hamilton PHRED is a tripartite program consisting of McMaster, the City of Hamilton and the University of Guelph, that leads the Effective Public Health Practice Project and, among other strategic directions, provides leadership in undergraduate, graduate and continuing professional education for public health professionals. McMaster scientists work with the University of Guelph, which has expertise in zoonotic disease, and microbiologists and epidemiologists who are experts on food and water borne illnesses. Guelph also houses the Animal Health Laboratory, the Canadian Research Institute for Food Safety, a regional office of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the main office of Ontario's Ministry of Agriculture and Food. These centres of excellence in Guelph are extensively linked to international academic centres in animal research and offer the opportunity to significantly enhance Canada's expertise in zoonotic disease and food and water borne illnesses. Ontario's capital, Toronto would be the logical location for the administrative centre for the triangle and would serve as the ideal link between the triangle and the federal agency. Toronto would also provide the national agency with prominent international visibility and ready access to other public health agencies and resources. Furthermore, Toronto has a solid professional/intellectual foundation, including major teaching hospitals and universities, on which to build to ensure a top-quality response from the national agency in order to protect the health of all Canadians. Toronto is also the headquarters for three major CIHR institutes (Institute for Population and Public Health, Institute for Genetics, and the Institute of Infection and Immunity and has the largest concentration of academic and health science research in Canada. In addition, the presence of the largest public health unit in the country, Toronto Public Health, with specialist expertise and extensive experience in the management of infectious disease would further add to the critical mass of skilled and knowledgeable personnel, and the potential strategic partnerships. The government of Ontario is prepared to work in conjunction with our provincial, territorial and national colleagues to establish a process that allows for pan-Canadian benefit from this critical mass of academic, research, medical and specialist resources located in the Toronto area. At the same time, Ontario would strongly recommend that the office of the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada be located in Ottawa. As the official responsible to provide strategic oversight and direction to Canada's public health system, it is critically important to ensure that the CPHOC is effectively linked to all relevant federal government departments and officials. If the CPHOC is located in Ottawa, that person will be able to act as a bridge between Health Canada and the agency and facilitate a strong relationship between these two organizations. In addition, an Ottawa location will enhance the ability of the CPHOC to connect with the federal government's senior decision-makers and ensure they clearly understand the importance and the benefits of a strong public health system. These effective linkages to the other major components of Canada's governmental infrastructure will be integral to the agency's success. The national advisory committee clearly indicated the need for additional federal investments to strengthen the public health system as a whole, of which the proposed agency will be one piece. I look forward to discussing this with you further and in working with you in the exciting task of developing a national public health resource that will provide effective and responsible leadership to public health within Canada and around the world. Yours truly, George Smitherman Minister c: Honourable Pierre Pettigrew, Minister of Health Ian Green, Deputy Minister, Health Canada Phil Hassen, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Health & Long-Term CareFor further information: Members of the media: Eva Lannon, Minister's Office, (416) 327-4320; Tanya Cholakov, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, (416) 314-6197; Members of the general public: (416) 327-4327, or (800) 268-1154