The concept of social welfare functions has been discussed in health economic literature, as it provides a way of examining the extent to which society is prepared to accept a trade-off between efficiency and equity. In this paper requirements for meaningful empirical estimates of the willingness to accept lower per capita health status in order to achieve greater equity are examined. Results from a pilot study aimed at testing the proposed measurement procedure are reported. They show that at least two thirds of the politicians who participated are prepared to accept a lower growth in per capita health in exchange for increased equity. Accordingly, we found a weak empirical support for the common health economic assumption that only total health benefit should guide the use of resources.
Costa Rica is one of the world's success stories in primary health care. During the past 20 years the country has experienced a demographic and epidemiological transition. However, during the 80's the economic recession severely affected the country. The social, economic, political and geographic contexts are important for the assessment of health policy. The longstanding democracy, investments in public education and health all contribute to the peace and stability. Assessment of health policy needs both a quantitative and qualitative approach. The policy-making process--how policies are made, translated into action and evaluated--is a research challenge. The national health policy 1986-1990 includes commitment to Health for All strategy; development of the National Health Care System; strengthening of the health care infrastructure; consolidation of health achievements and undertaking of new problems and approaches on integral care for the population; community participation in all health care system activities; and health care priorities. Important research issues are the relationship between the needs of the population and health policy development and the impacts of health policy on the health of the population. A comprehensive study of policy-making includes studies of policy content, process, output and evaluation of impacts (including economy of health policy), and analysis for policy, i.e. information for policy making, process and policy advocacy. Recent successful health policy issues are child health and HIV/AIDS, while water pollution and traffic accidents have been more problematic policy issues.
This concluding article comments on what we learned from the conference, what we still need to know, and what we need to do now. It describes what participants said about the impact of the conference and the follow-up steps that have been taken so far. In terms of what we learned, there was agreement on the importance of culture in understanding literacy and health literacy; the importance of context; the integral relationship between literacy and health literacy and the concept of "empowerment;" the value of efforts to improve health through literacy and health literacy; and the need for collaboration. We need more and better information on how our various efforts are working; the cost of low literacy; the links between health, education, and lifelong learning; the needs and strengths of Aboriginal people, and the perspectives of Francophone and ethnocultural groups. Specific topics worthy of pursuit are suggested. They are followed by a list of recommendations from the conference related to focussing on language and culture, and to building best practices, knowledge, and healthy public policy. The paper presents some findings from the conference evaluation, which suggests that the conference met its goals. It concludes by reporting on actions that have been taken to implement the conference recommendations, including the establishment of a Health Literacy Expert Committee and the submission of several funding proposals.
This paper reports on the development of patient flow modeling in Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH). The first section provides the context for the initiative. The organizational priority is then presented, with the project's purpose and goals. The initial models are briefly identified. The paper closes with examples of possible future directions for modeling in VCH.
Policies in literacy and health need to address two perspectives: how basic literacy skills influence the health of populations and individuals; and health literacy--the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. There are three potential areas for action to improve literacy and health literacy: the health system, the education system, and within the broader sphere of culture and society. Despite some increasing attention in the last 20 years, low literacy levels remain a major problem in Canada. Policies need to be sensitive to culture, especially among Aboriginal peoples, Francophones and new Canadians. Public policies are needed to: Improve literacy outcomes (for example, support for a pan-Canadian literacy strategy, early childhood education and family literacy programs, and efforts to reduce high school drop out). Improve health literacy (for example, support integrated policy and program development across sectors, integrated research and knowledge translation initiatives, and efforts to build links between literacy and health networks). Reduce disparities by strengthening levels of literacy and health literacy among vulnerable groups.
Canada has a diverse population of 32 million people and a universal, publicly funded health care system provided through provincial and territorial health insurance plans. Public health activities are resourced at provincial/territorial level with strategic coordination from national bodies. Canada has one of the longest-standing genetics professional specialty organizations and is one of the few countries offering master's level training designed specifically for genetic counselors. Prenatal screening is offered as part of routine clinical prenatal services with variable uptake. Surveillance of the effect of prenatal screening and diagnosis on the birth prevalence of congenital anomalies is limited by gaps and variations in surveillance systems. Newborn screening programs vary between provinces and territories in terms of organization and conditions screened for. The last decade has witnessed a four-fold increase in requests for genetic testing, especially for late onset diseases. Tests are performed in provincial laboratories or outside Canada. There is wide variation in participation in laboratory quality assurance schemes, and there are few regulatory frameworks in Canada that are directly relevant to genetics testing services or population genetics. Health technology assessment in Canada is conducted by a diverse range of organizations, several of which have produced reports related to genetics. Several large-scale population cohort studies are underway or planned, with initiatives to harmonize their conduct and the management of ethical issues, both within Canada and with similar projects in other countries.
As population health programs, environmental health services differ fundamentally from other forms of health service delivery. At a time when the health sector is striving for integration, the incorporation of these unique services into the delivery system presents a unique challenge to policy makers and administrators across the country. The University of Alberta recently completed a comprehensive review and redesign of locally governed and delivered environmental health protection services in Alberta. This paper outlines the key issues and unique features surrounding the delivery of environmental health services and presents the study team's suggested approach to addressing these issues.
The author traces the development of the concept of health promotion from 1980s policies of the World Health Organization. Two approaches that signify the modernization of public health are outlined in detail: the European Health for All targets and the settings approach. Both aim to reorient health policy priorities from a risk factor approach to strategies that address the determinants of health and empower people to participate in improving the health of their communities. These approaches combine classic public health dictums with "new" strategies, some setting explicit goals to integrate public health with general welfare policy. Health for All, health promotion, and population health have contributed to this reorientation in thinking and strategy, but the focus of health policy remains expenditure rather than investment.
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