Modern Public Health Legislation – moving from a prescriptive approach to a health outcomes approach

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BC Place – Session 2, Monday, May 29, 2006 from 14:00 – 15:30

Abstract Title: Modern Public Health Legislation – moving from  a prescriptive approach to a health outcomes approach

Presenting Author:
Paul Bailey
Director, Strategic Policy
BC Ministry of Health
4th Floor, 1515 Blanshard Street
Victoria BC V8W 3C8

Additional Authors:
Dr. Ron Dovell
Executive Director, Health Protection
Population Health and Wellness

Dr. Brian Emerson
Medical Consultant
Population Health and Wellness
BC Ministry of Health
4th Floor, 1515 Blanshard Street
Victoria BC V8W 3C8

To outline the background and process of key steps for modernization of public health legislation in British Columbia.

Modern public health legislation is necessary to guide government action with respect to assessing and managing risk to the public’s health. During the last quarter of the 20th century, public health legislation and infrastructure in Canada did not kept pace with the rapid changes in biotechnology, globalization, and information technology and as a result, the capacity of public health to respond to the demands placed on it became seriously compromised, as evidenced by the serious recent public health issues such as contamination of water supply in communities in Ontario and Saskatchewan, the spread of West Nile Virus and SARS and increasing concerns regarding food safety. In response to this need, beginning in 2001 the BC Ministry of Health began to modernize its public health legislation.

Public health legislation is a cornerstone of effective public health service delivery. It provides the powers, duties, and functions for the government, health authorities, and public health officials to do their jobs, and assures the public that government is working
to protect and improve their health. The approach for the development of modern legislation in BC will be presented for discussion in three categories:

1. The context for the need for modern public health legislation in BC
2. Priority needs resulting in four new pieces of legislation
a. Food Safety Act
b. Drinking Water Protection Act
c. Community Care and Assisted Living Act
d. Public Health Act.
3. Key challenges and processes in developing public health legislation

Significance of Modern Legislation:
Up-to-date public health legislation is required to protect and improve the health of the population and to influence planning to address issues across the determinants of health.