Mr. Speaker, the issue is among one of the foremost preoccupations for me as the Minister of Health.
I thank the hon. member opposite for bringing the issue forward in the form of this motion. The hon. member is quite right in highlighting the human and economic toll of serious chronic diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and mental illness.
Few families have not been touched at some time by the pain, the anxiety, the fear and the tragedy brought on by such devastating conditions. The Government of Canada understands and I understand that when Canadians are forced to fight these battles they should never be left on their own. They need and warrant our help. The hallmark of a caring society is one that aids people in their time of greatest need.
We can and must do those things. At the same time, we need to support knowledge sharing to ensure that the benefits of research are put into the best practices that will, over time, help lessen suffering by unlocking the key to earlier detection and better management.
Those are among the principles of our new integrated strategy on healthy living and chronic disease. These strategies are being developed by the new Public Health Agency of Canada.
Thanks to an important investment included in last February's federal budget, the strategy brings together, focuses and builds on the many activities that are already helping Canadians deal with the burden of chronic disease.
Non-infectious or chronic diseases do not generally seize the headlines but the truth is that they kill more Canadians every day than all the emerging communicable diseases combined. We know that 82% of deaths and 74% of disabilities are attributable to chronic diseases.
The cost in terms of quality of life is immeasurable. Insofar as it is possible to put a price on suffering, we can say that chronic diseases cost our economy an estimated $70 billion per year.
While chronic diseases can afflict anyone, their burden is not shared equally. Certain groups, low income and aboriginal Canadians, for example, are more apt to suffer from heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer and some types of mental illness than the population at large.
Many chronic diseases are largely preventable and yet more and more Canadians are not sufficiently active or not eating as healthily as they might to ward off chronic disease down the road.
Chronic disease is often dubbed the silent epidemic. We in the Government of Canada, alongside our partners in the provinces and territories and the health and non-profit sectors, can hear the cry for health loud and clear. We hear it and we are acting.
Over the years, Health Canada has worked with its partners to respond to the many urgent needs posed by chronic disease. I know my colleagues will review some of the many disease specific initiatives that have emerged from our many fruitful partnerships, such as the Canadian heart health Initiative and the Canadian diabetes strategy.
Let me spend a couple of moments on the programs that we have or will have with respect to cancer. First is the integrated strategy of healthy living and chronic disease. As we know, in this budget that is before the House, $300 million over five years have been provided, of which a significant portion will fund a component for cancer specific activities in support of the Canadian strategy for cancer control.
Canadian Institutes of Health Research is also involved in research and provided $94 million for cancer research in 2003-04. For 2004-05, cancer research programs benefited from $93 million, in addition to $12 million for cancer related Canada research chairs.
There has been a $10 million one time grant for the 2005 budget for cancer research in recognition of the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope.
The Canadian breast cancer initiative will get $4 million annually to support research, care and treatment, professional education, programs for early detection and access to information for women.
The Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance gets $3 million annually to support high quality research on all aspects of disease.
Many other programs that are currently in place.
We are also fully engaged on a number of very worthwhile fronts with the Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada.
The Government of Canada is also investing intensively in research into the causes and potential treatments for various chronic conditions. In the area of diabetes, for instance, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research committed $28 million in 2003-04 alone.
Since 1997, the Canada Foundation for Innovation has awarded another $27 million to support diabetes research at universities and research hospitals, while six of Canada's research chairs specialize in this disease alone.
Mental health is often overlooked as a chronic disease , but it may be just as devastating and debilitating for Canadian families. In making mental health one of my own personal priorities, I recently appointed the Hon. Michael Wilson as a special adviser for mental health in the federal workplace. I have asked my cabinet colleagues to appoint a senior official within their ministries to help coordinate federal policies and activities in the area of mental health in our own workplace.
I think we can all agree that the range and depth of initiatives underscore the commitment of the Government of Canada to control the prevalence of chronic disease. However we also appreciate that there are compelling reasons to integrate our efforts, to build on our laudable progress and to create some powerful synergies. Indeed, that is the approach adopted in budget 2005 which builds on previous investments with another $300 million over five years for the integrated strategy on healthy living and chronic disease. If I might add, this approach is supported by the 2004 accord on health care of the first ministers of September 2004.
The strategy will include a series of activities to promote healthy eating and encourage physical activity and healthy weight in order to help control chronic diseases. It also encompasses a series of complementary disease specific activities in the area of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, as I have indicated.
For example, funding for the Canadian diabetes strategy will rise from $15 million to $18 million a year. The aboriginal diabetes initiative will also be extended and enhanced. Its funding will rise to $25 million in the first year and eventually up to $55 million as part of a $700 million aboriginal health package that was also agreed upon at the first ministers meeting in 2004.
The investment will support diabetes prevention and health promotion and improved treatment and surveillance.
I am confident that the integrated strategy on healthy living and chronic disease is the right way to go. It will result in better health for all Canadians and a more sustainable health care system down the road.
The reason for my confidence is that the strategy adopts an innovative approach comprising three interrelated pillars. First, it promotes health by addressing the conditions that lead to unhealthy eating, physical inactivity and unhealthy weight. I have been personally engaged in my own struggle with all of those issues and have been exercising almost every day for the last three months.
Second, the strategy seeks to prevent chronic disease through focused and integrated action on major chronic conditions and their risk factors.
Third, it will furnish us with platforms for early detection and management of chronic diseases.
We take a great deal of justifiable pride in the knowledge that Canadians are among the healthiest people in the world. They are served well by a health care system that is one of the best in the world. There is no question that health care system can be improved upon and that is what I suppose all of us across the country are engaged in.
A long, healthy life has become something of an expectation of living in a wealthy society and yet, ironically, there is a downside to longevity and prosperity. However that does not mean we need to lose ground when it comes to our enviable health status. What it means is that we need to focus on priorities. We need to recognize that chronic diseases pose a real and growing threat to our population.
We need to commit to action. We need to work together to address the underlying conditions that lead to chronic disease. We need to work in partnership, governments, health professionals, researchers, the non-profit sector, all those with a shared interest in maintaining a healthy population and a sustainable health care system. We need to work together in an integrated fashion tying together surveillance and monitoring, prevention and health promotion, knowledge sharing and best practices, and early detection and better disease management.
Those are the key elements of our integrated strategy on healthy living and chronic disease. I am confident that they will lead us down the right path toward better health for all Canadians.
Once again I applaud the hon. member opposite for his well placed concerns and for bringing this urgent matter to the floor of the House. While we are making progress on the path I just outlined, the motion is worth considering in the context of the direction we are taking.