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Health care, not disease care, creates healthy communities

AMHERST – Dr. John Ross, emergency physician and professor at Dalhousie University, wants community health boards in Nova Scotia to receive more funding.

“I think we need to be spending more money on what you’re doing and a little bit less money on me and my homeys,” said Ross, guest speaker at the Community Credit Union Business Innovation Centre in Amherst Tuesday night.

Before his talk, more than $42,000 in wellness funds were distributed by the Cumberland County Community Health Boards, of which there are three, to local organizations that help improve the health and well-being of people living in Cumberland County.

“It’s great you’re being recognized and made the most of your $42,000 but there should be a few more zeros after each one of those cheques, in my opinion,” said Ross.

He pointed to the millions of dollars spent in Nova Scotia to provide his profession with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, and says it would be nice to see much more of that money funneled to health boards so they can do more to support local organizations.

“It’s an upside-down system where almost all of the oxygen gets sucked out of the room by acute care and chronic care, and not a whole lot goes to the upstream stuff that you have been thinking about and applying for and producing for you residents,” said Ross.

Part of the problem is that quantifying the benefits provided by his profession is much easier than quantifying the benefits provided by health boards.

“It’s easy to measure the number of people who show up at the emergency department every year, and exactly what times of the day, and days of the week they showed up. I can give you reams of data on all the folks who showed up and what they’re coming in with,” said Ross. “But how many people here tonight prevented the heart attack or the stroke or helped the pre-diabetic become a normal person again after they started doing physical activity and eating different stuff? That’s hard to prove. When you give an argument for doing this, they say, ‘show me the data.’”

Ross says emergency care is disease care, not health care.

“It’s mislabeled. We should call it the disease care system. Call it what it is, and then we can wrap our head around it,” said Ross.

“I’m a disease care provider, I’m not a health care provider. I’m an emergency doctor. I don’t do prevention stuff,” he added. “I wait for you to have some sort of misfortune and then me and my group kicks in.”

He encouraged the people and organizations in attendance to keep doing what they’re doing; providing healthy food and healthy living to the residents of Cumberland County.

“Change will come from the edge, it’s not going to come from the core,” said Ross. “The core is invested in what they’re doing. We invented this, why would we want to change it? Change will always come from the outside.”

Cumberland County’s wellness funds are divided among the three Cumberland Health Boards: SOAR, Springhill Oxford Amherst and Region, $22,000; Pugwash and Region, $10,800; and SPAR, Southampton, Parrsboro, Advocate & Region, $9,500.

The wellness funds are made available through annual funding to the Nova Scotia Health Authority from the Department of Health and Wellness.

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