Healthy Debate was launched in February of 2011 with one full-time writer and three volunteer editors. Its original focus was on Ontario’s health care system. The site initially published a single article once a week.

In December of 2011, Healthy Debate launched its Opinions section, with contributions from 15 thought leaders, including patient advocates, doctors, nurses, politicians and members of the general public. The opinions section has grown since its launch, and is now open to anyone who wishes to contribute to the debate and make their voice heard (you can submit an opinion piece here).

In July 2012, Healthy Debate partnered with Sunnybrook Hospital to add the Personal Health Navigator, written by Lisa Priest and Paul Taylor, which answers patients’ questions about the health care system.

In May of 2013, Healthy Debate expanded its scope to include Alberta, to help these two provincial health care systems engage in thoughtful dialouge and share both challenges and innovations.

In December of 2013, the Healthy Debate Citizens’ Advisory Council met for the first time. The Council provides advice on health care issues of importance to the public and patients and is made up of representatives from both Alberta and Ontario.

In March of 2014, Healthy Debate began hosting The Rounds Table, a medical education podcast. Listen to the podcast here.

The site now has two staff writers, a rotating student internship, and 12 volunteer editors drawn from both Alberta and Ontario (you can read more about our team here).

Healthy Debate’s Origins: The Toronto Health Policy Citizen’s Council

Andreas Laupacis’ experience with the Toronto Health Policy Citizen’s Council led to the establishment of Healthy Debate. He was inspired by the citizen’s ability to understand complex health policy issues, deliberate respectfully, and generate recommendations that reflected the views of ordinary citizens that were sometimes different from those working within the health care system.

The Council was a group of 25 citizen volunteers (none of whom were involved in health care), who were representative of Toronto’s diverse population. It was established as part of a project that was funded by the  the Canadian Institutes for Health Research to study priority setting in health policy using public engagement.

The Council was provided with information about important health issues, and deliberated about these issues over the course of a weekend.  They met between 2008 and 2010. The Councils’ deliberations were summarized in reports which were shared with health care thought leaders and decision makers so that they could gain insight about the publics’ opinions on complex questions.

There was no attempt to force consensus as part of the deliberations; Council members were asked to respectfully consider each other’s points of view. The council deliberated about issues such as the availability of expensive PET scanning technologies, the relationships between physicians and pharmaceutical companies and hospital accountability to the public.

To Access Reports from the Toronto Health Policy Citizen’s Council click on the links below.

PET Scanning in Ontario

Public Reporting by Ontario Hospitals

Reducing Wait Times and Improving Care in Ontario Emergency Departments

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s “Accepting New Patients Policy”

What Should Specialists Have to Do to Maintain their Competency and What Should They Report to the Public?

Prioritizing Ventilators During an Influenza Pandemic in Ontario

How Should Physicians’ Interactions with Pharmaceutical Companies be Publicly Reported?

Publicly-funded clinical trials on endovascular treatment of multiple sclerosis? The views of a citizens’ council