This past spring, I was sitting in a reception area at the Scottish Ministry of Health. On the wall next to me was a poster on which the indicators by which the Ministry was going to be judged were clearly outlined. I was so surprised that I literally got up from my chair to get a closer look.
The indicators covered everything from:
- the determinants of health (e.g. reduce the proportion of individuals living in poverty, increase the proportion of young people in learning, training or work),
- risk factors for disease (e.g. reduce the percentage of adults who smoke, reduce the number of individuals with problem drug use),
- the healthcare system (e.g. improve end of life care, reduce emergency admissions to hospital),
- the population’s health (e.g. reduce premature mortality, improve children’s dental health).
And, not only has the government identified the indicators – they also have an independent group reporting on how well they are doing.
I just checked the web sites of the Ontario government, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and Health Quality Ontario, and I can’t see anything remotely similar. The government released “Ontario’s Action Plan for Health Care” early this year, but it didn’t include any specific targets.
The Ministry reports wait times for some procedures and tests, but that’s about it.
Health Quality Ontario reports on the quality improvement activities of hospitals and the quality of care of nursing homes.
However, there is no one place in Ontario where citizens and those working in population health and health care can go to see the health priorities of our government clearly and succinctly described, and how well we are doing.
I know that identifying areas for improvement doesn’t mean they will be achieved. One could argue that Scotland has identified too many priorities. However, they have identified them, and establishing clear health priorities does strike me as important for citizens and those of us working within the system.
What is it about Scotland that enables it to do this, while we can’t seem to do the same thing in Ontario?