As part of its Transforming Health Market Insights Series, MaRS examined Canada’s current health care system which it describes as follows:
As it exists now, the Canadian healthcare system—like most health systems globally that were designed in the post-World War 2 era—is a “sick care” system. That is, the system waits for one to become sick before it kicks into reactive action. For the most part, the system was not designed to help prevent the onset of disease but instead to diagnose and treat illness (for what was—at the time—a fairly healthy and young population). Hence, the Canadian healthcare system is designed around an acute care paradigm, where the focus is to address (rather than prevent) urgent issues and manage chronic illnesses.(1)
In addition, various government policies indirectly promote disease, ill-health, and premature death. The first step is recognizing that many of the medical conditions that plague people in Canada—including the major killers—such as diabetes, heart disease, strokes and many cancers(2) are a consequence of animal-based foods, lifestyle and environmental factors. Most of these killers are preventable.
The major emphasis of Canada’s health care system should be preventing Canadians from developing health issues.
The Animal Protection Party of Canada (APPC) proposes policies that promote the consumption of whole food plant-based diets,(3) encourage exercise, and reduce environmental pollutants. These policies would increase people’s well-being and enjoyment of life while reducing the costs of treating health care problems. APPC would introduce fiscal measures to increase the costs of known health risks such as the consumption of animal-based foods and smoking.
The benefits of plant-based or vegan diets are well known.
Such diets benefit people greatly, as the Dieticians of Canada point out:
A healthy vegan diet has many health benefits including lower rates of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer…A healthy vegan diet can meet all your nutrient needs at any stage of life including when you are pregnant, breastfeeding or for older adults.(4)
Animals benefit directly because they would not be raised and slaughtered for food and indirectly because fewer would be used in disease research. The environment will benefit by reducing intensive animal agriculture and, therefore, its contribution to global warming.
The new Canada Food Guide,(5) released in early 2019, reflects the changing approach to healthy eating. The new Guide, introduced by Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, changes the focus on milk and milk products; meat and alternatives; grain products; and fruits and vegetables to, “Eat more plants, and less meat and dairy.”(6)
The Guide suggests that consumers choose more plant-based foods over animal proteins. The Guide states that “The regular intake of plant-based foods – vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and plant-based proteins – can have positive effects on health,” including lower risk of cardiovascular disease, colon cancer and type 2 diabetes.
The APPC supports a universal health care system expanded to include dental care, eye care, and drugs and one that treats and supports people in crisis with such issues as addiction and mental health.
The importance of addressing mental health
Often overlooked, mental health is one of the most pressing health concerns that Canadians face. Mental health issues tend to arise at a young age and can have lasting effects into adulthood, impacting the life of both the afflicted and others around them (7). Thus, it is imperative that individuals receive the psychological care they require starting at a young age.
Unfortunately, there is a disparity in level of access to mental health services, as individuals of a higher socioeconomic status tend to receive more psychological help (8). This emphasizes the growing need for expanding health care to address non-physical issues. Our future is shaped by our young population, thus expanding and enhancing mental health services in the present can have lasting effects well into the future.
1 Transforming health: Shifting from reactive to proactive and predictive care; MaRS, 2019; https://www.marsdd.com/news/transforming-health-shifting-from-reactive-to-proactive-and- predictive-care/
2 Preetha Anand, et al; Cancer is a Preventable Disease that Requires Major Lifestyle Changes, Pharm Res. 2008 Sep; 25(9): 2097–2116. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/ PMC2515569/
3 Segasothy M1, Phillips PA; Vegetarian diet: panacea for modern lifestyle diseases? QJM, 1999 Sep;92(9):531-44. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10627874#
4 What You Need to Know About Following a Vegan Eating Plan; Dietitians of Canada http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vegetarian-Diets/Eating-Guidelines-for-Vegans.aspx
6 Ann Hui, The new Canada’s Food Guide explained: Goodbye four food groups and serving sizes, hello hydration; Globe and Mail, January 22, 2019
7 Malla, A., Shah, J., Iyer, S., Boksa, P., Joober, R., Andersson, N., . . . Fuhrer, R. (2018). Youth Mental Health Should Be a Top Priority for Health Care in Canada. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 63(4), 216-222. doi:10.1177/0706743718758968
8 Steele, L., Dewa, C., Lin, E., & Lee, K. (2007). Education Level, Income Level and Mental Health Services Use in Canada: Associations and Policy Implications. Healthcare Policy | Politiques De Santé, 3(1), 96-106. doi:10.12927/hcpol.2007.19177