Paddling in the same direction

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 46, No. 7, September 2004, Page 320 Editorials

As I think back over my years of involvement with the BCMA, one of my fondest memories is of the time I spent with the Council on Health Promotion (COHP). I enjoy working toward improvements in the health care system and for those who have traditionally fallen through the cracks. When lobbying efforts bear fruit, it makes the time spent in meetings, traveling to meetings, and meeting about meetings all worthwhile.

In previous years, COHP juggled many worthy projects at one time. Unfortunately, these projects tended to compete simultaneously for the finite resources of the organization. Last year the council made a decision to narrow its focus. This move has proven to be both strategic and effective. It has allowed the council members and BCMA support staff to create an opportunity for significant change. 

As a family doctor, I know only too well the shortcomings of the health care system in caring for individuals suffering with dementia. The Council on Health Promotion had an excellent series of motions that called on the government to develop a coordinated strategy to care for people affected by dementia. What was lacking was the momentum to take these motions from statements to deliverables.

The council’s 2003–2004 Seniors Living Well project provided this needed momentum: public service announcements raised public and media awareness of seniors health issues, and a seniors health fair was attended by politicians who agreed that our concerns were their concerns. Plus, the project allowed COHP to build relationships with other nonprofit organizations, such as the Alzheimer Society, and to meet with representatives from the Ministry of Health Services. 

In May 2004, the BCMA published Building Bridges: A Call for a Coordinated Dementia Strategy in British Columbia. This paper played a significant role in causing the Ministry of Health Services to recognize that greater attention must be given to dementia care and its place in the health care system. Today, the working group for the case definition of dementia has been established as the first step to including dementia under the Ministry of Health Services’ Chronic Disease Management program. Pharmacare is also considering funding of dementia medications, and the BCMA will continue to lobby Pharmacare to do the right thing. 

While working with COHP, I witnessed what can happen when many people stick their oars in the water and paddle in the same direction. The council has achieved much over the past year and I feel privileged to have been part of COHP’s numerous accomplishments during that time. As COHP embarks on a new year under the direction of a new chair, I wish all council members continued success in their project-based approach to achieving meaningful results in health promotion.


Heidi M. Oetter, MD. Paddling in the same direction. BCMJ, Vol. 46, No. 7, September, 2004, Page(s) 320 - Editorials.

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