OTTAWA — A national injury prevention plan that aimed to prevent falls and injuries associated with sports and recreation was shelved in 2011 because the wide-reaching strategy was deemed too challenging to implement.
According to documents obtained by Postmedia News under access to information law, an injury prevention task force was established by a government public health council in 2008 to determine how federal, provincial and territorial governments could work together to reduce injuries amongst Canadians.
A report titled Injury Prevention in Canada: An Action Plan (2011-2020) was developed that identified three priority areas: preventing falls in seniors, preventing injuries caused by sports and recreation, and better surveillance of injuries. But response to the plan was “delayed” as the Healthy People and Communities steering committee made up of representatives from Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and provincial and territorial governments went though operational review from 2009 to 2010.
When the report was finally brought to the attention of the steering committee, members decided to disband the injury prevention task force in May 2011. Later, at a December 2011 meeting, steering committee members agreed that the injury prevention plan “should not be published and circulated.” Instead it was forwarded to deputy ministers “for information only.”
Background documents developed by the Healthy People and Communities committee say the decision was made “due to challenges associated with implementing the broad scope and breadth of recommendations in the action plan.”
Health Canada now says the plan was developed “to guide a public health approach to injury prevention and to strengthen collective efforts to reduce injury rates in Canada” and to “provide advice to federal, provincial and territorial governments” — not to be published.
But it seems the task force that developed the plan did not believe that to be the case. In 2011, the Healthy People and Communities committee expressed concern that task force members would view the decision not to publish the fruit of their labours “as an indication of government inaction on injury prevention” and it made an effort to “mitigate negative reactions.”
Task force members were told their work on the report would be used to develop an online dashboard to track best practices in injury prevention across the country, but such a tool has not been published online.
The Healthy People and Communities committee said the risk of not developing the dashboard between 2012 and 2014 was “medium.”
Background documents say the dashboard would “provide a snapshot” of injury prevention practices across the country and could “be used to as an information tool to identify opportunities to share practices across jurisdictions.”
A draft dashboard asks whether each province and territory is enacting so-called best practices for injury prevention including providing fall prevention training to people working with seniors, advocating “healthy and active alternatives to motor vehicles, motorcycles, ATVs and snowmobiles” and enhancing injury databases to ensure timely collection and publication of injury statistics.
Louise Logan, CEO of Parachute, a Canadian charitable organization that raises awareness of injuries and injury prevention in the country, said such a dashboard would be “valuable” and that her organization plans to put together something similar this year.
Logan would not address the shelved plan directly, but said it’s “really important” for Canada to develop a national injury prevention plan, which has been done successfully in countries such as New Zealand and Sweden.
Though many provinces have injury prevention plans, Logan said this is not enough and an overarching national plan is needed.
“We will get further and we will have more success if we are all pulling in the same direction,” she said
Logan disagreed that a broad plan would be challenging to implement and said there are “pretty basic and pretty straightforward” steps the government can take to make people safer.
These include some of the actions outlined in the draft injury prevention dashboard, such as developing concussion diagnosis and management guidelines.
And though recent efforts to introduce a national strategy were quashed, Logan was buoyed by the government’s promise in the fall throne speech to “reduce the injury rate in Canada.” She said she is confident a national strategy can and will be implemented in the near future.
The Healthy People and Communities steering committee is one of three committees that make up the Pan-Canadian Public Health Network which aims to strengthen public health in Canada. The Health People and Communities group specifically deals with healthy weights, mental health and injury prevention.
(By Andrea Hill)