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Brief Overview of History of Public Health in Canada
The history of public health has undergone various shifts. In the pre-Confederate days to early in the 20th century, the direction of public health was largely in response to outbreaks of infectious disease. Some of the crucial events during this time included:
- 1832: establishing Board of Health on a temporary basis in Lower Canada following cholera epidemic
- 1849: forming Central Board of Health following cholera epidemic
- 1882: creating Board of Health in Ontario on a permanent basis
- 1882: forming Canadian Sanitary Association
- 1883: creating Société d'hygiène de la province de Québec
- 1910: establishing national Canadian Public Health Association
- 1917: forming Federal Department of Health
- 1918: creating National Committee for Mental Hygiene
During the early to mid-20th century, medical and public health advancements contributed to a decline in infectious disease and the focus of public health shifted to the treatment of chronic diseases. During this time, hospital funding was increased. Later on in the century, the government focused on prevention strategies with an emphasis on investing in prevention and considering the determinants of health in these initiatives. Some of the key reports and initiates that were undertaken during this time include:
- 1974: A New Perspective on Health for Canadians
- 1986: Achieving Health for All: A Framework for Health Promotion
- 1986: First International Conference on Health Promotion, signing of Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion
In the new millennium, the dangers of infectious diseases were brought to light, impacted by their rapid transmission and devastating impacts. In 2003, there was an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which led to 44 deaths in the countries. The outbreak revealed challenges in the country’s public health system including collaboration issues between federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal levels of government. To coordinate and centralize the public health system at the national level, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) was created the following year and gain legal authority in 2006.