Public Health in The Public Eye: Motivating Sustained Investment

The COVID-19 pandemic has granted unprecedented attention on public health and some of its various important and interdependent parts that, arguably, under normal circumstances, work quietly behind the scenes without much visibility to most Canadians.

In this paper, StrategyCorp Senior Advisor and population health knowledge translation expert Michelle Gagnon begins by looking at fundamental public health definitions and concepts, including how public health is organised across Canada and the essential services it delivers that are distinct from the health care system.

She provides a brief history of public health in Canada to establish the context for deriving a few observations from the COVID-19 pandemic. These observations lead to important learnings for public health and its many and varied stakeholders, most importantly, the public. Three recommendations are offered to move these opportunities forward:

  • Public health reforms and budgets need to consider the principles of health equity and social justice to identify the most appropriate, consistent, and sustainable investments across the country and population groups, both during a pandemic and otherwise.
  • Public health reforms and budget decisions should be based on high quality knowledge and evidence, and include sustainable, future-oriented investments in public health surveillance and data governance systems, and research, evaluation and knowledge translation infrastructure and expertise.
  • To build knowledge capacity and leadership to motivate sustained investments in public health, public health leaders and key partners should invest in new and innovative ways to translate and mobilize foundational knowledge about public health and its impact to non-experts, which could include politicians, the media and the public.