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SOUNDING THE ALARM

- HKPR Board of Health to Send Letter to Premier and Health Minister Sounding Alarm Over Changes to Dental Programs -


(COBOURG) – The local health unit is warning that changes to dental programs delivered by Ontario health units could lead to a service gap that will hurt vulnerable children locally, and across the province.

At the November meeting in Cobourg, Board of Health members heard from Dr. Laleh Sadeghi, the Director of Oral Health with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit about concerns over the proposed integration of dental health programs offered to children and youth. While the program integration is designed to make it less confusing for families looking to access dental care, Dr. Sadeghi told the Board that two related changes being considered by the Ontario government are worrisome for the local Health Unit:

• Health units would no longer be required under the Ontario Public Health Standards (OPHS) to offer preventive dental services to children in their communities. The OPHS set out the services and programs that health units are mandated to provide. The dental preventive services have been shown to be very effective in reducing cavity rates among children, according to the Health Unit, and their loss could mean more local children suffer from dental problems.

• As part of the integration, some children with urgent dental conditions will no longer be eligible for one full course of dental treatment to restore dental health, as is currently offered through the Children in Need of Treatment program.

“There is a real fear that these changes will lead to a decline in the oral health of children in our community,” said Dr. Sadeghi.

In her presentation she noted the changes are particularly concerning in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes, where there is a higher rate of tooth decay among Kindergarten students. Over the last three years, Health Unit screening in local schools has found approximately 37 per cent of Junior Kindergarten and Senior Kindergarten students suffer from some form of tooth decay.

“The rate of tooth decay among young children is on the rise,” Dr. Sadeghi notes, “and that is worrisome when we know that dental infection, if left untreated, can cause pain and prevent children from being able to properly eat, speak, sleep and learn.”

The Board approved a resolution and motion to send a letter to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and provincial health minister Dr. Eric Hoskins outlining the concerns. Copies of the letter and resolution will also be circulated to other Ontario health units for their information and support.

The changes will create “a new service gap that will result in an oral health disparity for these vulnerable children,” the Board of Health letter reads in part.

Medical Officer of Health Updates

Dr. Noseworthy provided the Board with the following updates:

Smoking Prohibited on Patios, Sports Fields and Playgrounds:
As of January 1, 2015, it will be illegal for Ontario residents to smoke on bar and restaurant patios, playgrounds and public sports fields and surfaces. It will also be illegal to sell tobacco on university and college campuses.
These changes to the Smoke-Free Ontario Act are designed to limit smoking in public places, reduce exposure to smoking, and make it more difficult for young people to buy tobacco.
“The more you can denormalize tobacco smoking, the more chances you have of preventing people from starting to smoke,” Dr. Noseworthy said.

Baby-Friendly Initiative (BFI):
The Health Unit has been working towards achieving a BFI designation for the past couple of years. In October, an assessor with BFI Ontario visited the Health Unit’s Port Hope office to conduct a pre-assessment of the organization’s level of compliance. After conducting a number of personal interviews and reviewing organizational resources, the assessor submitted a report on the Health Unit’s readiness in preparation for a final assessment planned for early 2015.

QUITT:
Quick, Understandable Interventions for Tobacco Treatment (QUITT) is a suite of programs designed to help health care providers help their clients quit smoking. Developed by the Health Unit, the program has become recognized as a valuable community service. It allows the Health Unit to collaborate with community partners and promote existing community resources and assets, provides skill-building opportunity, and shares best practices and evidence. To date, more than 1,000 local health care professionals have participated in the QUITT program.

Reports

Infographics and Health Data:
Health Unit Epidemiologist Andrew Harris provided an overview of the use of infographics to help make health statistics and data less complex and easier for people to read and understand. Showing a series of infographics on road safety, foodborne illness, measles and respiratory viruses produced by Public Health Ontario as examples, Harris illustrated how small chunks of information and graphics can make it easier to convey key data in an engaging way that people may be more inclined to read. As a result, the Health Unit has produced an infographic on the results from the 2013 Ontario Student Drug Use and Mental Health Survey on Student Mental Health. The infographic is available on the Health Unit’s website www.hkpr.on.ca.

New Business

Annual Report:
Chandra Tremblay, Manager of Communication Services, presented the Health Unit’s 2013 Annual Report. Produced in-house, the report is in video format and, while it includes data and stats of the Health Unit’s work that year, it also includes interviews and comments from Health Unit staff speaking to the work they do in the community and their passion for working in public health. The video will be available on the Health Unit’s website and on its YouTube channel.

Budget Approval:
Approved, a motion to accept a letter from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care advising the Health Unit of the approval of the Health Unit’s 2014 budget. The Health Unit has a budget of approximately $18-million, with 75 per cent of funding coming from the province and the remaining 25 per cent provided by the counties served – Northumberland and Haliburton counties and the City of Kawartha Lakes.

As part of the budget approval, the Board was required to sign the province’s Funding and Accountability Agreement that outlines the Health Unit’s program requirements and indicators.

Long Form Census:
Approved, a motion to have the Board of Health send a letter to federal, provincial and municipal leaders outlining the Board’s support for Private Members Bill C-626 which calls for the appointment of a Chief Statistician and the reinstatement of the mandatory Long-Form Census. In 2010, the federal government replaced the mandatory Long-Form Census with a shorter, voluntary National Household Survey (NHS). As public health relies on population data to conduct program and service planning, program evaluation and the identification of priority populations, the data produced by the NHS has not provided the quality of data required by the Health Unit.

Operating Statements:
Approved, a motion to accept the draft operating statement for the HKPR District Health Unit. As of October 31, 2014, the Health Unit had expenditures of $14,533,668.

Line of Credit:
Approved, a motion to accept a Credit Facilities Agreement from RBC to provide the Health Unit with a $1.8-million line of credit. Director of Administration and Human Resources, Susan Bickle, told Board members the credit line was approximately 10 per cent of the Health Unit’s budget and that having a credit line is a requirement under the Health Unit’s and provincial Internal Financial Controls, rather than a need.

Policies and Procedures:
The Board approved a series of policies and procedures on employee recognition, performance management, professional development, and the use of electronic signatures.

Correspondence
Received, a media release and background document from the province outlining the measures being taken provincially to protect the public and health care workers from Ebola virus disease.

Received, two information newsletters from the Association of Local Public Health Agencies (alpha) detailing the group’s work in the fall.

Next Meeting
The next Board of Health meeting is scheduled for Thursday, January 15, 2015 in the Health Unit’s Lindsay office.

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For media inquiries, contact:
Bill Eekhof, Assistant Communications Officer, HKPR District Health Unit, (905) 885-9100.

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