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The Lancet is an international medical journal published online. Photo: Via thelancet.com.

The Lancet’s Series on Canada hears from experts about equity in healthcare

The Lancet, an international weekly general medical journal, published its first Series on Canada on Saturday, Feb. 24, which includes contributions in two papers by University of Ottawa professor of Medicine and Epidemiology & Public Health, Dr. Peter Tugwell, on Canada’s healthcare practices and priorities, including Indigenous healthcare.

The articles, “Canada’s universal health-care system: achieving its potential” and “Canada’s global health role: supporting equity and global citizenship as a middle power,” criticize the inconsistencies in Canada’s health care system between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations, as well as look at Canada’s role in global health in the past and today.

Along with teaching at the U of O, Tugwell, who led research on the second article, is also the senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital, co-chair of the World Health Organisation Collaborative Centre at Bruyere Hospital Research Institute, and co-chair of the Campbell and Cochrane Collaborations Equity Group.

Per the second article, Canada’s healthcare system, while built on diversity, has a ways to go in terms of reconciliation with its Indigenous communities in order to be seen as a global leader.

Marcelo Saavedra-Vargas, a U of O prof and expert on Indigenous studies explained that access to healthcare in Indigenous communities goes beyond policy.

“The way Indigenous communities perceive health… compared to the Western world (differs). The Western world is around the thesis, the Indigenous perception is around wellbeing,” he explained.

Along with highlighting the cultural gap, Saavedra-Vargas also discussed how efforts of reconciliation can be achieved.

“When the process of reconciliation is attained, then mainstream society will have to look at Indigenous people as real human beings,” he said, referencing Canada’s history of injustice to Indigenous communities, as well as the Indian Act, which the Series on Canada references.

For Saavedra Vargas, “a very important aspect of coming together is that we come to understand what the process of reconciliation means, and we engage in it.”

“We have to recognize, and somehow we have to build bridges between Indigenous populations and mainstream cultures so we can form a new social order,” he said.

This ties in with the larger focus of the study, which looks at ways that Canada can improve its overall access to equitable healthcare on both a domestic and global stage. According to Tugwell, Canada has done well so far, but has room to improve.  

In a media release by the U of O, Tugwell explained that “one aspect that is made clear in this series is Canada’s long standing involvement in global health affairs and our exceptional human capital exports into senior health positions internationally. That trend continues – with the next generation of Canadian health scholars committed to reducing global health-related inequities.”

“Unfortunately they have no clear career path in this country,” he added.

“One action I would like to see come out of this landmark Lancet Series on Canada is an expansion of training capacity here in Canada along with supporting career paths and two-way exchanges in partnership with appropriate developing country’s institutions.”