An Open Letter to the Ministers of Health

23 November 2011

Ottawa -

Dear Health Ministers,

In advance of the meeting of health ministers this month, and as provincial, territorial and federal governments turn their attention to the upcoming renegotiation of the Health Accord, the Canadian Cancer Society would like to set out the priorities that we consider critical for healthcare renewal and for improving the health of Canadians.

As an overarching principle, the Canadian Cancer Society strongly believes that the Health Accord must focus on improving the health outcomes of Canadians. Discussions must focus on how governments and civil society can work together, and each aspect of the final document must have measurable impacts on the health of Canadians. In order to achieve this, the Society has identified four priorities for the renewal of the Health Accord: prevention, access to drugs, palliative care and support for caregivers.

  1. Prevention – The Canadian Cancer Society shares the growing global recognition of the importance of prevention in improving health outcomes. About half of all cancers can be prevented through healthy living and policies that protect the health of Canadians (for example strategies that combat tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol consumption). Prevention initiatives, especially tobacco control, offer cost-effective, long-term strategies for the control of cancer and other diseases. The Canadian Cancer Society calls for an increased commitment to prevention initiatives in the next Health Accord, including sustainable funding for access to screening and appropriate vaccines, as well as programs aimed at reducing exposure to carcinogens and promoting active and healthy lifestyles.

    In addition, the 2014 Health Accord must address the pressing reality of the increasing number of Canadians who are treated for illness at home or in their communities. Restructuring of the healthcare system has resulted in less care being provided in hospital or other institutional settings and more patients receiving their care in informal settings and over longer periods of time. As a consequence of this trend, Canadians not only face inequities in their treatment, they increasingly bear the cost of their care, causing significant financial hardship in already difficult circumstances.

    The Society believes that all Canadians have the right to high-quality palliative care. In many cases, receiving care at home or in a community setting is better for patients and their families. Specifically, we have identified the following three priorities to address the needs of patients who are receiving care outside an institutional setting.

  2. Access to drugs – Half of new cancer drugs are now taken at home, and the cost of those drugs is often the patient’s responsibility. The average cost of a single course of treatment with new cancer drugs is $65,000 – almost as high as the average annual income of Canadians. When patients are required to pay even a small portion of these expenses, the out-of-pocket costs can be overwhelming. The Canadian Cancer Society urges all governments to commit to meaningful action on a Catastrophic Drug Program that would ensure that no Canadian faces financial hardship because of the drugs they need and the province in which they live.


  3. Palliative care – Because of our aging and growing population, cancer incidence and prevalence are increasing, resulting in an increased need for palliative care services. Cancer patients need resources to support them and their caregivers at the end of life. The Canadian Cancer Society calls for the next Health Accord to address palliative care at the end of life as part of the continuum of care in our health system and to include adequate funding to ensure palliative care and end-of-life services are accessible to every Canadian. In addition, governments must fund more research, implement surveillance and improve the quality of monitoring to identify and address the needs of dying patients and their families.


  4. Caregivers – While progress has been made in supporting caregivers, much remains to be done. The Canadian Cancer Society calls for additional financial, practical and emotional assistance for caregivers, plus increased flexibility in labour laws and benefit programs to ensure workers are able to care for their loved ones. Caregivers are the invisible backbone of our healthcare system and are critical to its sustainability and to the positive health outcomes of patients.

We wish you a productive meeting and we look forward to working collaboratively with all levels of government to improve the health outcomes of all Canadians. We also look forward to informing our many thousands of supporters of your commitment to improving our healthcare system.


The Canadian Cancer Society

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) is the only national charity that supports Canadians with all cancers in communities across the country. No other organization does what we do; we are the voice for Canadians who care about cancer. We fund groundbreaking research, provide a support system for all those affected by cancer and advocate to governments for important social change.

Help us make a difference. Call 1-888-939-3333 or visit cancer.ca today.

For more information, please contact:

Christine Harminc

Senior Manager, Communications & Media Relations

Canadian Cancer Society

Phone: 416 934-5340