Hastings and Prince Edward Counties/October 7, 2015 — The Board of Health for Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) held its regular monthly meeting in Belleville today.
Influenza Immunization Program
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Richard Schabas expressed his concerns about the effectiveness of the annual provincial universal influenza immunization program. He noted that this program has been in place in Ontario for 15 years, and a formal review has never been conducted. He stated that the 2014 provincial program cost about $100 million with 5 million Ontarians vaccinated, yet the vaccine was of no net benefit because it was a poor match against the most active strain of influenza virus. The likelihood is that this year's vaccine will also be a poor match. "The vaccine has benefits, but its effectiveness is much poorer than we thought," said Dr. Schabas. As a result, he recommends that only individuals who are considered high-risk (the elderly and those with serious chronic illness) and health care workers who work directly with high-risk individuals be vaccinated. "It remains an individual choice," added Dr. Schabas. "The vaccine is available for free to all Ontarians over six months of age and it is safe to receive. However, if you are a healthy individual, you don't need it." HPEPH is offering its annual community influenza clinics between October 20th and November 25th. The clinic schedule is available on www.hpepublichealth.ca.
The Board of Health will be writing to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care to urge a timely review of the annual provincial universal influenza immunization program.
New Provincial Funding Formula
Dr. Schabas provided a report to the Board about HPEPH's funding allocation for Fiscal 2015 (the year ending December 31, 2015) from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The Ministry has implemented a new funding formula for public health agencies. Although HPEPH is receiving some one-time funding associated with a few priority programs, the new formula has resulted in its base funding being red-circled, with no increase in funding for most programs. "Twenty-eight of the 36 public health agencies in Ontario have had their base funding red-circled, and this will continue for at least six more years," stated Dr. Schabas. "For our organization, this effectively represents an annual reduction of 1.5%, or $200,000, in funding. The new provincial funding formula is flawed and will seriously impact our budget and our ability to deliver public health services."
The Board of Health will express its serious concerns to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, and also plans to brief local Members of Provincial Parliament.
Oral Health School Screening Report
The Board of Health was provided with a 2014-2015 Oral Health School Screening Report, which identified that Oral Health Program staff conducted screenings in 55 schools in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties during the period. Of the 6,078 students determined to be eligible for inclusion in the screening program, 91% were screened. Preventative services were recommended for 41% of the students screened (mostly for students in grades 2 and 4), and topical fluoride was the most common preventative service recommended. Program Manager Shelly Brown noted that the urgent care oral health needs in this region are slightly higher than the provincial average.
World Breastfeeding Week Promotion
The Board of Health received a presentation about World Breastfeeding Week (October 1st to 7th). HPEPH has launched a Breastfeeding in Public campaign that will continue throughout the month of October. The purpose of the Breastfeeding in Public campaign is to normalize breastfeeding and promote the social acceptance of breastfeeding in all public places. The campaign involves the use of life-sized cut-out images of breastfeeding moms, which will be displayed at local organizations throughout the region. The campaign will end with a free public screening of "The Milky Way", a documentary about breastfeeding. This will take place at The Regent Theatre in Picton from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 4th.
About Hastings Prince Edward Public Health
Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) operates one of 36 health units across Ontario. HPEPH provides dozens of programs and services, along with reliable health information, to a population of approximately 150,000 people in a 7,000 square km catchment area encompassing 17 municipalities. HPEPH's mission is to enable the people in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties to achieve and maintain optimal health through health protection and promotion, as well as disease and injury prevention. For more information, please visit www.hpepublichealth.ca . You can also find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
Richard Schabas, MD, MHSc, FRCPC Medical Officer of Health Phone: 613-966-5500 or 1-800-267-2803, ext. 200 Email: RSchabas@hpeph.ca