When it comes to making wise choices about health, Canadians have a thorny problem. Our beloved medical care system is as much a part of Canadian identity as the maple leaf and hockey. But we’ve left this system unfinished, and now we’re paying the price. Costs are rising, but access isn’t, leaving many patients feeling frustrated by long waitlists and doctors and nurses burned out.

Public dialogue so often asks how much more to invest in medical care to treat those already sick? What share of this funding should be delivered through public or private clinics? And how much of it should be used to pay doctors? These questions are important, but their answers are not enough to make us healthy.

That's because the medical system was designed to treat people after they’ve fallen ill. It wasn’t designed to create health. 

We need to make room for something more. We need to invest where health begins.

So long as Canadians can’t access safe homes, good incomes, quality child care, and a healthy environment, our medical care system will never be enough to prevent people from dying early. 

Get Well Canada is calling on governments to rebalance how they invest in wellbeing so that we act on the wisdom that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

As costs of living skyrocket and our medical system is on fire, it’s time to recognize that these twin crises share a root problem. For decades, our governments have bought into a myth that medical care is what most makes us healthy, ignoring science that shows social supports contribute more to our wellbeing. Of all the factors that contribute to our wellbeing, less than one-quarter relate to the medical care we receive.

In the 1970s, provincial governments consistently spent more on social services and education than they did on medical care. Now, the opposite is true, which is why many doctors want to (but can’t) prescribe poverty reduction, child care and housing.