On April 11, the Ontario government announced plans to establish 10 regional public health entities and 10 new regional boards of health with one common governance model by 2020-2021. Along with the plan is a provincial budget impact to public health of $220 million over the next two years. There are currently 35 public health units in Ontario.
The details for rolling out this plan are still to be determined. Dave Jewitt, Chair of the Huron County Board of Health says, “Huron and Perth want to ensure that public health units will be included in the planning for this reorganization, so that the needs of our local communities are considered.”
“Our local public health units are on the front lines of preventing disease and promoting health in our community,” says Perth Board of Health Chair, Kathy Vassilakos. Public health works within Perth and Huron counties to deliver programs and services aimed at chronic and communicable disease prevention, food and water safety, healthy growth and development, substance use prevention, and healthy environments. “Each board of health tailors the provincial requirements to meet local needs. This ensures that everyone in the community is well served.”
Examples of local public health activities led by the Perth District Health Unit and Huron County Health Unit include:
- Facilitating community opioid responses, including surveillance and harm reduction programs. This is done locally through the Perth Opioid Strategy Group and the Huron Substance Misuse Working Group.
- Promoting immunization, maintaining the immunization records for children and adults in Perth and Huron counties, and distributing publicly funded vaccines to the community.
- Inspecting restaurants, salons and spas, pools, and small drinking water systems to ensure food and water safety for the public.
- Collecting, analyzing and reporting population health information for Perth and Huron counties.
- Supporting new parents and their babies through parenting programs.
At this time, it is unknown how the provincial budget announcement will impact the planned merger of the Perth District Health Unit and Huron County Health Unit, which becomes effective January 1, 2020. “We will continue to liaise with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care about our local amalgamation plans, and if and how they will be impacted,” says Dr. Miriam Klassen, Medical Officer of Health for Perth County.