Lab Canada

Details of new public health agency are unveiled

Winnipeg, MN – May 17, 2004 – Dr Carolyn Bennett, minister of state for public health, has announced details of the new Public Health Agency of Canada. The agency will have two main pillars, Winnipeg and Ottawa, and will work with a network of specialized centres across the country.

Ms Bennett also announced the appointment of Dr Frank Plummer as the acting chief public health officer (CPHO) until a permanent CPHO is found. In this capacity, Dr Plummer will act as a special advisor to the minister. As well, Dr Plummer will retain his responsibilities as the scientific director of the National Microbiology Laboratory and director general of Health Canada’s Centre for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control. The CPHO will be primarily located in Winnipeg, with offices in Ottawa, and will have responsibilities for the three key functions of the agency: infectious diseases, emergency preparedness and chronic diseases.

The agency’s Winnipeg pillar, home of Canada’s only Level 4 microbiology lab for human health, will be coordinating the agency’s infectious disease functions, including epidemiology, and will have a critical function, nationally and internationally, in the event of an infectious disease outbreak.

The agency’s Ottawa offices will be responsible for working closely with other departments, including Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada, on emergency planning, preparedness and response to national public health emergencies. Ottawa will also coordinate efforts to reduce chronic diseases and injuries.

In addition, the minister announced the creation of six national collaborating centres for public health to enhance Canada’s response to infectious and chronic diseases. The federal government is providing $15 million dollars over two years to establish the six centres.

The centres will be established in various parts of the country, each having a very specific public health focus:

– Atlantic Canada – determinants of health: to study how social factors affect health
– Quebec – public policy and risk assessment: to study the impact of public policy on Canadians’ health and well-being
– Ontario – infrastructure, info-structure and new tools development: to study how public health information can best be gathered and utilized to minimize health risks
– Prairies – infectious diseases: to study the present and future risks of emerging and re-emerging diseases
– British Columbia – environmental health: to study the effects of the environment on human health

National collaborating centre for aboriginal health is also being established to study the health factors affecting the health status of aboriginal Canadians in urban, rural and remote communities.

In addition, Winnipeg will become the home of the International Centre for Infectious Diseases (ICID) and is expected to be a world leader in research, training, commercialization and innovation in addressing the threat and impacts of infectious diseases. A contribution of $3 million for this international centre was announced by Rey Pagtakhan, minister of Western economic diversification. The ICID will take advantage of the cluster of infectious disease resources in Winnipeg and also respond to recommendations in the joint Canada-Manitoba task force report "Fighting Disease – Fostering Innovation". The centre will be a collaborative mechanism to allow university and government scientists to work together more closely and to facilitate the commercialization of their discoveries.

The search for the country’s first CPHO is also being launched today, and a search committee will manage the process. The search committee is composed of Mr Ian C Green, deputy minister, Health Canada; Dr David Naylor, dean, University of Toronto School of Medicine and author of the report Learning from SARS: Renewal of Public Health in Canada; Mme Monique Bgin, former federal minister of health; Dr Perry Kendall, chief medical officer of health, British Columbia; and Dr Brian Postl, chief executive officer, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. It is expected that the successful candidate will be in place by mid- to late summer 2004.