Managing Sustainable Development at PHAC
The link between sustainable development and public health is clear: improve human health and well-being to enable Canadians to lead economically-productive lives in a healthy environment while sustaining the environment for future generations. However, health is not simply the outcome of age, genetic make-up, and health behaviors; it is influenced by physical and social environments. The physical environment includes biological, chemical and physical hazards that are found in air, water, soil and food. The social environment encompasses the social, cultural and economic aspects of our lives. When these factors are compromised, added stress is placed on the ability of the human body to maintain its well-being.
Sustainable development supports the long-term health of Canadians by addressing community vulnerabilities to enhance resiliency. However, much of the work being done on public health outcomes is outside of the public health domain and mandate. Thus, not only is it necessary for PHAC to manage sustainable development internally, but there is also a need to manage it externally.
The Public Health Agency of Canada manages its Departmental Sustainable Development Strategy in five ways:
- Sustainable Development Vision: establishes the long-term sustainable public health vision through a sustainable and healthy communities strategic outcome.
- Internal Management Structure: establishes the capacity that provides leadership across the Agency, in order to bring priority sustainable development issues to the forefront during the planning and decision-making of policies, programs and initiatives. See Annex 1 for the PHAC Internal Sustainable Development Management Framework.
- External Management Structure: establishes the capacity for formal platforms that allow the Agency to participate in interdepartmental working groups and committees to advance sustainable development for public health and to introduce public health as an outcome of sustainable development.
- Integration with Government’s Core Expenditure, Planning and Reporting System: ensures that FSDS goals, targets and implementation strategies have been integrated into the core expenditure planning and reporting system – primarily through the Report on Plans and Priorities and the Departmental Performance Report.
- Application of Analytical Techniques: includes cost-benefit and multi-criteria analysis for Treasury Board submissions, as well as science and evidence-based approaches such as the use of performance indicators or the application of Strategic Environmental Assessments as the basis for policies and other initiatives.
Through these five functions, Agency planners and issue experts can identify sustainable development priorities during the planning stages and monitor and report on their progress over time, thereby adopting a “plan, do, check and improve” approach.
The Public Health Agency of Canada is committed to supporting and contributing to the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) by delivering on its core vision of healthy Canadians and communities in a healthier world towards making this country’s population among the healthiest in the world. Public health is both a resource for, as well as an outcome of, sustainable developmentFigure 5 - Footnote 2. Implicit in this vision is the recognition that social, economic and environmental conditions play an important role in determining the state of human health and that consideration of these factors needs to be integrated into decision-making within PHAC. The Agency integrates sustainable development though its planning, integrated risk management and stakeholder consultation processes.
In developing its vision, PHAC realizes the important role that social, economic and environmental conditions play in impacting human health now and in the future. The Agency strives to integrate environmental, economic and social factors in the making of decisions in order to derive added benefits or to avoid or mitigate negative impacts on human health for both present and future generations. The Agency contributes to: economic sustainability by promoting health and reducing the burden to the health care system; social sustainability by building community capacity and empowering individuals; and environmental sustainability through consideration of the natural and built environments in which a community exists. The Agency also contributes to environmental sustainability through environmental conscious operational practices. Together, these functions directly contribute to PHAC’s mission and sustainable development vision (see Figure 2).
PHAC’s Sustainable Development vision is guided by the following principles:
- strengthen Canada’s capacity to protect and improve the health of Canadians and to help reduce pressures on the health-care system;
- build an effective public health system that enables Canadians to achieve better health and well-being in their daily lives by promoting good health, helping prevent and control chronic diseases and injury, and protecting Canadians from infectious diseases and other threats to their health; and
- reduce health disparities between the most advantaged and disadvantaged Canadians.
The Agency’s mission to promote and protect the health of Canadians through leadership, partnership, innovation and action in public health underscores the integration of the three pillars of sustainable development (see Figure 1). PHAC’s population health approach to public health demonstrates economic inequities, social problems and environmental issues are key risk factors for disease. This approach ensures organized effort across programs, services and policy among multiple stakeholders, including government, the private sector, civil society and individuals.
This figure is a pictorial description of the interaction between the key determinants of health and the three pillars of sustainable development (Social, Environment and Economy).Â By taking a holistic approach to incorporating all three pillars of sustainable development, an outcome of healthier Canadians should result as the key determinants of health are influenced.Â Another way to say this is, by addressing the key determinants of health, sustainable development is achievable with an outcome of healthier Canadians.Â The key determinants of health associated with the Social/Cultural pillar of sustainable development include: social status, social support networks, education, social environment, personal health practices, coping skills, healthy child development, and gender and culture.Â The key determinants of health associated with the Nature/Environment pillar of sustainable development include: physical environment (clean air, clean and abundant water, food safety) and biological and genetic endowment.Â The key determinants of health associated with the Economy pillar of sustainable development include:Â income, employment and working conditions.
This figure is a pictorial description of the interaction between key determinants of health and the three pillars of sustainable development (Social, Environment and Economy).Â By taking a holistic approach to incorporating all three pillars of sustainable development, an outcome of Healthy and Sustainable Communities should result as the key determinants of health are influenced.Â Another way to say this is, by addressing key determinants of health, sustainable development is achievable with an outcome of healthy and sustainable communities.
The key determinant of health associated with the Social/Cultural pillar of sustainable development or Vibrant and Just Society is: social well-being and supportive networks.Â The key determinant of health associated with the Nature/Environment pillar of sustainable development or Flourishing Environment is: healthy ecosystems and built environments.Â The key determinant of health associated with the Economy pillar of sustainable development or Prosperous Economy is:Â reduced burden of disease.Â By addressing issues that overlap a Flourishing Environment and a Vibrant and Just Society, quality of life results.Â By addressing issues that overlap a Vibrant and Just Society and a Prosperous Economy, an effective public health system results.Â Finally, by addressing issues that that overlap a Prosperous Economy and a Flourishing Environment, healthy environments result.
The Public Health Agency of Canada identifies key socio-economic factors that affect sustainable development decision-making as a matter of course in delivering on its core mandate in accordance with its vision. Accountabilities in the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Internal Sustainable Development Management Framework have been established to outline the key roles and responsibilities to provide leadership across the Agency, in order to bring priority sustainable development issues to the forefront during the planning and decision-making of policies, programs and initiatives (see Annex 1).
PHAC ensures policy cohesion among departments and across government by participating in sustainable development working groups and the broader policy integration processes of the Government of Canada. The Public Health Agency of Canada also ensures that its policies, plans and priorities are is consistent with the FSDA and the revised Guidelines for Implementing the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals.
The Agency makes the following commitments in it its Internal Sustainable Development Management Framework:
- Apply sustainable development principles when developing or amending legislation, regulations, policies, plans and programs.
- Integrate sustainable development into corporate planning processes such as the on Plans and Priorities, the Departmental Performance Report and the Integrated Operational Plan.
- Prepare a Departmental Sustainable Development Strategy in consultation with Agency colleagues that complies with and contributes to the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.
- Monitor, track progress and report on the Agency’s commitments in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.
- Develop and implement strategies to inform, educate and promote a “plan, do, check and improve” approach to sustainable development at the Agency.
Additionally, the Agency strives to undertake a holistic approach to sustainable development by working to integrate the social, environmental and economic pillars into its key programs, through the role of its Champions. Eleven Champion roles have been established that directly and indirectly contribute to the social pillar of sustainable development. These Champions include: Values and Ethics, Health Equity, Workplace Well-being, Government of Canada Workplace Campaign, Official Languages, Diversity and Multiculturalism, Public Service Renewal, Public Service Employee Survey, Recruitment, Learning, Leadership, and the Sustainable Development Advocate.
It is the role of these Champions and Sustainable Development Advocate to ensure that the issues they support become part of the Agency’s culture and way of doing business, and that they remain priorities and topics of discussion with senior management. The Champions and the Sustainable Development Advocate are available to all Agency employees to provide advice, guidance, and support on issues relevant to the Agency; participate in special initiatives and events; and, to serve as a sounding board for questions and concerns.
Externally, the Public Health Agency of Canada continues to be a social department leader and is actively engaged in several interdepartmental committees to advance both sustainable development and public health. The Agency is an active member of the following interdepartmental working groupsFigure 5 - Footnote 3:
- FSDS Director General-level Working Group
- FSDS Director-level Working Group
- FSDS Risk Management Working Group
- FSDS Strategic Environmental Assessment Working Group
- Indian and Northern Affairs Canada’s Interdepartmental Think Tank Working Group
- Public Works and Government Services Canada’s Green Procurement Forum
As part of the larger Government of Canada reporting on FSDS, PHAC has integrated its specific sustainable development commitments in the Report on Plans and Priorities and this document, which together form the Public Health Agency of Canada’s DSDS. The Agency will report on progress against these commitments in its annual Departmental Performance Report.
PHAC’s implementation strategies under the FSDS’s Greening of Government Operations requirements are fully integrated into the department’s management resources and results structure that underpins departmental planning and reporting.
Integrating sustainable development into policies, plans and programs can be supported by the use of analytical techniques and management practices that consider, compare and integrate environmental, social and economic objectives and address long-term concerns. PHAC utilizes various analytical techniques to inform decision-making and manage risk around policies, plans and programs: cost-benefit and risk-benefit analyses (Treasury Board submissions); science and evidence-based analysis for developing policy, legislative or regulatory proposals; and modelling techniques (e.g. controlled experiments, comparative simulations, micro-simulation, and statistical modelling) to simulate policy impacts and project future scenarios.
Further, managers and employees are invited to be trained in sustainable development to more effectively consider and apply the ecologically efficient use of natural, social and economic resources in their decision-making initiatives and programs. The management structure for sustainable development, including the roles and responsibilities of key departmental managers, for sustainable development are included in Annex 1, the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Internal Sustainable Development Management Framework.
The Agency continues to develop capacity to manage risk in order to improve decision-making and support the achievement of corporate objectives and desired outcomes. The PHAC Integrated Risk Management Standard and the PHAC Strategic Risk Communications Framework provide an Agency foundation for identifying, assessing, communicating and managing risk; a foundation that promotes taking a broad perspective to managing risk which takes into account factors such as threats and opportunities as well as potential social (health, cultural, ethical, legal and political), environmental, economic and other impact considerations of interested and affected parties.
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