Vision and priorities of Canada's Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO)

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Areas of focus

Dr. Theresa Tam was appointed as Canada's CPHO on June 26, 2017. Her appointment was renewed June 23, 2022. As part of this responsibility, Dr. Tam has updated her priorities for her second mandate, from 2022 to 2025.

As CPHO, Dr. Tam's primary focus is health equity because it directly affects the health outcomes of the whole of Canadian society. Health equity seeks to reduce inequalities and to increase access to opportunities and conditions that lead to better health for all.It also provides a central lens for action on her 4 priorities:

  1. substance-related harms
  2. pandemic and emergency preparedness and response
  3. health system transformation
  4. health impacts of climate change

As CPHO, Dr. Tam champions the reduction of health disparities in Canada by focusing on the needs of the under-represented and historically marginalized in our communities. She is a strong advocate for the rights of and reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit and Métis People. The ultimate goal is to help level the playing field so everyone in Canada can reach their optimal health.

The CPHO collaborates with the President of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and with colleagues across PHAC to:

  • exercise public health leadership as one of Canada's top public health leaders
  • communicate significant public health issues using her unique voice and using various means and channels
  • engage, collaborate, co-create and champion innovative partnerships and actions

Action on factors influencing health

Many of Canada's most pressing public health issues are complex and significantly impacted by a combination of:

  • social factors
  • economic factors
  • the physical environment
  • individuals' experiences and behaviours

These determinants of health are interrelated, and can have a profound influence on both individual and population health.

Social determinants of health refer to a specific group of social and economic factors within the broader determinants of health. These relate to an individual's place in society, such as income, education, or employment, as well as the places and conditions in which they live, work and play. Experiences of discrimination, racism and historical trauma are important social determinants of health for certain groups, such as Indigenous Peoples, 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals and Black Canadians.

As Dr. Tam notes, "social determinants of health, such as income, have a bigger impact on our health outcomes than genetics, the healthcare system, or most health care services." A key part of the CPHO's role is raising awareness of health inequities and being a catalyst for action to address these social determinants of health.

Generating evidence-based decisions

Science is at the heart of the CPHO's approach. She actively supports research, seeks and incorporates lived experience and community knowledge, and integrates health data and surveillance into her evidence-based advice. She translates evidence into knowledge and provides timely health advice to the Minister of Health, the President of PHAC, and more broadly to people in Canada. The CPHO leverages scientific expertise to inform her advice from within PHAC, as well as through:

  • academia
  • Canadian and international health experts
  • Indigenous partners
  • federal, provincial and territorial partners

The Public Health Agency of Canada Act requires that the CPHO submit an annual report to the Minster of Health on the state of public health in Canada. These reports are on critical public health topics.

All of the CPHO's reports are evidence based and involve extensive partner and stakeholder engagement, collaboration, and reviews. They provide in-depth insight on critical public health topics, supported by the most-up-to-date data and synthesis of current natural and social sciences. A new data dashboard of public health indicators will also be updated regularly as part of the CPHO's annual reporting on the health of people in Canada.

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Engaging with and through partners

To help address health equity, efforts from many areas of government, partners and individuals are required. The CPHO plays a role in engaging, collaborating, and mobilizing multi-sectoral support to make sustainable change.

The social, economic and environmental determinants of health are complex and so too are the solutions. They are multi-faceted, requiring engagement with and through many partners, including:

  • people with lived experiences
  • Indigenous leaders and co-creators
  • community leaders
  • federal, provincial and territorial partners
  • health care providers
  • not-for-profit and private sectors
  • international partners
  • academia
  • local communities

2022–2025 priorities

Access printable version of 2022–2025 CPHO priorities

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