Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) 2018–19 Departmental Results Report: Corporate Information

Corporate information

Raison d'être, mandate and role: who we are and what we do

Raison d'être

Public health involves the organized efforts of society that aim to keep people healthy and to prevent illness, injury and premature death. The Public Health Agency of Canada has put in place programs, services and policies to help protect and promote the health of all Canadians and residents of Canada. In Canada, public health is a responsibility that is shared by all three levels of government in collaboration with the private sector, non-governmental organizations, health professionals and the public.

In September 2004, PHAC was created within the federal Health Portfolio to deliver on the Government of Canada's commitment to increase its focus on public health in order to help protect and improve the health and safety of all Canadians and to contribute to strengthening public health capacities across Canada.

Mandate and role

PHAC has the responsibility to:

For more information on the Agency's organizational mandate letter commitments, see the Minister's mandate letter.

Operating context and key risks

Operating context

PHAC operates in a complex, interconnected, and evolving environment where drivers such as social determinants of health, climate change, and advancements in technology impact the health of Canadians. For instance, global supply chains and rapid international transportation systems move goods and people across borders. With the movement comes the risk that a health threat emerging from somewhere in the world could quickly reach Canada without immediate detection. Similarly, climate change presents a range of risks, from poor air quality to the spread of vector-borne diseases, such as Lyme Disease. Additionally, the amount of misinformation found online, including through social media, is a direct contributor to the growing global and domestic concern of vaccine hesitancy, which may lead to increasing rates of vaccine-preventable diseases among Canadians.

Although Canada is one of the healthiest countries in the world, health inequalities persist. While the life expectancy at birth for Canadian men and women is above international benchmarks at 79.9 years (men) and 84 years (women), not all experience the same health status. Certain populations such as Northern, rural and remote communities, low-income families, children living in conditions of risk, Indigenous Peoples, un-or-underemployed adults, older adults and LGBTQ2+ continue to experience poorer health outcomes than the average Canadian.

Canada will continue to face some persistent public health challenges in the coming years, including an ongoing crisis of overdose deaths from opioid misuse. This crisis is the deadliest in a generation, claiming the lives of at least 12,813 Canadians since January 2016. Some vaccine preventable diseases, such as measles, are on the rise worldwide. Canadians are also facing an increasing risk of being infected by bacteria that are resistant to antibiotic treatment, known as antimicrobial resistance, which has been identified by the World Health Organization as one of the top 10 risks to global health. As the population lives longer, chronic diseases (e.g., diabetes) have become more common. There is also a rise in sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia. Harms and deaths associated with the problematic use of alcohol and other substances such as opioids are also significant public health challenges. Given the dynamic and evolving nature of public health events, PHAC must continue to have the capacity to: prevent, mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and assist Canada to recover from public health events and emergencies. Increasingly, public health events tend to be complex, with far-reaching causes and consequences and unspecific timelines, e.g., Canada's ongoing opioid crisis.

Timely and reliable data are essential to developing sound policies and ensuring effective programming that delivers results to Canadians. Consequently, strengthening surveillance and data collection through, for example, the new Data, Partnerships and Innovation Hub, will help PHAC leverage a rapidly expanding information environment both internally and externally.

Technology (e.g., whole genome sequencing and genetic fingerprinting) provides PHAC and its partners and stakeholders with a range of resources to address public health issues. With the development of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, there are opportunities to leverage this new technology in health-related interventions. However, there are also negative health effects of digital technology on sleep, attention and learning, obesity and depression, which have continued to escalate both in frequency and severity.

Public health is a shared responsibility in Canada, with coordination between the federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments. By improving our understanding of the priorities, activities, and concerns of partners and stakeholders, PHAC will be better able to adapt its programs in responding to the diversity of public health needs across Canada. PHAC's commitment to accountability, openness, and results will help promote important multi-sectoral collaborations and the solutions needed to help improve the health of Canadians.

Key risks

Risk management is integrated into PHAC's day-to-day operations as an ongoing and dynamic activity that supports: governance, prevention (through surveillance), leadership, guidance, public health promotion, emergency preparedness and response activities.

PHAC has a Corporate Risk Profile that is part of this risk management process. The Corporate Risk Profile highlights the risks of most concern to PHAC's senior management, and allows them to be monitored and mitigated on an ongoing basis.

To manage these risks effectively, PHAC promotes risk prevention strategies, has risk mitigation controls and strategies in place, and monitors and responds to risks at various levels while minimizing the impact of unplanned and adverse events.

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