Groundswell Building in Support of Provincial Wellness Foundation
September 29, 2015
Edmonton - As the Alberta government prepares for the Legislature to resume next month, a coalition of over 100 organizations collectively representing more than three million Albertans is calling on the government to make wellness a priority agenda item. The coalition held a provincial news conference in Edmonton this morning to draw attention to the impact of chronic disease in Alberta and the need for effective solutions.
Declaring that Alberta has reached a crossroads-where the cost of healthcare and preventable illness now consumes almost half of our provincial budget-the Wellness Alberta coalition is calling for the creation of a new standalone wellness foundation. The foundation will tackle the growing issue of chronic disease in Alberta by providing sustainable and effective investments in health promotion and disease prevention.
"With health care costs in Alberta now approaching 50 per cent of the provincial budget, we need to reduce the demand on healthcare by investing in effective, long-term strategies to keep more people healthy for life,"says Jim Gray, chair of Wellness Alberta and a prominent business leader and philanthropist. "The benefits of disease prevention extend well beyond the health care system. These investments will improve our quality of life and our economy through increased productivity. A properly funded wellness foundation will enable our province to make effective long-term investments in prevention that will achieve results."
"Wellness Alberta represents a large umbrella of over 100 organizations, institutions and governing bodies that are committed to working with the Notley government to find an effective solution to the chronic disease epidemic" said Dr. Chris Eagle, campaign team member and former CEO of Alberta Health Services. "We are reaching out to the government with practical, thoughtful and constructive advice on how best to tackle one of the most challenging social issues of our time. We are also building a groundswell of support to give the government the confidence they need to make tough decisions to address this problem effectively. One of the toughest decisions will be where to find enough money to make a meaningful investment in wellness that will match the scale of the problem."
Recognizing the current fiscal challenges facing the Government of Alberta, Wellness Alberta is proposing a revenue-neutral approach through the creation of a special wellness levy on tobacco, alcohol or sugar-sweetened beverages that would provide adequate funding for the Wellness Foundation while reducing consumption of these products. The coalition is recommending doubling the current provincial investment in chronic disease prevention or roughly $180 million annually in new funding for the foundation.
Over the next few months, Wellness Alberta will be mobilizing its supporters and speaking with many Albertans about the need for a wellness foundation to tackle preventable illness and injury. The coalition will also continue to work with the Notley government in the development of an effective foundation that will align with the government's priorities and responsibilities.
A public opinion poll conducted last month of 1,005 Albertans by Leger Research revealed that 79 per cent of Albertans want the Notley government to invest in effective strategies to keep people healthy, out of the hospital and on the job. Two-thirds of respondents agree with investing at least two percent of the total healthcare budget in the primary prevention of chronic disease and injury. More than three-quarters of respondents support the creation of a new wellness foundation to manage these investments. Two-thirds support a dedicated tax increase on tobacco products to finance the foundation.
"Albertans strongly support action on wellness," says Jim Gray. "The time has come for our province to walk the talk on wellness by making a meaningful investment in a provincial wellness foundation that will deliver results in reducing chronic disease and injury."
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