A message from the CAPHC CEO


It has been just over a week since the 2017 edition of the CAPHC annual conference drew to a close. As those of you who regularly attend will know, the conference consistently draws a very engaged crowd. From senior executive administrators, to clinical managers and directors, to patients and families, the conference is truly the largest multidisciplinary gathering of the paediatric community in Canada.

You feel it – the energy that bubbles over in the halls, the delegates that greet each other with enthusiastic hugs in line at the breakfast buffet, the quiet respect for every single opinion at the microphone. This is a tight community and one that celebrates the success of colleagues with deep authenticity.

This CAPHC conference was my first and as I look back on the week that was, I feel both the immense support of this community but also the weight of responsibility. As a national association with a mandate to serve health delivery organizations across the continuum of care for children and youth, the work ahead of us is significant.

CAPHC members serve children, youth and their families from coast to coast, living amid very difficult circumstances. Canada is one of the richest nations on the planet - with very few exceptions, our standard of living is high, food is plentiful and our air is clean. In so very many ways, we are the envy of the world. But when it comes to health status, Canada’s children and youth need our help. What did I learn at the conference? I learned that out of 21 countries in the United Nations, Canada ranked 12 th with respect to the health of our children. Chronic disease, mental health disorders, and socioeconomic disparities are issues we MUST address to improve our standing internationally. I learned that over 70% of all medicines prescribed to treat children were not developed (tested, studied, approved….) for a paediatric audience. Medications and treatments effective for adults may not work effectively (or safely) for children. Children require health research strategies and solutions that specifically address their health needs (1). I learned of the depth and breadth of systemic discrimination that exists for our indigenous children and youth, in our very own member organizations. It. Is. Staggering. Humbling. Embarrassing.

So what is the role for a national association representing paediatric health service delivery organizations? The CAPHC Board met on Sunday October 21 st to consider just that. I am so proud of the honest and transparent discussions that took place. The board placed emphasis on enabling change at the system level – but balanced that with consideration for the impact on patients and family. They discussed what change CAPHC members themselves can facilitate, but also considered the power of partnerships locally, provincially and nationally. At the end of the day (quite literally), the CAPHC board identified three priorities to guide our work for the next 24 months:

  1. Mental Health: One of the single biggest challenges this country faces in healthcare is to improve timely access to mental health services for our children and youth. Amongst other tactics, CAPHC will work to identify “shovel ready” programs and services that could be implemented immediately in a variety of settings across the continuum.
  2. Facilitate transitions across the continuum of care: Whether transitions between services or programs within an organization, across multiple organizations, or the transition home, CAPHC will work to reduce and prevent gaps in care for children with medical complexity.

  3. Indigenous Health: It is not an exaggeration to suggest the scope and scale of change required in this country to support equitable access to culturally appropriate services for our indigenous children and youth is massive. CAPHC will spend the next 24 months meeting and connecting with key influencers to better understand how the paediatric community can best support others taking a leadership role to improve the conditions under which this community receives care.

You might be wondering how our membership will stay involved in these priorities. In the “just in time” spirit, CAPHC had the opportunity to reveal the three priorities for the first time, to conference delegates at the Temperature Check. Delegates spent over an hour sharing key influencers we need to connect with, identifying successful initiatives we ought to explore, and articulating opportunities for CAPHC to really move the yardsticks to impact significant and meaningful change for our members.

My commitment to the delegates – and to our broader membership – is to keep you engaged in our journey each step of the way. You are the voice of CAPHC in the halls of your organizations, you have the expertise that we need to execute on our workplan and you ultimately choose to embrace, adopt and implement guidelines, toolkits and standards that we collectively develop.

As the curtains closed on the conference, and the last of my team checked out of the hotel to make their way home to their families, I remember walking away thinking about our great fortune. The CAPHC brand is strong, our members are loyal and we have tremendous opportunity to work in lock step with our patients and families, our foundation partners, industry partners and other national health organizations to lead or influence meaningful change. I am so thankful to have met many of you #IRL in Montreal, and look forward to working with this community over the many months to come.

~ Emily

Emily Gruenwoldt is the President & CEO of the Canadian Association of Paediatric Health Centres and the Executive Director of the Paediatric Chairs of Canada

NB: The fine print: The CAPHC priorities were selected following a 9 month process to consider issues which fit with CAPHC (we are the right organization to tackle an issue, it aligns with our strengths), where the focus is clear (success is defined – both the time and the resources required to achieve success are spelled out), and the outcome (or process) is relevant to CAPHC membership, across the continuum. These issues were informed by an environmental scan to identify key priorities for pan-Canadian organizations with a focus on child and youth health. Lastly, these issues were tested through a broad member and stakeholder survey, which amongst other things, asked respondents to prioritize a list of ten strategic issues.

*1- Council for Canadian Child Health Research www.ccchr.org/research November 2017