An Environment and Health Institute (June 1999)

Box 3458
Salmon Arm, B.C.
V1E 4S2
June 10, 1999

Hon. Allan Rock, Minister of Health
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Hon. John Manley, Minister of Industry
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Dear Hon. Ministers,

Our organization, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), has been following the process of moving towards the creation of Institutes for Health Research with keen interest. We are delighted that such a process is in place. It can create a momentum for directing funds and expertise towards some of the most vexing and yet critically important issues of the next century.

As an organization of physicians concerned about the health effects of destructive ecological change, we are, naturally, concerned that this area of human/environmental health be addressed, and addressed head on. We believe, in fact, that environmental change is already, and definitely will be, an increasingly important factor affecting the health of Canadians. Indoor and outdoor air quality, soil, water and food contamination, loss of biodiversity and the extinction of species, climate change and ozone depletion are just some of the broad brush issues that will loom larger as the next few years unfold.

We feel that the effects on human health of environmental or ecological change are so important that they are a valid focus for a dedicated institute of health research of their own. We are aware of two proposals, one from the Canadian Labour Congress for an Institute for Environmental and Occupational Health Research, and the other for a Canadian Institute of Environmental Health Research under the aegis of the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for an Institute. We feel that while both these proposals have considerable merit, they suffer from a common problem. Both would necessarily emphasize or focus the activities of the resulting Institute towards one or another aspect of environmental health, and away from the broad and profoundly trans-disciplinary compass of this subject. In doing so, both threaten to de-emphasize areas that are of fundamental importance to environmental health research, such as biological or climatological effects.

I propose a dedicated environmental/human health institute, on behalf of CAPE, not in an attempt to denigrate the suggestions from the above-mentioned bodies. Rather I see it as a way of bringing out the primordial nature of the human/environmental health interface for Canada’s and the planet’s future. We believe that an Institute for Human and Ecosystem Health Research, devoted solely to this area, would be a profoundly valuable addition to whatever other initiatives are already in place for health research in Canada. We believe it would finally give this area the recognition it merits.

Thank your very much for your consideration of this matter. I look forward to a reply at your earliest convenience.


Warren Bell MD
Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment



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