Mr. Chairman, I thank the house for that warmth.
I do not wish to take up too much time, in case there are others-and I know there are-who would like to speak. I think it is only fair at the beginning of my remarks to state that I feel the minister and her department deserve more in the way of commendation than criticism for their efforts in one of the most difficult departments of our whole government area. Everyone should be, purely as a matter of common sense, vitally interested in everything to do with health. Health and welfare are almost inextricably inter-related with the well-being of all our citizens and also with the many economic implications of welfare. This department is so large and each branch is so important that we could make good arguments and pleas for improved facili-
ties and increased expenditures tor every single branch. There are also the many additional pressures, such as the emotional pleas for and sympathies aroused by the disabled, pension problems, cancer, research needs and the miseries, tangible and intangible, of mental health problems. The difficulty would seem to be to find an efficient principle by which to tackle these inter-related problems.
It is natural that the picture should be rapidly changing because new discoveries in diagnosis, cures and preventions have been made. The size of the subject, the constant changes, the emotionalism involved and our limited budget combine to make health and welfare an area demanding the most sane, sympathetic and businesslike thinking. It is an area particularly open to the "plug the dike" technique which is unavoidable, due to the emergency quality of many of the needs. It is also open to inequalities due to very easily aroused sympathies. I think particularly of problems like thalidomide and the tragedies involved therein. However there is no way of evaluating human tragedy and it could well be argued by many suffering from other incapacities that their needs for help were just as great.
In order that the cost of solving problems does not continue to increase and increase into infinity, and lie as a heavy burden upon our society, I personally should like to see a stronger and more concerted effort made from every possible preventive angle. I remember seven or eight years ago I had occasion to thank one of the greatest surgeons in Canada, indeed probably one of the greatest in the world, for what seemed to me to be a miracle of surgery. He mentioned that this was a mechanical process which could be learned, and to him his greatest interest in medicine was in the improvement of prevention. He felt the need for a very great increase in research in all directions. These research improvements would, he felt, automatically improve the problems of hospitalization, surgery, and all the other facilities which have grown so rapidly with such great credit to our medical society.
Those who have to do with animals, either in agriculture or as pets, spend a great deal of time studying dietary problems, how to improve their pets' good looks or high spirits, their stamina, speed, weight, etc. Therefore it seems slightly ridiculous that these people spend very little effort, sometimes none at all, on their own eating habits and those of their families. They are also concerned for the exercise of their pets and livestock. By the
same token a very small percentage of our population gives any thought to its own personal exercise and that of their families, with resultant good health.
I have been greatly interested right from the beginning in the fitness and sports program, and I hope that the government will continue to give increased leadership in this direction. I have urged this before and I will continue to do so. It seems to me to be an endlessly hopeful avenue along which we can travel toward better physical health, which will also improve automatically our mental health and the proper use of increasing leisure time which has been derived from automation.
We heard today from the hon. member for Saskatoon one of the best maiden speeches ever made in this house. It was knowledgeable and helpful, and as the hon. member for Northwest Territories said in following, it could well be used as a good example for all members of parliament. It occurred to me as I listened to the facts of and the need for mental health that a heavy responsibility of leadership lies on all of us who are in a position to see the weaknesses in our society. The hon. member for Saskatoon mentioned that for years the tragedy of this particular kind of illness was hidden and neglected. She quite aptly mentioned segregation, which we all have sad reason to recognize as a negative approach to the solution of any problem.
Although we have made great strides in recognizing new techniques, the usefulness of treatment and the extent of mental illness, there is still a long way to go. We must come to grips with the facts, disturbing and frightening as they are, of the numbers of people suffering from this type of illness. I agree with this and heartily urge that the recommendations of the hon. member for Saskatoon be given sympathetic consideration. It seems to me that the area of preventive approaches is preperly recognized in her suggestion of increasing the number of public health and social workers to help people at a time when they need help. We all see cases where people could be helped in the beginning stages of physical or mental illness and so very often the disease goes on to the fatal stage. We have become educated to check-ups for tuberculosis, cancer, blood, etc., and we can and should become educated to positive, complete good health and the routine needed to maintain this throughout a lifetime.
It seems a great pity if only young people are carefully nurtured. Now there is general, careful feeding of infants, extra vitamins and proper fresh air. Attention to
health continues in many families through the teens. However there is a gradual falling off of health care when people assume the responsibilities of a home and a job, just at the very time when positive good health is so seriously needed.
Before tragedy cut short the so productive life of the late President Kennedy, we had one of the greatest examples of leadership, of someone showing how to learn to live with a physical problem. At long last we saw the leaders of a democratic nation making glowing good health fashionable.
It seems to me we are not quite clear in our definition of a standard of living. It may be a high standard of accumulation to have a large bank account, a lot of property and a lot of gadgets, but surely a high standard of living actually means to live in a healthy, vibrant participating way. Much time and energy has gone into the study of the health of Canadians. The Hall commission among other preventive recommendations places a carefully planned dental program for children high on the list of priorities. The shortage of dental personnel is pointed out and how all possible means must be followed to overcome this weakness in our general health facilities. It is well known how general health deteriorates from lack of proper dental care.
The royal commission on health services specifically recommends that the solution is fluoridation, a recognized preventive of tooth decay. This technique has now been studied for over 30 years and from the best of scientific observation it must be recognized that savings in health and the cost of tooth care can be made by this means. Surely it is not sensible to ignore a scientific discovery so heavily recommended for the good of our society. I urge the government to give the needed leadership.
Topic: INTERIM SUPPLY