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NBers must work together to improve the health of our province

In my line of work, I am not someone you want to meet. And frankly, I don’t want to meet you either.

My name is Dr. Serge Melanson. I am a father, a husband, and an emergency room physician at The Moncton Hospital. I have been working in the ER for the past 15 years. I have the unfortunate duty of seeing people in their worst moments, but the absolute privilege of helping them try to get through those challenges.

I was recently installed as president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, which represents and serves physicians and advocates for the health of New Brunswickers. You may be familiar with the Smarter Health Care campaign we promoted during the recent provincial election that sought to encourage all political parties to consider ways to lower emergency room wait times, put family physicians where patients need them and fill all physician vacancies in the province.

As president, I want to engage New Brunswickers in a discussion about our health — as individuals and as a province. 

New Brunswick has its health challenges: our rates of chronic disease and obesity are above the national average.

In 2017, the New Brunswick Health Council released data showing that more than 61 per cent of New Brunswickers are battling at least one chronic health condition. That same year, Statistics Canada released annual estimates showing that more than 70 per cent of adults in New Brunswick are either overweight or obese. Experts are warning we may soon have the first generation with a shorter life expectancy then their parents.

The Government of New Brunswick reported in 2016 that an estimated one in nine New Brunswickers 35 and older had been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a common chronic and progressive disease of the lungs.

These are just a few of the challenges. We need to start talking about solutions.

I would like to engage you — each New Brunswicker — to discuss how we can work together to get through these challenges. I want to empower New Brunswickers to take ownership of their health today and in the future.

The NBMS launched “Top 3 in 10,” a campaign which aims to make New Brunswick one of the top three healthiest provinces in 10 years. Is that a lofty goal? Perhaps. But we feel that — by working together — we can get there. We envision a province that supports its citizens to achieve their best health.

How do we get there? The NBMS would like to see a provincial campaign to combat obesity, including goals, timelines, and annual progress reports; incentives for food producers that would increase the affordability of healthy foods; calorie and nutrition labelling on restaurant menus, and funding organizations that promote physical activity.

There are many ways we can improve our health, and I want to instigate that discussion.

So, while I hope we don’t ever meet in my main “office,” I do hope we can connect elsewhere in the coming year to discuss how to improve our health — as individuals and as a province.

Please join in this important conversation. Follow the New Brunswick Medical Society on Facebook at NB Docs and on Twitter @nb_docs. You can find me on Twitter @dr_melanson.

Dr. Serge Melanson, MD, CCFP-EM, is an emergency room physician and president of the New Brunswick Medical Society.