5. It's a Type of Prevention

A lot of hand-wringing goes on as a result of not fully understanding what prevention is.

There is so much more than "you just need to drink celery juice."

It's true that primary prevention—like lifestyle choices—have an impact on what diseases people get. Yet, its usefulness has limitations. Not everything can be controlled by changing what we eat, how much we exercise or abstaining from bad habits.

I've estimated that two-thirds of people with at least one chronic illnesses suffer from conditions for which primary prevention is moot. It's a lot of people—about 11,000,000 Canadians. For people with conditions like type 1 diabetes or severe asthma, making healthy choices is important, but it will not eliminate the need for treatment. That's where secondary prevention (like early detection) and tertiary prevention (like treatment) come in.

Asthmatics who carefully maintain their drug regimes or type 1 diabetics who track and manage their sugars are far more likely to be able to be productive and stay out of hospital. Being productive means that people with chronic illness are part of the economy. Being treated for an exacerbation for asthma or diabetes in hospital is much more expensive than making sure they have access to drug treatment in the first place. Research has shown that the single largest factor in treatment compliance is access to drugs.

That means having access to medication through national public pharmacare will lower health care costs elsewhere and ensure more people have an active part in the economy.