THUNDER BAY – This year’s provincial budget includes $15 million dollars over 3 years for 90,000 additional breast cancer screening exams.
We have effectively lowered the age at which women can be enrolled in the province’s breast cancer screening program. The budget outlined our government’s plan to create a new initiative under the Ontario Breast Screening Program designed specifically for women who are at a high risk of developing breast cancer due to genetics or family history. The plan will expand the existing program to reach women between 30 and 49, and it will also increase support for women 50 to 69, who were already eligible for the screening program.
Before this year’s budget, our government had already expanded the breast cancer screening program by funding an additional 332,000 breast exams, and increasing the number of screening sites by over 50%. In 2007, we created a province-wide screening program for colon cancer. In 2009, we made it easier for men to get tested for prostate cancer by expanding access to Prostate-Specific Antigen tests. We’ve also reduced wait times for cancer surgery by almost 25% and we tripled funding for cancer-fighting drugs.
Since 2003, our government has been changing Ontario’s approach to health care. The expansion of screening for breast, prostate and colon cancer is part of our government’s increasing focus on prevention and early detection. We’ve launched numerous initiatives that deal with prevention. For example, we’ve expanded the publicly-funded vaccine program. For children under 2, that saves families up to $790 per child. For school-aged children, we’re providing immunizations for things like hepatitis B, influenza, meningococcal disease and HPV—and that saves families up to $600 per child. In 2008, we launched $741 million diabetes strategy that helps prevent diabetes for those at risk and improves quality of life for those with diabetes. We’ve increased the amount of time that children have for physical education at our school. We’ve created a Ministry of Health Promotion that’s responsible for promoting health and wellness through healthy eating, sports and recreation, and by preventing disease, injury and addiction. In this year’s budget, we’re investing in a comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, starting with youth and children.
By focusing on prevention and early detection, we can catch illness early or prevent it altogether. Making that up-front investment is important. Over the long-run, it reduces the pressure on our health care system, but more importantly, it improves quality of life and it saves lives. There’s still more work to be done, but we’re making progress. This year’s budget is another step forward.
Bill Mauro, MPP