In New Brunswick, collecting adequate health information both to inform citizens and to serve government planning and service delivery has been a challenge since the beginning. Consider this citation:
"You will note that the foregoing table does not account for the whole province. Considerable districts are omitted from which I was unable to obtain anything like reliable information."
- Excerpt from the First Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer to the Minister of Health, New Brunswick: For the Year Ending 31 October, 1918
In the decades since this was written, no adequate solution for the gathering and reporting of health service information was found in New Brunswick. Ninety years later, in 2008, a new method was tried. The government introduced a series of health reforms intended to improve health services to New Brunswickers. These included the reduction from eight regional health authorities to two, the creation of a separate entity to take care of non-clinical services, later known as FacilicorpNB (now part of Service New Brunswick), and the creation of the New Brunswick Health Council. The Honourable Mike Murphy, the Minister of Health during the reform, described the creation of the Council as follows:
“The independent health council will ensure that New Brunswickers have a real voice on health care, and will keep them fully informed on the performance of the health system,” Murphy said. “The health council doesn’t provide direct health services to New Brunswickers, and this guarantees that it can present an unbiased view of how well or how poorly the health system is serving New Brunswickers.”
- New Brunswick Health Council announcement, 2008
The health council is headquartered in Moncton with an initial contingent of 16 members (later reduced to 12 in 2016), of whom half were community representatives, and half were policy makers, health managers, health professionals and academic institutions. The initial chair of the council was Rino Volpé (followed by Jean-Claude Pelletier, Michel P. Richard and Roger Léger, the current chair), with Stephane Robichaud as health council CEO.
During its first 10 years of existence, the Council has worked hard to ensure the availability of common health information across New Brunswick, captured and measured in the same fashion everywhere. This has been accomplished by working with stakeholders to ensure their data meets these requirements, as well as through the Council’s care experience surveys on primary, acute and home care as well as its surveys on student wellness in New Brunswick schools.
With the availability of provincial data came the development of information tools such as the Council’s population health snapshot, the health services quality report card, and community profiles of the 33 geographic communities created in New Brunswick by the health council to help local organizations and citizens understand what’s going on in their community. The Council has also released a number of individual reports on topics ranging from diabetes clinics to resilience in New Brunswick students to the sustainability of the New Brunswick health system, as well as the impact of chronic conditions on citizens and the health system.
Beyond engaging New Brunswickers through its surveys, the Council also conducts engagement activities such as its 2010 province-wide engagement on the health system and health services. Engagement activities in subsequent years, at the behest of the Minister of Health, were used as part of planning activities as well as for capturing information related to specific initiatives such as initiatives for seniors.
The Council has also innovated in the way it delivers information to citizens and to stakeholders by incorporating communication methods such as videos, infographics, webinars, online data visualization and others. These have helped to present information on the New Brunswick health system with impact to New Brunswickers and to system stakeholders, reinforcing the need for constant improvement and change in the delivery of health services in the province.
While the first 10 years of existence for the Health Council saw it grow into its mandate and develop the necessary tools to facilitate its accomplishments, the Council is now using these resources to leverage opportunities and expand its potential for greater engagement of New Brunswickers as well as further improvement of health system quality and the health of the population.