Imagine struggling to do something 22,000 times a day. More than 2.8 million Ontarians face this reality, struggling to breathe each and every day. One of them is Lorraine LeBlanc. At 13 years of age, Lorraine began smoking in a house where her father and five brothers all smoked. In her forties, she was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Lorraine immediately quit smoking and became a strong advocate against tobacco use. She is COPD ambassador for The Lung Association and someone who has been a champion of The Lung Health Act.
This past November, The Lung Health Act was brought back to the legislature in record time after the government prorogued. Now awaiting final reading, The Lung Association – Ontario is actively working toward the passage of this bill.
It is very rare to see a private member’s bill receive first and second reading within two days of each other and even more rare, to see representatives from all three parties put their politics aside to support lung health.
This Bill calls for the establishment of a Lung Health Advisory Council and the development of a Lung Health Action Plan that will provide a coordinated approach on how to prevent and treat lung disease. Through this plan of action, we will ensure that all Ontarians get equal access to the supports and medicines they need to breathe with ease.
Of the four chronic diseases responsible for four in five deaths in Ontario – cancer, cardiovascular disease, lung disease and diabetes – lung disease is the only one without a dedicated province-wide strategy, this despite the ever-increasing human and economic burden of respiratory illness in Ontario.
Over the past two years, many people have championed this bill including our patients, our health-care professionals and our political leaders. Bill 71 is co-signed by all three parties:
- MPP Ted McMeekin, Liberal Party
- MPP Jeff Yurek, Health Critic from the Progressive Conserative Party
- MPP France Gélinas, Health Critic for the NDP
In addition, we have been very fortunate to have behind-the-scenes support of the Speaker of the House, The Honourable Dave Levac, a long-time member of our Lung Health Caucus.
It’s been a long road to get here, but we are here because of the commitment of our supporters, both inside and out of government. Our advocacy work around the Lung Health Act will help ensure that people like Lorraine do not have to struggle for every breath they take.
Establish a Lung Health Advisory Council that will make recommendations to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care on lung health issues
Develop and implement an Ontario Lung Health Action Plan respecting research, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of lung disease
Require the Minister of Health to consider the recommendations and reports of the Lung Health Advisory Council to make improvements in lung health awareness, diagnosis, treatment and care