Imagine health clinics that not only offer health services when you're sick, but a means for citizens to counter isolation, to learn about healthy living, and to speak up about government health policy. Rather than a passive "consumer" of professional care, imagine you had a role to play in the health system itself.
Sound utopian? Three million Japanese already engage in such a system through the Health Co-operative Association of the Japanese Consumers Co-operatives Union. Its 120 co-operatives form the framework for a community-led approach to health care in which health care professionals are also active partners. Its fundamental unit is the Han: cells of 10-20 neighbours that socialize and learn practices in health promotion and the prevention of disease.
Nothing remotely like this exists in Canada. To build a network of similar purpose and value requires joint action by community health centres and health co-operatives. It is urgent that together they articulate an alternative to the rigid institutionalization of publicly-managed health care and the gross inequities of private, profit-driven health care.