Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

April 06, 2004

U of G joins effort to bring new public health agency to Ontario

The University of Guelph joined the provincial government today in urging federal officials to locate the new Canada Public Health Agency in Ontario.

President Alastair Summerlee and Alan Wildeman, vice-president (research), together with Steve Peters, minister of agriculture and food, took part in a news conference to draw attention to the region’s unique qualifications for hosting a national centre. Similar events were held in Toronto and Hamilton, featuring George Smitherman, minister of health and long-term Care; Hamilton MPP Marie Bountrogianni, minister of citizenship and immigration; and an alliance of academic, business, health care and scientific research communities.

The federal government has committed to establishing a new national public health agency comprising existing elements of Health Canada and regional “national centres of excellence.” The provincial government is supporting the initiative and is asking that the Toronto-Hamilton-Guelph triangle be designated as one key centre. It is proposing the Golden Horseshoe Public Health Research and Education Program, which would draw on the world-class public health, research, medical and veterinary expertise within U of G and the University of Toronto, McMaster University and eventually include centres at York University, the University of Waterloo and the University of Western Ontario.

“Clearly, this consortium would add an absolutely unique component to the public health initiative at the federal level,” Summerlee said. “It isn’t just about preventing illness and infectious diseases, it is about promoting the health and well-being at every level, from early childhood development to issues of aging.” He added he looks forward to the university and the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) being involved in the partnership.

U of G is known for conducting world-class biomedical research and for having international expertise in zoonotic (animal to human) diseases. Guelph is home to the provincial Animal Health Laboratory, which became part of the university in 1997, the Canadian Research Institute for Food Safety, a regional office of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF) and Health Canada’s Laboratory for Foodborne Zoonoses.

“By combining the University of Guelph’s world-renowned expertise in animal and water-borne illness with Toronto’s real-world experience in managing the SARS outbreak and McMaster University’s international reputation in health policy, you have a public powerhouse in Ontario,” Peters said.

OVC has an important role to play in the initiative, according to Wildeman. “More than 80 per cent of new diseases that affect humans originate in animals.” He added that the university also has a strong mandate to address issues of public health, which is strengthened through its partnership with OMAF. In addition to having responsibility for surveillance of animal and food-borne diseases, U of G has close ties with Health Canada's foodborne zoonoses lab and strong community partnerships, Wildeman said.

“The university brings to the Golden Horseshoe a pre-eminent and unique capacity to make a difference to the well-being of Canadians, and to contribute to southern Ontario’s international recognition as a centre of expertise in all facets of public health,” he said.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.

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