From the Catalyst, Summer 2017
Better Now: Six Big Ideas to Improve Health Care for All Canadians
By Dr. Danielle Martin
Allen Lane, 2017
Reviewed by Sally Guy
Better Now will likely find itself preaching to the choir. That is not to say that Martin is ever preachy—in fact, her style is conversational and unpretentious. But those that really need to read this book, sadly, won’t. Many of the ‘big ideas’ would hinge on the participation of all levels of government, and would require a fundamental shift in the way many Canadians understand the rights of citizenship.
The ideas start small and end big. She begins with the importance of primary care relationships, and builds to advocate for building a system that supports the changes we need: a national pharmacare program, a plan to reduce unnecessary care and expense, and a basic income for all Canadians.
Martin mixes statistics with stories of lived experience, and her sense of the absurd keeps things fresh. She notes that one patient’s medication was so expensive that she required the assistance of “an employee in the hospital’s MS clinic whose job it is to figure out how to get medicine for patients with MS” (emphasis the author’s own). She also points out that we “find ourselves in the bizarre situation where some Canadians can’t access life-saving drugs while others are the victims of overprescribing.”
The originality, and the value, of Better Now are not necessarily in the ‘big ideas’ themselves, but in how Martin chooses to display them. It is still a brave and important thing to juxtapose the broad and aspirational beside the personal and the everyday. In a time when many think nothing can be done without the private sector, we need to keep hearing that there is tremendous value in universal, public programs, and that big changes are possible – and practical.