July 9, 2018

New institute to make chronic disease prevention across Canada BETTER

Dr. Eva Grunfeld

The BETTER program has been awarded almost $3 million to train primary care providers as prevention experts across Canada

As the number of Canadians at risk of cancer and other chronic diseases continues to grow, so does the need for health professionals to deliver effective disease prevention and screening recommendations.

The BETTER Program, led by OICR Clinician-Scientist Dr. Eva Grunfeld, Gilbon Professor and Vice-Chair Research at the University of Toronto Department of Family and Community Medicine, is building on existing tools to improve chronic disease prevention and screening in primary care.

The BETTER Program’s model is based on training doctors, nurses and allied health professionals (physiotherapists, technicians, etc.) to become Prevention Practitioners – specialists in chronic disease prevention and screening (CDPS).  Prevention Practitioners work in the primary care setting to develop personalized “prevention prescriptions” that are tailored to each patient based on an in-depth analysis of their medical history, family history, and risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (CPAC) has recently announced it will provide $2.98 million to the BETTER Program and the University of Alberta to launch the BETTER Prevention Practitioner Training Institute – a national effort that will expand the BETTER approach across seven Canadian provinces to train more Prevention Practitioners.

“The principle of cancer prevention and survivorship care is that you must look beyond the patient’s disease and think about their general welfare,” says Grunfeld. “That’s exactly what BETTER is doing.”

With their recently announced support, BETTER will launch their Ontario East Training Institute – based at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto – this year, followed by the Western Training Institute in Edmonton. Over the next 3 years, BETTER plans to train up to 600 Prevention Practitioners and provide consultation services to more than 100 family practices across Canada.

The expansion will be led by a national steering committee who will focus on adapting and applying BETTER to serve rural, remote and Indigenous communities. While adapting the model to suit different jurisdictions, the BETTER team will test these adaptations and incorporate their findings to continue improving the BETTER approach.

The impact of BETTER can already be seen in Newfoundland, where they have embedded BETTER into their strategy for chronic disease prevention. BETTER’s steering committee includes representation from provincial ministries of health, which Grunfeld hopes will lead to introducing mechanisms in their respective provinces to encourage the use of Prevention Practitioners.

“Primary care is a huge focus in Canada and it’s also a great opportunity for improving CDPS,” Grunfeld says. “BETTER is making a difference in the way that family practices operate – enhancing the current system and integrating prevention.”

For more information on BETTER’s Prevention Practitioner training, visit www.better-program.ca.