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Letter: Submission for the Advisory Committee on Health

July 23, 2010

Mr. Fred Horne

MLA, Edmonton Rutherford Chair, Minister’s Advisory Committee on Health c/o Legislature Office #721 Legislature Annex 9718 – 107 Street Edmonton, AB T5K 1E4

Re: Submission for the Advisory Committee on Health

Dear Mr. Horne,

I am writing as Executive Director of Volunteer Alberta, Alberta’s only provincial capacity builder for the voluntary sector. Volunteer Alberta works and collaborates with a network of voluntary and non-profit organizations across the province to leverage knowledge to provide tools, initiatives and resources that help community organizations engage and retain volunteers, build internal leadership and achieve their missions.

Volunteer Alberta was encouraged to read the Minister’s Advisory Committee on Health report which emphasised wellness, prevention and overall quality of life as being intricate parts of health care. The report reiterated the insight Volunteer Alberta and its partners have long expressed about the powerful investment Alberta’s 19,000 nonprofit/voluntary sector organizations make every day creating an unparreled quality of life for Albertans. Volunteer Alberta and its member organizations agree health is about much more than medical care. Many factors impact a person’s health. Families, the environment, education systems, and communities are the widely recognized so-called “social determinants of health.”

As Alberta modernizes its health legislation, greater emphasis needs to be placed on wellness, prevention and overall quality of life. Voluntary sector organizations are about enhancing quality of life in Albertan communities. From sports and recreation to social services…from education to environment…from arts and culture to business and industry –organizations large and small depend on volunteers as they provide community programs and services to assist, entertain and connect local residents. Voluntary organizations play a critical role in supporting quality of life and peoples’ overall wellness. These organizations are often heralded as basic and elemental by community leaders, but the financial investments in this province do not always reflect that importance.

Volunteerism is vital for health care. Continuing care organizations, for example, often rely on volunteers for enhancing quality of life of their residents — engaging them in recreational activities, providing a hand to hold, offering friendship and companionship, etc. In Alberta (based on 2007 statistics) health volunteers gave an average of 71 hours annually for a total of 16 million hours volunteered for health organizations. It is noteworthy that while approximately 2% of the nonprofit/voluntary organizations in Alberta are health organizations, upwards of 8% of Alberta’s population volunteered for health organizations. Health volunteers are motivated by the opportunity to make a contribution to the community (92%), or because they are personally affected by the cause of the organization (73%). (see Volunteer Alberta’s website: www.volunteeralberta.ab.ca for more health care volunteer data and information). Volunteerism does not replace the work of health professionals. It complements their skilled work and helps enhance the overall patient or resident experience while in a health care institution. This is but one example of volunteerism’s role in health care; there are thousands more.

Volunteer Alberta understands the Alberta Health Act will make provisions for ongoing engagement of Albertans as future decisions about the health system are made. In designing such engagement processes, we encourage the increased use of existing community networks. Voluntary sector networks are extensive, and are right down at the community level. The nature of their work is such that they are engaging everyday Albertans from all walks of life. The nonprofit/voluntary sector can connect with thousands of Albertans easily and readily, be it a cross-section of society or very targeted groups from specific backgrounds and interests.

Volunteer Alberta and the many organizations it represents would welcome the opportunity to partner, participate and assist in engaging Albertans and Alberta communities in the future as decisions about health are made.

Volunteer Alberta knows that volunteers are valued in this province. The reality is that health care legislation in Alberta needs to formally recognize the inputs invested every day from volunteer-engaging organizations. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Karen Lynch

Executive Director

Volunteer Alberta

cc: Angela Keibel, President, Volunteer Alberta

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