5 great moments in Canadian health history

While new medical breakthroughs continue to grab headlines, Best Health takes a look back at some of the greatest moments in Canadian health history

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health care

1966: Medicare becomes Canadian law

Universal health care is a point of pride in Canada, but that wasn’t always the case. It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time when people without the necessary funds either had to rely on charity for medical treatment, or simply go without. Dubbed “the father of Medicare,” Saskatchewan premier Tommy Douglas was a key figure in the creation of Canada’s current universal health care system. Saskatchewan was the first province to adopt government-funded health care in 1962. In 1966, the federal government introduced the “Medical Care Act,” which was implemented in 1968, making universal health care a reality for all Canadians. For more information on the Canadian health care system and how it compares to our neighbours to the south, click here.

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1922: The discovery of insulin

The discovery of insulin by Sir Frederick Banting and his assistant, Charles Best, is perhaps the most well-known and widely celebrated medical breakthrough in Canadian history. And rightly so, as it has had a significant impact on the lives of people with diabetes in Canada and around the world. Although insulin is not a cure for diabetes, its availability has made it possible for diabetics to manage their condition and enjoy a longer life expectancy than they would have in Banting’s era. For his contribution to the medical community, Banting was awarded Canada’s first Nobel Prize.

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1931: Pablum becomes available in Canada

It was 1930 when three Canadian doctors at the Hospital for Sick Children-Frederick Tisdall, Theodore Drake and Alan Brown-developed a product to help supplement children’s nutrition. They called it “pablum”-a cereal that helped to boost essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D, in a child’s diet. Pablum was made available to the public in Canada and the U.S. in 1931 and royalties from the sale of the cereal helped to fund pediatric research at Sick Kids for 25 years. Pablum is still an important part of infant nutrition today.

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birth control

1969: The birth control pill is legalized

The birth control pill was developed by Americans Margaret Sanger and Dr. Gregory Pincus and approved by the FDA in 1960. While the pill was available to women in Canada in 1960, doctors were only able to prescribe it for therapeutic purposes, such as menstrual regulation. However, in 1969, the pill became legalized as a contraceptive, giving women across the country the right to decide if and when they wanted to become mothers. While other forms of birth control-such as the IUD-have increased in popularity over the years, the birth control pill is still widely used by Canadian women today.

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abortion laws

1988: Canada’s abortion law deemed “unconstitutional”

Until January 1988, abortions could only be legally performed in Canada if an abortion committee decided that the pregnancy endangered a woman’s life and/or health. Ironically, one of the biggest champions of women’s rights in the abortion debate was a man-Dr. Henry Morgentaler. Morgentaler fought against Canada’s abortion law for almost two decades before it was deemed “unconstitutional.” According to the Supreme Court, the law violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Morgentaler was awarded the Order of Canada in 2008.

Why Canadian health care is better
What you need to know about diabetes
Who’s healthier: Canadians or Americans?

Find more great Canadian facts on our partner site, Sympatico.ca.

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