Municipal Update October 2022

Dear municipal candidate,

Congratulations on putting your name forward in the upcoming municipal election. As you know, municipal government is the closest level of government to our communities and carries many responsibilities. Of the many responsibilities of municipal government, one is public health. Please see the following for an overview of public health’s role and as an update on local public health priorities.

About public health and public health units

In Ontario, a public health unit is “an official health agency established by a group of urban and rural municipalities to provide a more efficient community health program, carried out by full-time, specially qualified staff.” (Health Services in Your Community | Ministry of Health)

Public health is NOT the same as the publicly funded acute healthcare system (including hospitals and primary care). “Local public health agencies provide programs and services that promote well-being, prevent disease and injury, and protect population health. Our work, often done in collaboration with local partners and within the broader public health system, results in a healthier population and avoids drawing on costly and scarce health care resources.” [Source: PUBLIC HEALTH MATTERS | Association of Local Public Health Agencies]

Local public health units have in-depth knowledge of local resources and priorities, and strong relationships with key local partners/stakeholders such as municipalities and school boards, to facilitate the delivery of local public health programs and services. Municipalities are a key co-funder of local public health agencies.

Ontario’s public health system recognizes the strength of local programming that takes into account local needs and resources and capitalizes on municipal input, while delivering on provincial directions. As the government transforms the health care system to improve patient experience and strengthen local services, it is equally important to strengthen local public health services, and maintain local accountability and stability.

Huron Perth Public Health

Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH) is governed by the Huron Perth Board of Health, an autonomous corporation under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. The board is largely made up of elected representatives appointed by the upper-tier municipalities of Huron and Perth counties.

HPPH came into existence on January 1, 2020, following the merger of the previous Perth District Health Unit and Huron County Health Unit. Four weeks later, on February 3, 2020, our COVID-19 pandemic response began.

Pandemic and Recovery

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of local public health has become abundantly clear. As leaders of the ongoing response to control disease transmission in our jurisdictions and roll out an unprecedented vaccination campaign, public health units diverted an average of 74% of 2020 resources and 78% of 2021 resources away from regular programs and services towards COVID-19 response. HPPH was no exception.

This past spring, HPPH began a gradual transition from acute pandemic response to recovery. This work includes:

  • Clearing the backlog of work that has accumulated over the past two plus years. Clearing this backlog is critical in order to avoid significant impacts on population health with increased burdens of illness on the health care system
  • Resuming regular programs and services
  • Maintaining an effective pandemic response as COVID-19 continues to circulate and impact our communities

HPPH organizational program priorities in our COVID recovery phase include (in alphabetical order):

  • Early child development: services for infants, toddlers, and children in the early years at risk for poor social and emotional development
  • Equity, diversity, inclusion, such as our anti-racism and health equity work
  • Healthy eating/physical activity/sedentary Time (adult and child)
  • Health protection, including Ministry-mandated inspection programs; disclosure system for food premise inspections; and, immunization catch-up (routine immunizations for children and adults)
  • Mental health and addictions.

In addition, HPPH is working to complete operational details of the 2020 merger.

Moving Forward

Although COVID-19 continues to circulate, Ontario has been able to move out of acute pandemic response and transition to management of COVID. Local public health has been key to this provincial success, and HPPH recognizes the expertise and support of our municipal partners during this time as well.

Public health will also be a key part of continued health and economic recovery moving forward. We ask that municipal representatives advocate for sustained and sufficient resources for public health, and a stable public health structure embedded in local communities so that our work together may continue.

Please see Public Health Matters: A Public Health Primer for 2022 Election Candidates for further information, as well as the HPPH 2021 Annual Report.

Please don’t hesitate to call Huron Perth Public Health at 1-888-221-2133 if you would like further information. 


Dr. Miriam Klassen,

Medical Officer of Health & CEO

Huron Perth Public Health