Finding the cash top priority for health study group

 stw-aamjiwnaang sickness from shell“If we can’t get the funding, we can’t move forward.”

That is the stark reality facing the members of the Lambton Community Health Study according to the Chair Anne Marie Gillis. So the group will make it a priority to find funding to pay for the research which needs to be done to determine if the area’s industry is making people sick.

The study started seven years ago with a review of all the information on the links between the industry and human health. The study group has also done community surveys and held town hall meetings to determine what the community wants. So far, Gillis says, about $150,000 has been spent.

But Gillis says the group still has years of research ahead which will take millions of dollars and no funding in sight.

Gillis and the members of the group met recently to decide what to do next and came to a very stark conclusion; the money had to come first.

“There was a really strong commitment from the board that they wanted to continue,” she says. “We want to continue with the health study but we’re concerned can we find funding? How do we get the funding we need to make this thing move forward?”

Gillis says the next stage is pure research and that involves a lot of cash – an estimated $3 to $5 million or more. “This is where the big money comes, where the rubber hits the road to see if everyone is committed.”

The health study group has formed a task force to come up with a plan of action to find the cash for the study but Gillis says one of the first stops will be the provincial and federal government. “We have to have a government that is willing to listen, we have that now with the provincial government,” she says.

“If Health Canada was such a proponent five years ago saying ‘we needed to do this’, we need them to help us to do this…we’re calling them to task.”

And Gillis says the group has agreed industry should be footing more of the bill, perhaps as much as a third. But she says strict controls will have to be on the research so people don’t feel industry has undue influence. “When industry comes and finances the entire project, no matter how many checks and balances you put in place, people question the outcome; but we realize the industry has to be giving more.”

Gillis says the task force will set some clear time frames and work toward getting funding. And if it doesn’t, Gillis says there will be an unfortunate outcome. “If we can’t get the funding, we can’t move forward.

“The board wasn’t prepared to give up, but we may be forced into that situation.”

-Heather Wright