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The Role of the Chief Public Health Officer

The Chief Public Health Officer

In 2004, the Government of Canada created the Public Health Agency of Canada and the position of Chief Public Health Officer to improve public health in Canada and strengthen the country's ability to respond to public health threats, outbreaks and emergencies.

The Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO) is the federal government's lead public health professional. The CPHO is responsible for:

  • Providing advice to the Minister of Health and President of the Public Health Agency of Canada on health issues;
  • Working with other governments, jurisdictions, agencies, organizations, and countries on health matters;
  • Providing an annual report to the Minister on the state of public health in Canada for tabling in Parliament; and
  • Speaking to Canadians, health professionals, stakeholders, and the public about issues affecting the population's health.

The CPHO is also accountable for or has delegated responsibilities for public health-related provisions of the Public Health Agency of Canada Act, the Quarantine Act, the Human Pathogens and Toxins Act and the Department of Health Act.

You can find more on the legislation behind the Chief Public Health Officer and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Speaking to Canadians

One of the Chief Public Health Officer's roles is as a communicator of public health information. The Chief Public Health Officer:

  • Speaks to Canadians, health professionals, stakeholders, and the public about issues affecting the population's health. This is done directly through conferences and meetings, as well as through the media and the Public Health Agency of Canada's web site.
  • Is required by law to report annually to the Government of Canada on the state of public health in our country.
  • Can report on any public health issue, as needed.

In an Emergency

In a public health emergency, such as an outbreak or natural disaster, the Chief Public Health Officer is responsible for:

  • Briefing and advising Canada's Minister of Health, the President of the Public Health Agency and others as appropriate;
  • Working with counterparts in other departments, jurisdictions, and countries, as well as with experts and elected officials, to communicate with Canadians about how to protect themselves and their families;
  • Personally delivering public health information to Canadians via media appearances, public statements, updates to the Public Health Agency web site, and columns and public advertisements in daily and community newspapers;
  • Providing direction to Public Health Agency staff, including medical professionals, scientists, and epidemiologists, as they plan and respond to the emergency;
  • Leading daily national teleconferences as appropriate with federal government scientists and experts to share information and plan outbreak responses; and
  • Coordinating with jurisdictions through regular teleconferences with Canada's provincial and territorial Chief Medical Officers of Health and others.