Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New chief health officer named

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While still in medical school, Michael Routledge took to heart the old saying that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

As a resident in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he saw patients gripped by disease and wondered how their illness could have been prevented. He also witnessed with sadness how the health of elderly patients deteriorated following hip fractures and pondered how such accidents could be avoided.

Finding the answers to such questions is the essence of public health.

And on Monday, Routledge -- who has spent the past dozen years practising family medicine, teaching community health at the U of M and flourishing in various public health positions -- begins the plum job he seems to have been preparing himself for since med school. He will become Manitoba's new chief provincial health officer.

Dr. Routledge, 41, takes over from Dr. Joel Kettner, who was let go in January.

A Winnipegger who grew up in River Heights, Routledge was most recently medical director of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's population and public health program -- a job with many parallels to the one he is about to take on. Previously, he worked for three years with Kettner as a provincial medical officer of health.

In a brief interview Friday, Routledge said Manitoba must continue to do a good job in such traditional public health spheres as tracking disease and ensuring high vaccination rates. But he said more work needs to be done to create healthy environments and promote "health equity" among Manitobans.

"One of the specific things I would say is that aboriginal health is, and has to be, an absolute priority for anybody practising public health in Manitoba," Routledge said.

Health Minister Theresa Oswald described Routledge as "incredibly intelligent," "really compassionate," "a very good communicator," and "a humble gentleman" who is well-respected by his peers. "I think he's going to be outstanding," she said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 8, 2012 A16

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