Cover: A Healthy Future: Lessons from the Frontlines of a Crisis, by Ryan Meili. Illustration: a young plant with four leaves set against a green watercolour background. An endorsement reads: “Poignant and deeply important,” Danielle Martin, MD.
304 pages, 6 x 9
10 b&w photos
Release Date:01 Oct 2023
Release Date:01 Oct 2023
Release Date:01 Oct 2023

A Healthy Future

Lessons from the Frontlines of a Crisis

UBC Press, Purich Books

This gripping account of the COVID-19 experience in Saskatchewan goes beyond pandemic memoir to draw lessons we can use to create a healthier future.

Filled with moving stories of how COVID changed people’s lives, Ryan Meili’s deeply humane account of the pandemic draws on his unique experience as a doctor and as the leader of Saskatchewan’s official opposition during the first two years of the outbreak. A Healthy Future reveals how the pandemic exposed and made worse problems in health care, elder care, education, and social supports – and details how we can do better.

Written with passion and commitment, this book offers a firsthand look at how the pandemic laid bare the shortcomings of Saskatchewan’s – and Canada’s – public health response, with tragic results. It also provides an inspiring vision of what Canadians can learn from the pandemic to create a healthier and more equitable future.

With its eye-opening descriptions of both the political and health care response to the virus, this book will appeal to those seeking to understand what really happened during the pandemic, as well as policy makers, health care professionals, and researchers and students studying the social determinants of health.

[Meili] has done us a service in meticulously chronicling a ghastly period. John Baglow, Literary Review of Canada
When the pandemic arrived, Dr. Ryan Meili was both a physician and the leader of the NDP opposition in Saskatchewan. He was in a unique position to take part in both the medical and the political responses to COVID-19, and he kept meticulous notes. He transformed them into an insightful journal of Saskatchewan’s plague years in A Healthy Future: Lessons from the Frontlines of a Crisis, his new book published this fall. Crawford Kilian, The Tyee
A Healthy Future is at once a pandemic narrative and a rich tapestry of observations. Drawing on insights from his multiple vantage points as the leader of Saskatchewan’s Official Opposition, a family doctor, the spouse of a busy pediatrician, and the father of two young sons, Ryan Meili’s engrossing account of COVID-19 in Canada reveals important lessons for our country’s future. David Naylor, MD, professor of Medicine, University of Toronto
This outstanding book offers a sweeping analysis of this period in recent history: the impact on children, the deadly outbreaks in long-term care facilities, the view from a prison, and many other enlightening perspectives. There are few who witnessed the pandemic from both a seat in the legislature as well as the clinical frontlines of health care, and none who could document it better than this. Meili’s honest and frank writing draws out specific lessons and critical messages to our broader society, to which we should pay heed. Jane Philpott, dean, Faculty of Health Sciences, Queen’s University
Ryan Meili has extracted the critical lessons of the Saskatchewan COVID-19 experience, highlighting them with his rare combination of humility and courage. The result weaves together moving stories of real people affected by the ripple effects of the pandemic with a hard-hitting political analysis. This book is excellent. The lessons are poignant and deeply important Danielle Martin, MD, author of Better Now: 6 Big Ideas to Improve Healthcare for All Canadians
Family doctor and political leader is an unusual combination, but it’s one that allows Ryan Meili to deliver a quietly searing diagnosis of how COVID-19 was mishandled in Saskatchewan. While A Healthy Future focuses on one province, it provides universal lessons on how to respond to a pandemic and other wrenching socio-political challenges. André Picard, author of Neglected No More: The Urgent Need to Improve the Lives of Canada’s Elders
A Healthy Future is a page-turning account of how the politics of COVID-19 affected provincial responses across Canada. Ryan Meili not only identifies issues related to the health care system but ongoing existing problems related to the distribution of economic and social resources among Canadians. I will be recommending this book to everyone in my network. Dennis Raphael, author of Poverty in Canada: Implication for Health and Quality of Life, and coauthor of Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts, 2nd edition
Ryan Meili writes with the compassion of a caring doctor and the passion of a changemaker. His engaging book on the COVID-19 pandemic helps us make sense of our recent past and imagine a healthy future. Raffi Cavoukian, CM, OBC, singer, author, and founder of Child Honouring
A crucial read for all health care advocates in Canada, A Healthy Future portrays the harsh realities of COVID-19 for the people of Saskatchewan. As I read, I kept visualizing the thousands of horror stories from nurses who were trying to do the best they could, even though it was sadly often not enough. This book is an important reminder that a healthy future is not only in the hands of health ministers, just like a strong economy is not only in the hands of finance ministers. Linda Silas, president, Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions
Through a compassionate, empathetic, and justice-centred approach, Ryan Meili takes us on a journey to better understand the ways that the COVID-19 pandemic changed us forever as a nation, and as a people. His thought-provoking and riveting analysis provides a foundational understanding of how we as a community chose to respond to the pandemic and the differing consequences that those responses had on people, especially those who experience structural marginalization. Grounded in his own personal experiences, a strong evidence base, and a solution-oriented framework, this book is required reading for anyone who wants to better understand the collective role we all have in ensuring a healthier and more just society. Naheed Dosani, MD, palliative care physician and assistant professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto
A Healthy Future presents the deeply human side of the provider caught in the maelstrom of the COVID-19 pandemic as they navigated patient need, political missteps and their own exhaustion and fear. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn the lessons of this dreaded pandemic and build toward a safer and more prepared world. Joia Mukherjee, MD, associate professor in global health and social medicine, Harvard University, and chief medical officer, Partners In Health
Nothing defines us as Canadians more than our public health care system. Although the COVID-19 pandemic affected us all, not all of us had the same supports. The pandemic exposed the challenges of maintaining publicly funded and universally accessible health services across the country. Ryan Meili offers a unique perspective as both a practising politician and a physician. His retelling of the personal impact of the pandemic on so many people reminds us that we were all in it together. John Horgan, former premier of British Columbia
In challenging times, real leaders step up. At the peak of the pandemic, from the halls of the legislature to the halls of the hospital, Ryan Meili did exactly that. A Healthy Future is a riveting tale of that challenging time and an important guide to better times ahead. Rachel Notley, former premier of Alberta
Ryan Meili has a unique vantage point on the COVID-19 pandemic. As both a frontline physician and the leader of the opposition in Saskatchewan, he combines political memoir with pandemic lessons. In a world where we seem eager to revise the past and forget the lessons of COVID-19, Meili provides a clear-eyed view of what happened, what should’ve happened, and what we can do better next time. Naheed Nenshi, former mayor of Calgary
If ever anyone can be said to have led the province from the opposition benches, it is Dr. Ryan Meili. His courageous response to the challenge of COVID-19 stood in stark contrast to the lack of leadership from Scott Moe and the Sask Party at a time when it was so desperately needed. That leadership continues with the crystal-clear vision presented in A Healthy Future. Jagmeet Singh, leader of Canada’s NDP
Canada’s prized health care system was under strain long before the COVID pandemic exposed just how vulnerable it is. It’s become more important than ever for our elected leaders to refocus on the people that keep our health systems working ... Dr. Ryan Meili offers a clear vision for how Canada and Canadians can push through the status quo, overcoming resistance to change to create a healthier future together. Alika Lafontaine, MD, president, Canadian Medical Association

Ryan Meili is a family physician who focuses on health equity and social justice. He is the author of A Healthy Society: How a Focus on Health Can Revive Canadian Democracy. He has practised family medicine in rural and Northern Saskatchewan, as well as in Saskatoon and rural Mozambique. In 2017, he was elected as the Member of Saskatchewan’s Legislative Assembly for Saskatoon Meewasin, going on to serve as Leader of the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party and Leader of the Official Opposition in Saskatchewan from 2018 to 2022. He lives in Saskatoon with his wife, Mahli Brindamour, and their two sons, Abe and Gus.

Foreword: Wisdom in the Scars / Katharine Smart


First Wave

Gathering Clouds

The Longest March

Losing Trust

Reopening Minds

Eye of the Storm

Second Wave

Ignoring the Signs

Back to School

Respecting Our Elders

Third Wave

Miracles and Mudholes

Variants of Concern

Fourth Wave

Best Summer Ever

The Dam Breaks

Fifth Wave

Putting It Mildly

Waving Goodbye

Lessons for the Next Wave

Acknowledgments; Notes; Index

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