Job Title: Primary Care Networks Edmonton Area Lead; Family Physician; Emergency Room Physician; President at Leduc Beaumont Devon Primary Care Network (PCN), Medical Director – Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Program at Leduc Beaumont Devon Primary Care Network
Why He’s Top 40: He works with Primary Care Networks to provide overall healthcare that extends far beyond just the usual doctor’s visit.
Biggest Fear: “Losing sight of the big picture. Fear of just getting swallowed up with that which you do and just losing the other elements of your life-time with your kids or being an active member of your community. It’s important to keep all of it in mind.”
Getting a prescription from physician Justin Balko doesn’t just mean getting a note for medications. It can mean getting a suggestion for exercise along with access to a facility. Balko is the spokesperson behind Prescription to Get Active, a program that illustrates the work being done by Primary Care Networks (PCNs) in Alberta.
The Edmonton region has 11 PCNs, which are non-profit groups formed by physicians within an area who put together proactive health networks. Exercise specialists, dieticians, and mental-health experts are all part of the teams. Balko’s the Edmonton Zone Lead for PCNs, meaning he studies the challenges of patients and meets monthly with Alberta Health senior administrators – including the Minister of Health – to suggest ways to move forward.
Prescription to Get Active was born of the Leduc, Beaumont, Devon Primary Care Network, where Balko is the president. It now operates on a national scale with local chapters in other provinces. Along with his family practice, Balko works as an emergency room doctor, an admitting physician at two nursing homes, as a medical director of cardiovascular rehabilitation and as an associate clinical professor at the University of Alberta’s Department of Family Medicine.
“I’m passionate about my blood pressure rising in the emergency department. I love getting little pictures from my six-year-old patients. I love it all,” says Balko.
Balko’s seen specialist wait times reduced, and patients become more proactive about their health thanks to the work of local PCNs. “We know the biggest drive for improved health isn’t in the hospitals; it’s in the community,” he says.
Alberta’s move back to Step 1 did not include the closure of schools.
Meanwhile, Ontario shut its schools as COVID numbers increase.