The federal government should be an equal partner in discussions concerning the future health accord, say the majority of Canadians polled in a recent survey conducted by high-profile charities.

At the moment, health care largely remains a provincial responsibility. 

Eighty-five per cent of Canadians surveyed said they want the federal government to engage with the provinces and territories to address the health-care needs of Canadians, according to a poll released Thursday. The poll was commissioned by the Canadian Diabetes Association, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Canadian Cancer Society.

The charities want the focus of the health accord debate to be on improving the health care of Canadians — particularly those with conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease. "While much of the health accord debate has been about financial transfer payments, it is improving the health of Canadians, regardless of where they live, that must be at the centre of health-care reforms," Dan Demers, director of public issues at the Canadian Cancer Society, said in a release.

In the poll, 94 per cent of those surveyed said that preventing chronic diseases should be a top priority, with 50 per cent saying it should be an important but lower priority for the 2014 health accord discussions.

Ninety-three per cent of those polled said the Health Accord should also include a plan preventing Canadians from experiencing severe financial hardship due to a medical condition or medication used to treat it.

The poll of 1,000 Canadians over 18 years was conducted by Environics across Canada between Dec. 6 -11, 2011. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.10 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.