March 2015

Health & Safety

 Canadian, US agencies approve non-browning apple as safe

 The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada have approved non-browning Arctic Apples for commercial sale in Canada.

 In a letter sent to Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. on Friday, the CFIA said Arctic Apples "are as safe and nutritious as traditional apple varieties."

 Health Canada said they have concluded the Arctic Apple "is safe for consumption, still has all its nutritional value and therefore does not differ from other apples available on the market."

 Health Canada publishes revised human exposure limits for radiofrequency electromagnetic energy

 Today Health Canada published its revised Safety Code 6. Safety Code 6 is Health Canada's guideline for recommended human exposure limits to radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic energy, the kind of energy given off by various electronic devices such as cell phones and Wi-Fi, as well as broadcasting and cell phone towers.

 Health Canada has updated Safety Code 6 based on the latest available scientific evidence, including improved modelling of the interaction of radiofrequency fields with the human body. The revised Safety Code takes into consideration recommendations from the Royal Society of Canada's Expert Panel on Safety Code 6, as well as the scientific and technical feedback received by Health Canada during the public consultation on the proposed guideline. The updated Safety Code includes slightly more restrictive reference levels in some frequency ranges to ensure even larger safety margins to protect all Canadians, including newborn infants and children.

 Health Minister administers a dose of common sense on vaccinations

 Rona Ambrose is doing a good job with the prickly issue of childhood vaccination. The federal Health Minister was already on the record as saying that “vaccinations are, frankly, miracles of modern medicine.” Frankly, she’s right. She reinforced the message on Friday, when she declared that every province should make proof of vaccination a requirement for attending school.

 Ms. Ambrose hasn’t the power to oblige provinces and territories to do her bidding. Health and education are provincial jurisdictions. But her words drive home the seriousness of the issue, and it sets the government’s tone in the battle against the ridiculous anti-vaccination movement that is doing so much damage in Canada and around the world.

 Canadian Doctors speak out for refugee health care

 “The federal government has lied continually for three years about [the amendments],” said Philip Berger, a University of Toronto medical professor and health rights activist. “Costs were absorbed by provincial governments and local hospitals,” Berger continued.

 “Rather than treating people on the basis of their medical need, we are asked to treat them based on their legal status and where they were born,” Berger said.

 E-cigarettes ban ‘not an option’: Commons health committee calls for legalization

 It’s time to bring e-cigarettes in from the cold and regulate the devices as unique products that might pose some dangers, but could also help smokers quit a lethal habit, MPs have recommended in a rare all-party consensus.

 The House of Commons’ health committee calls in a new report for ending the legal grey zone that surrounds the technology in Canada and implementing a new set of rules that balances the benefits and risks of “vaping.”

Human Resources

 Harper government boosts investment to help internationally educated health professionals work in their field

 Today, the Honourable Alice Wong, Minister of State for Seniors, on behalf of the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health, announced $1.8 million in federal funding to support bringing internationally educated health professionals (IEHPs) into the health workforce of Canada's western and northern regions. Today's announcement follows an almost $8.4 million commitment announced by Minister Ambrose in Toronto last week to help IEHPs across Canada work in their field.

 Across Canada access to health professionals continues to be a challenge, especially in some northern, more remote communities where over half of the population is without a regular family doctor.  At the same time, there are around 10,000 newcomers to Canada each year that are health related professionals. Many of these individuals face obstacles in finding jobs that best match their skills and experience.

 Permanent immigration to Canada: Options for students and post-graduate work permit holders

 Changes to certain aspects of Canada’s immigration selection system, and how they may affect past, present and future international students in Canada, have come under the spotlight recently. Reports in some major media publications have led to the perception that these changes have made it more difficult for international students who have graduated from Canadian universities to become permanent residents. Conversations on university campuses and workplaces across Canada, as well as online, have since focused on this issue.

 PC Government considering ‘terrific’ move of adding gender identify, expression to Human Rights Act

 The province passed Bill 10 earlier this month, which amended Alberta’s Bill of Rights, an older piece of legislation, to include gender identity and expression.

 “As a government we believe in fair treatment for all Albertans,” Jessica Jacobs-Mino, the press secretary for Justice Minister Jonathan Denis, said in an email last week. “We are considering introducing an amendment to the Alberta Human Rights Act, but at this point we are not in a position to comment on when that might happen.”

 Health-care transparency at risk under Bill 10, experts say

 Following the adoption in February of Bill 10 — Barrette’s reform of the governance of health establishments — the government has proceeded to eliminate more than 1,300 managerial positions across the network.

 One of the objectives of the reform is to save $220 million a year in administrative expenses. With the abolition of so many jobs, the government has been left with no choice but to create new mega-managerial positions. For example, Quebec is taking applications for a three-in-one position: director of human resources, legal affairs and communications.

 The promise and challenge of health analytics

 Continuing genomics research, combined with advancements in digital technology and data storage and analytics, hint at medicine’s next frontier. But maximizing the potential of a new health-analytics approach may require a rethink in the culture of patient care and new approaches to data ownership and security

 On Feb. 24 I attended a workshop in MIT on the Future of Health Analytics. The event was sponsored by MIT Connection Science, a recently organized research initiative aimed at leveraging data science to quantify and analyze human behaviors, and to leverage the new insights thus obtained in key societal applications, including health care, transportation and finance. Connection Science, with which I’m affiliated as a Fellow, was founded by Media Lab professor Alex “Sandy” Pentland. He’s the author of several books, including the recently published Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread.


 Health Canada licensing of natural remedies ‘a joke’, doctor says

 Popular over-the-counter remedies, approved by Health Canada as "safe and effective," may be supported by little to no scientific evidence that the products work, an investigation by CBC’s Marketplace reveals.

 Canadians spend $2.4 billion a year on natural health products.While some products may have clinical trials or other scientific evidence to support their claims, many do not require any scientific proof, and there’s little way for consumers to tell the difference.

 Canada needs more transparency in pharmaceutical regulation

 The federal government plays a vital role in pharmaceutical drug regulation. We have many reasons to be proud of the systems for drug safety already in place in Canada. Yet there's room for significant improvement.

 Over the course of nearly three years, the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology has studied prescription pharmaceuticals in Canada, and our findings are summarized in the newly tabled report, Prescription Pharmaceuticals in Canada. We heard hundreds of hours of testimony from a wide range of experts in the field on the strengths of our regulatory systems, but there was also a strong chorus of criticism from those who believe we can do much better.

 Back to the past: Alberta returns to decentralized health care

 Seven years after Alberta collapsed its health regions and centralized care in an attempt to save money and improve outcomes, it is moving back in the other direction.

 Premier Jim Prentice said Wednesday that decentralization of health care is the way to go, despite earlier decisions by previous Progressive Conservative governments.

 "I'm not going to defend what happened in the past. I wasn't the premier at the time," Prentice told reporters. "The pendulum is coming back in terms of local input into decision-making to protect the interests of people who live across the province."

 More than 52,000 Canadians travelled abroad for health care last year, study finds

 The number of Canadian patients who travelled abroad in 2014 to receive non-emergency medical treatment increased 25% from 2013, according to a study conducted by the Fraser Institute, a Canadian independent research and education organization.

 In 2014, 52,513 Canadians travelled beyond our borders to seek medical treatment, compared with 41,838 in 2013. The numbers suggest that the Canadian health care system could not comply with the needs and demands of a substantial number of Canadian patients, according to the study.

 Pharmacare would mean big savings while closing health care gap: Editorial

 The case for a national pharmacare program, covering prescription drug costs for all Canadians, is now noticeably stronger. A persuasive new study analyzing the cost of such coverage has found it would save a great deal of money, especially for the private sector, with relatively little expense to government.

 “In many of the scenarios that we modeled, universal pharmacare was cost-neutral for governments,” said Dr. Danielle Martin, one of the study’s authors and a vice-president at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. “This goes against current thinking that a universal program will cost more.”