disease prevention

Should Canada do more to curb the health threat of radon gas?

In 2009, Donna Schmidt died of lung cancer. By the time she noticed symptoms and was diagnosed, the cancer had spread from her lung to her spine, liver, breast, bone and brain. She wrote a blog chronicling her last few months in treatment, signing her last post off with, “Thanks to all for everything you have

Are patients being informed about prostate cancer screening risks?

Get screened. It could save your life. Don’t get screened. There’s no evidence that screening saves lives. Get tested in your 40s. Wait until you’re 55. Get the test every year. Every four years is enough. When it comes to screening for prostate cancer, the messages from doctors, major medical organizations and media campaigns are

What’s really driving high-cost use of health care

Laura Rosella

So-called “high-cost users” of health care – the 5% of the population who use nearly two-thirds of health care resources – have become a major policy focus, both in Canada and abroad. But in the rush to save money on the care of patients who are already high-cost users, too little attention has been paid

Wearable technologies – expensive toys or the future of health?

Ali Edwards is a little obsessed with her Fitbit, a wearable device that tracks her steps, miles and floors. “I’ve been known to walk around the bedroom at night so that I reach my goal,” laughs the Edmonton-based 79-year-old. The Fitbit contains an accelerometer that measures movement and a tiny altimeter to measure barometric pressure

Are sick day policies making us sicker?

Mike Benusic et al

This year’s flu season has been particularly nasty. In primary care, this has meant months of waiting rooms teeming with influenza and an array of different viruses. However, relatively few of these patients actually benefit from further assessment and treatment. In many cases, it’s not patients’ health concerns driving them in, but an archaic approach

Antibiotic resistance in farm animals a growing concern for scientists

We’ve all heard about the growing threat of “superbugs,” or bacteria that have become resistant to the drugs we currently use to treat them. And we know that our sometimes inappropriate use of antibiotics shoulders much of the blame. The more bacteria are exposed to antibiotics, the more they develop ways to fight back. But what

Responsible media can save lives

When I found out Toronto experiences four times the amount of suicides compared to homicides, I was shocked. I suspect this is in part because homicides are reported in the news more than suicides. For years, journalists have been told they need to be careful in how they tell their stories about suicide, a major

A crisis of leadership on Ebola

Maureen Taylor

I’m sure Nero did not actually fiddle while Rome burned, but it makes a nice metaphor for the less-desirable qualities and actions of leaders and communicators during emergencies and crises. In the global/international response to the Ebola virus as it smoldered and then raged in West Africa beginning in the spring of 2014, and the

Nurses can and will care for Ebola patients

Linda Haslam-Stroud

Ontario registered nurses have a limited right to refuse unsafe work under the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act. Still, the question remains: will nurses refuse to care for Ebola patients should we ever be faced with that scenario? As President of the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA), the largest nurses’ union in Canada, I can

Do health care workers have a duty to treat Ebola victims?

Maureen Taylor

Every decade or so, a new or exotic infectious disease boards a flight and lands at a Western hospital, and suddenly ethical questions of risks to health care workers and “duty to treat” are front and centre. In the 1980’s and 90’s it was HIV/AIDS.  In 2003 it was SARS.  Today it’s Ebola. There is no question the

Lessons from Cuba on improving primary care in Canada

Chris Stone healthy debate blogger

Canada spends a significant proportion of its budget on health care, while achieving average population health outcomes compared with other OECD countries. It is difficult to achieve coordinated and comprehensive care, due in part to the strain of a dependence on acute care services, accounting for nearly 30% of total health care costs. An aging

Does non-celiac gluten sensitivity really exist?

Gluten sensitivity: bread

When Linda Kerr’s son’s growth flatlined, a doctor suggested the teen might benefit from a gluten-free diet. In support, she tried the diet with him. Her son eventually decided he wasn’t going to follow it, but it did have an unexpected effect: after about a month, Kerr herself found her health improved. “I’d been struggling all

Are food labels more sell than science?

Front-of-package labels

Probiotic ice cream. Antioxidant 7Up. Cupcakes that are “a good source of iron.” Grocery store shelves are lined with products that claim they’re good for you. Some food labels say they’ll help you dodge health conditions – like oatmeal boxes that say “oat fibre helps reduce cholesterol.” Others let shoppers infer the benefits of vitamins or minerals,

Family medicine attracts record number of graduates

Family doctor

Family medicine was a popular choice among medical graduates in the 1980s, when Roger Strasser was training at The University of Western Ontario. “The residents had almost a missionary zeal that they were going to be family doctors,” he says. He shared their passion, becoming a family physician. But when he returned to Canada in 2002, after going back

Too little data for doctors to recommend e-cigarettes

Sachin Pendharkar healthy debate blogger

Read Healthy Debate’s analysis on Regulating the ‘wild west’ of e-cigarettes. As respirologists, we are frequently asked for our opinion on e-cigarettes. At first glance there appears to be some potential positives. While one study suggested that there could be a role for these devices in helping active smokers quit tobacco, a more recent small study

Should HPV vaccination programs be expanded to boys?

Vaccination programs are based on the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Since 2007 Canada has had a vaccination program for the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) administered to girls, although the age of vaccination varies by province:  Grade 5 in Alberta and Grade 8 (with catch up until Grade

The evidence and politics of mandatory health care worker vaccination

The United States Center for Disease Control reports that while only 44% of employees get the influenza or “flu” shot on a voluntary basis, that number rises to 89% when it is required or mandated by the employer. With vaccination rates of 45% among health care workers in some Alberta hospitals and similar rates in Ontario, a debate has