Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (UPDATE 2000)
The Canadian Medical Association has developed the following general principles to serve as guidelines for various bodies, health care professionals and the general public. Specific aspects of infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficency syndrome (AIDS) that relate to physicians' ethical responsibilities as well as society's moral obligations are discussed. Such matters include: the need for education, research and treatment resources; the patient's right to investigation and treatment and to refuse either; the need to obtain the patient's informed consent; the right to privacy and confidentiality; the importance of infection control; and the right to financial compensation in the case of occupational exposure to HIV.
Physicians should keep their knowledge of AIDS and HIV infection up to date.
Physicians should educate patients and the general public in the prevention of AIDS by informing them of means available to protect against the risk of HIV infection and to avoid further transmission of the virus.
Health authorities should maintain an active public education program on AIDS that includes the school population and such initiatives as public service announcements by the media.
All levels of government should provide resources for adequate information and education of health care professionals and the public on HIV-related diseases; research into the prevention and treatment of HIV infection and AIDS; and the availability and accessibility of proper diagnosis and care for all patients with HIV infection.
HIV antibody testing
Physicians have an ethical responsibility to recommend appropriate testing for HIV antibody and to care for their patients with AIDS or refer them to where treatment is available.
Physicians should provide counselling to patients before and after HIV antibody testing.
Because of the potential psychologic, social and economic consequences attached to a positive HIV test result, informed consent must, with rare exceptions, be obtained from a patient before testing. However, the CMA endorses informed mandatory testing for HIV infection in cases involving the donation of blood, body fluids or organs.
The CMA recognizes that people who have doubts about their serologic status may avoid being tested for fear of indiscretion and therefore supports voluntary non-nominal testing of potential HIV carriers on request.
The CMA supports the Canadian Blood Service and Hema-Québec in their programs of testing and screening blood donations and blood products.
Confidentiality in reporting and contact tracing
The CMA supports the position that cases of HIV infection should be reported non-nominally with enough information to be epidemiologically useful. In addition, each confirmed case of AIDS should be reported non-nominally to a designated authority for epidemiologic purposes.
The CMA encourages attending physicians to assist public health authorities to trace and counsel confidentially all contacts of patients with HIV infection. Contact tracing should be carried out with the cooperation and participation of the patient to provide maximum flexibility and effectiveness in alerting and counselling as many potentially infected people as possible.
In some jurisdictions physicians may be compelled to provide detailed information to public health authorities. In such circumstances, the CMA urges those involved to maintain confidentiality to the greatest extent possible and to take all reasonable steps to inform the patient that their information is being disclosed.
The CMA Code of Ethics (article 22) advises physicians that disclosure of a patient’s HIV status to a spouse or current sexual partner may not be unethical and, indeed, may be indicated when physicians are confronted with an HIV-infected patient who is unwilling to inform the person at risk. Such disclosure may be justified when all of the following conditions are met: the partner is at risk of infection with HIV and has no other reasonable means of knowing of the risk; the patient has refused to inform his or her sexual partner; the patient has refused an offer of assistance by the physician to do so on the patient's behalf; and the physician has informed the patient of his or her intention to disclose the information to the partner.
The CMA stresses the need to respect the confidentiality of patients with HIV infection and consequently recommends that legal and regulatory safeguards to protect such confidentiality be established and maintained.
Health care institutions and professionals should ensure that adequate infection-control measures in the handling of blood and body fluids are in place and that the rights of professionals directly involved in patient care to be informed of and protected from the risks of HIV infection are safeguarded.
The CMA does not recommend routine testing of hospitalized patients.
The CMA urges appropriate funding agencies to assess the explicit and implicit costs of infection control measures and to ensure that additional funds are provided to cover these extraordinary costs.
Occupational exposure and the health care professional
Health care workers should receive adequate financial compensation in the case of HIV infection acquired as a result of accidental occupational exposure.
Physicians and other health care providers with HIV infection have the same rights as others to be protected from wrongful discrimination in the workplace and to be eligible for financial compensation for work-related infection.
Physicians with HIV infection should consult appropriate colleagues to determine the nature and extent of the risk related to their continued involvement in the care of patients.
CMA Policy : Rural and Remote Practice Issues
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) believes that all Canadians should have reasonable access to uniform, high quality medical care. The CMA is concerned, however, that the health care infrastructure and level of professional support in rural and remote areas are insufficient to provide quality care and retain and recruit physicians relative to community needs. The CMA has developed this policy to outline specific issues and recommendations that may help retain and recruit physicians to rural and remote areas of Canada and thereby improve the health status of rural and remote populations. The following 3 key issue areas are addressed in this policy: training, compensation and work/lifestyle support. Commitment and action by all stakeholders, including governments, medical schools, professional associations and others, are urgently required.
Canadian physicians and other health care professionals are greatly frustrated by the impact that health care budget cuts and reorganization have had, and continue to have, on the timely provision of quality care to patients and general working conditions. For many physicians who practise in rural and remote communities, the impact is exacerbated by the breadth of their practice, as well as long working hours, geographic isolation, and lack of professional backup and access to specialist services.
This policy has been prepared to help governments, policy-makers, communities and others involved in the retention and recruitment of physicians understand the various professional and personal factors that must be addressed to retain and recruit physicians to rural and remote areas of Canada. This policy applies to both general practitioners/family physicians as well as specialists. The CMA believes that this policy must be considered in the context of other relevant CMA policies, including but not limited to Physician Health and Wellbeing, Physician Compensation, Physician Resource Planning, Principles for a Re-entry System in Canadian Postgraduate Medical Education and Charter for Physicians. In addition, any strategies that are developed should not be coercive and must include community and physician input; they must also be comprehensive, flexible and varied to meet and respond to local needs and interests.
Rural and remote
There are no standard, broadly accepted terms or definitions for "rural" and "remote" since they cannot be sufficiently defined to reflect the unique and dynamic nature of the various regions and communities that could presumably be labelled as such.
The terms "rural" or "remote" medicine may be applied to many things: the physicians themselves, the population they serve, the geography of the community or access to medical services. For each of these factors, there are a number of ways to define and measure rurality. For example, a 1999 CMA survey of rural physicians showed that the most frequently mentioned characteristics of a rural community were (1) high level of on-call responsibilities, (2) long distance to a secondary referral centre, (3) lack of specialist services and (4) insufficient family physicians. As another example, Statistics Canada defines rural and small town residents for some analyses as those living in communities outside Census Metropolitan Areas (population of at least 100 000) or Census Agglomerations (population between 10 000 and 99 999), and where less than 50% of the workforce commute to a larger urban centre.
For the purposes of this policy, a medical school is understood to encompass the entire continuum of
medical education, i.e., undergraduate, postgraduate, continuing medical education and maintenance of
Some Canadian studies have shown that medical trainees who were raised in rural communities have a greater tendency to return to these or similar communities to practise medicine. Some studies also show that individuals who do clerkships in rural or remote communities, or have some exposure to the rural practice environment during residency training, have a greater tendency to consider practising in rural or remote communities upon graduation. The CMA applauds those medical schools that promote careers in medicine to individuals from rural and remote areas and provide medical students and residents with exposure to rural practice during their training. Regular collaboration and communication among training directors for rural and remote programs, as well as rural medical educators and leaders from other health disciplines, are strongly encouraged so that rural training issues and possible linkages may be discussed. The benefits of rural training extend not only to those physicians who ultimately end up in rural practice; those who remain in urban areas also benefit by having an enhanced understanding of the challenges of rural and remote practice.
As outlined in the CMA’s 1992 Report of the Advisory Panel on the Provision of Medical Services in Underserviced Regions, the CMA believes that partnerships among medical schools, the practising profession and communities need to be formalized, particularly since medical schools have a crucial role in helping to recruit and retain physicians for rural and remote communities. The medical school’s role in such a partnership takes the form of a social contract. This contract begins with the admission of students who demonstrate a prior interest in working in rural or remote communities and may come from these communities. It also includes the exposure of students to rural practice during their undergraduate and postgraduate training. It is followed by the provision of specialized training for the conditions in which they will work and ongoing educational support during their rural and remote practice. For these reasons, the CMA strongly encourages academic health science centres (AHSCs), provincial governments, professional associations and rural communities to work together to formally define the geographic regions for which each AHSC is responsible. The AHSCs are also encouraged to include within their mission a social contract to contribute to meeting the health needs of their rural or remote populations.
Practising physicians are committed to lifelong learning. In order to preserve a high standard of quality care to their patients, they must be knowledgeable about new clinical and technological advances in medicine; they must also continually develop advanced or additional clinical skills in, for example, obstetrics, general surgery and anaesthesia, to better serve the patients in their communities, especially when specialist services are not readily available. There are many practical and financial barriers that physicians in rural and remote communities face in obtaining and maintaining additional skills training, including housing, practice and other costs (e.g., locum tenens replacement expenses) while they are away from work. The CMA strongly encourages governments to develop and maintain mechanisms, such as compensation or additional tax relief, to reduce the barriers associated with obtaining advanced or additional skills training.
In light of these issues, the CMA recommends that
1. Universities, governments and others encourage and fund research into criteria that predispose students to select and succeed in rural practice.
2. All medical students, as early as possible at the undergraduate level, be exposed to appropriately funded and accredited rural practice environments.
3. Medical schools develop training programs that encourage and promote the selection of rural practice as a career.
4. Universities work with professional associations, governments and rural communities to determine the barriers that prevent rural students from entering the profession, and take appropriate action to eliminate or reduce these barriers.
5. A Web site based compendium of rural experiences and electives for medical students be developed, maintained and adequately funded.
6. Advanced skills acquisition and maintenance opportunities be provided to physicians practising in or going to rural and remote areas.
7. CMA divisions and provincial/territorial governments ensure that physicians who work in rural and remote areas receive full remuneration while obtaining advanced skills, including support for the locum tenens who will replace them.
8. Any individual formally enrolled in a Royal College of Physicians of Surgeons of Canada or College of Family Physicians of Canada program be covered by the collective agreement of their housestaff organization.
9. Providers, funders and accreditors of continuing medical education for rural physicians ensure that the continuing medical education is developed in close collaboration with rural physicians and is accessible, needs-based and reflective of rural physicians’ scope of practice.
10. Physicians who practise in rural or remote areas be given reasonable opportunities to
re-enter training in a postgraduate program without any return-in-service obligations.
11. In order to promote mutual understanding, universities encourage teaching faculty to work in rural practices and that rural physicians be invited to teach in academic health science centres.
12. Medical schools develop training programs for both students and residents that encourage and promote the provision of skills appropriate to rural practice needs.
13. Medical schools support rural faculty development and provide full faculty status to these
The CMA believes that compensation for physicians who practise in rural and remote areas must be flexible and reflect the full spectrum of professional and personal factors that are often inherent to practising and living in such a setting. These professional factors may include long working hours and the need for additional competencies to meet community needs, such as advanced obstetrics, anaesthesia and general surgery, as well as psychotherapy and chemotherapy. They may also include a high level of on-call responsibilities as well as a lack or total absence of backup from specialists, nurses and other complementary services that are usually available in an urban environment. Other challenges are professional isolation, limited opportunities for education or training, and high practice start-up costs. Also, if for a number of reasons a physician wishes to relocate to an urban setting, he or she may face billing restrictions as well as challenges in finding a replacement physician. Compensation for these factors is necessary to help retain physicians and recruit new ones. In addition, compensation should guarantee protected time off, paid continuing medical education or additional skills training, and locum tenens coverage. Any pool of locum tenens for rural and remote practice should be adequately funded and cross-jurisdictional licensure issues should be minimized.
Living in a rural or remote community can be very satisfying for many physicians and their families; however, they must usually forgo — often for an extended period of time— a number of urban advantages and amenities. These include educational, cultural, recreational and social opportunities for their spouse or partner, their children and themselves. They may also face altered family dynamics due to a decrease or significant loss of family income if there are limited or no suitable employment opportunities for their spouse or partner.
The CMA believes that all physicians should have a choice of payment options and service delivery models to reflect their needs as well as those of their patients. Physicians must receive fair and equitable remuneration and have a practice environment that allows for a reasonable quality of life. Although the CMA does not advocate one payment system for urban physicians and another for rural physicians, it believes that enhanced total compensation should be provided to physicians who work and live in rural and remote communities.
In recognition of these issues, the CMA recommends that
14. Additional compensation to physicians working in rural and remote areas reflect the following areas: degree of isolation, level of responsibility, frequency of on-call, breadth of practice and additional skills.
15. In recognition of the differences among communities, payment modalities retain flexibility and reflect community needs and physician choice.
16. Financial incentives focus on retaining physicians currently practising in rural or remote areas and include a retention bonus based on duration of service.
17. Factors affecting the social and professional isolation of physicians and their families be considered in the development of compensation packages and working conditions.
18. Eligibility criteria for including physicians in a pool of locum tenens for rural or remote practice be developed in consultation with rural physicians.
19. Provincial/territorial licensing bodies establish portability of licensure for locum tenens and ensure that any fees or processes associated with licensure do not serve as barriers to interprovincial mobility.
20. Rural locum tenens programs be funded by provincial/territorial governments and include adequate compensation for accommodation, transportation and remuneration.
As previously noted, some studies show that exposure to rural and remote areas during training influences students’ decision to practise in those communities upon graduation. The CMA is concerned, however, that travel and accommodation costs relating to these experiences place an undue financial burden on students. In addition, most physicians in rural and remote areas are already burdened with significant patient loads and find that they have limited time and resources to act as preceptors. The CMA believes that, to ensure the ongoing viability of student rural experiences, physician preceptors should be compensated for their participation and should not incur any additional expenses, such as student or resident accommodation costs.
The CMA recommends that
21. Costs for accommodation and travel for student and resident rural training experiences in Canada not be borne by the trainees or the preceptors.
22. Training programs assume responsibility for adequately remunerating preceptors in rural or remote areas.
Work and lifestyle support issues
To retain and recruit physicians in rural and remote communities, there are issues beyond fair and adequate compensation that must be considered. It is crucial that the aforementioned working conditions, professional issues and array of personal and family-related issues be addressed. The ultimate goal should be to promote physician retention and implement measures that reduce the possibility of physician burnout.
Like most people, physicians want to balance their professional and personal responsibilities to allow for a reasonable quality of life. Physicians in rural and remote areas practise in high stress environments that can negatively affect their health and well-being; as a consequence, the standard of care to their patients can suffer. The stress is intensified by excessive work hours, limited professional backup or support (including locum tenens), limited access to specialists, inadequate diagnostic and treatment resources, and limited or no opportunity for vacation or personal leave. At particular risk for burnout is the physician who practises in isolation. For these reasons many physicians, when considering practice opportunities, tend to seek working conditions that will not generate an excessive toll on their non-working lives. This reinforces the need for rural and remote practice environments that facilitate a balance between physicians’ professional and personal lives.
In light of these issues, the CMA recommends that
23. Regardless of community size, there should always be at least 2 physicians available to serve the
needs of the community.
24. Ideally, the on-call requirement for weekends never exceed 1 in 5 in any Canadian practice.
(This is consistent with current CMA policy.)
25. Provincial/territorial governments have professional support and other mechanisms readily
available to physicians who practise in rural and remote areas, such as sabbaticals and locum
26. Governments recognize the service of rural and remote physicians by ensuring that
mechanisms exist to allow future access to practise in an urban area of their choice.
The CMA believes that rural and remote physician retention and recruitment initiatives must address matters relating to professional isolation as well as social isolation for physicians and their families. This sense of isolation can increase when there are cultural, religious or other differences. For unattached physicians, zero tolerance and unreasonable restrictions with regard to relationships with potential patients can be disincentives to practise in rural or remote communities. Although the CMA believes that such policies and restrictions should be reviewed, the CMA encourages physicians to refer to the CMA policy on The Patient-Physician Relationship and the Sexual Abuse of Patients and the Code of Ethics of the Canadian Medical Association. Also, the CMA recommends that physicians abide by any provincial/territorial policies or legislation that may currently be in place.
The medical services infrastructure in rural and remote areas is usually very different from that in urban settings. In addition to a lack of specialist services, physicians in these areas may often have to cope with a number of other factors such as limited or no appropriate diagnostic equipment or limited hospital beds. Physicians and their patients expect and deserve quality care. The diversity and needs of the populations, as well as the needs of the physicians who practise in rural and remote areas, must also be recognized and reflected in the infrastructure (e.g., demographic and geographical considerations).
The CMA recommends that
27. A basic medical services infrastructure for rural and remote areas be defined, such as hospital beds, paramedical staff, diagnostic equipment, transportation, ready access to secondary and tertiary services, as well as information technology tools and support.
28. Provincial/territorial governments recognize that physicians who work in rural and remote areas need an environment that appropriately supports them in providing service to the local population.
That the federal, provincial and territorial governments work in partnership with the public, physicians and other health care stakeholders to determine which health care services will be publicly insured.
That the federal, provincial and territorial governments work in partnership with the public, physicians and other health care stakeholders to determine which health care services will be publicly insured.
That the federal, provincial and territorial governments work in partnership with the public, physicians and other health care stakeholders to determine which health care services will be publicly insured.
That the Canadian Medical Association urges provincial and territorial governments to amend existing building/plumbing codes, to require the default setting of newly installed residential hot water heating devices be set at a maximum of 49 degrees Celsius (120 Fahrenheit).
That the Canadian Medical Association urges provincial and territorial governments to amend existing building/plumbing codes, to require the default setting of newly installed residential hot water heating devices be set at a maximum of 49 degrees Celsius (120 Fahrenheit).
That the Canadian Medical Association urges provincial and territorial governments to amend existing building/plumbing codes, to require the default setting of newly installed residential hot water heating devices be set at a maximum of 49 degrees Celsius (120 Fahrenheit).
The Canadian Medical Association supports the Maskwachees Declaration in principle and requests federal and provincial/territorial governments to act in accordance with its recommendations for the promotion of physical activity, physical education, sport and recreation among Aboriginal peoples.
The Canadian Medical Association supports the Maskwachees Declaration in principle and requests federal and provincial/territorial governments to act in accordance with its recommendations for the promotion of physical activity, physical education, sport and recreation among Aboriginal peoples.
The Canadian Medical Association supports the Maskwachees Declaration in principle and requests federal and provincial/territorial governments to act in accordance with its recommendations for the promotion of physical activity, physical education, sport and recreation among Aboriginal peoples.
Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation (OTDT) is a rapidly changing area of medical science and practice. Organ and tissue transplantations represent significant lifesaving and life-enhancing interventions that require careful consideration by multiple stakeholders spanning medical disciplines. Technological and pharmacological advancements have made organ and tissue transplantation increasingly viable for treating related medical conditions. Changing social norms have also led to shifting perceptions of the acceptability of organ and tissue donation. Within this context, there is a need for renewed consideration of the ethical issues and principles guiding organ and tissue donation and transplantation in Canada.
The overarching principle that guides OTDT is public trust, which requires that the expressed intent either for or against donation will be honoured and respected within the donation and medical systems, and that the best interests of the potential donor are always of paramount importance; policies and mechanisms that guide OTDT should aim to maintain and foster that public trust. The CMA acknowledges and respects the diverse viewpoints, backgrounds, and religious views of physicians and patients and therefore encourages physicians to confront challenges raised by OTDT in a way that is consistent with both standards of medical ethics and patients’ values and beliefs.
This policy identifies foundational principles to address the challenges surrounding deceased and living donation. In conjunction with applicable laws and regulations in Canada, the Declaration of Istanbul, the World Health Organization (WHO) Guiding Principles on Human Cell, Tissue and Organ Transplantation, and leading clinical practices this policy aims to inform physicians and other interested parties on the guiding principles of OTDT in Canada. This policy is intended to address OTDT in adult populations; the challenges, considerations, legislation, and policy surrounding pediatric and neonatal OTDT are unique and deserve focused attention.
Physicians should be aware of relevant legislation, regulatory requirements, and policies in the jurisdiction in which they practice. Physicians are encouraged to refer to the various Canadian specialty societies that deal directly with OTDT for up-to-date information and policy, as well as innovative techniques and approaches.
The practice of OTDT is of great value to patients and society. The CMA supports the continued development of greater capacity, efficiency, and accessibility in OTDT systems in co-ordination with comprehensive and compassionate end-of-life care for Canadians while acknowledging the importance of justice, informed consent, beneficence, and confidentiality to this practice.
There is a continuous need to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of OTDT in an effort to narrow the gap between demand and supply in what remains a scarce, lifesaving resource. The principle of justice should continue to guide the equitable allocation of organs and tissues in a manner that is externally justifiable, open to public scrutiny, and balances considerations of fairness (e.g., medical need or length of time on the wait-list) with medical utility (e.g., transplantation success). There should be no discrimination based on social status or perceived social worth. Lifestyle or behavioral factors should only be considered when clear evidence indicates that those factors will impact the medical probability of success. OTDT should also not rely on the patient’s ability to pay; such actions are inconsistent with the principles that underlie Canada’s publicly-funded health system. Of note, living donation to a loved one or acquaintance (via a directed donation) is regarded as ethically acceptable if potential donors are informed of all options, including that of donating in a non-directed fashion.
All levels of government should continue to support initiatives to improve the OTDT system, raise public awareness through education and outreach campaigns, and fund ongoing research, such that any Canadian who may wish to donate their tissues or organs are given every reasonable opportunity to do so. Potential donor identification and referral, while legislated in many jurisdictions, is an important area of continued development as failure to identify donors deprives families of the opportunity to donate and deprives patients of potential transplants.
To diminish inequities in the rates of organ donation between jurisdictions, federal and provincial governments should engage in consultations with a view to implementing a coordinated, national strategy on OTDT that provides consistency and clarity on medical and legal standards of informed consent and determination of death, and institutes access to emerging best practices that support physicians, providers, and patients. Efforts should be made to ensure adequate engagement with potential donors from communities that have historically had lower living donor rates to help reduce inequities in access to living donation. Policymakers should also continue to explore and appraise the evidence on policy interventions to improve the rates of organ donation in Canada – for example, see a brief overview of opt-in vs. opt-out donation systems in the background to this policy.
2. INFORMED CONSENT AND VOLUNTARINESS
Organ and tissue donation must always be an autonomous decision, free of undue pressure or coercion. By law, the potential organ donor, or their substitute decision-maker, must provide informed consent. Physicians should direct patients to appropriate resources if that patient has expressed interest to become a donor after their death. If a potential donor has not made an expression of intent for or against donation, substitute decision-makers, families, or loved ones may be approached to provide authorization for donation. It should also be noted that consent indicates a willingness to donate, but that donation itself hinges on factors such as medical suitability and timing.
End-of-life decisions must be guided by an individual's values and religious or philosophical beliefs of what it means to have a meaningful life and death. The autonomy of an individual should always be respected regarding their wish, intent, or registered commitment to become a donor after death. Input from family and loved-ones should always be considered in the context of the potential donor’s wishes or commitments – these situations must be handled on a case-by-case basis with respect for cultural and religious views while maintaining the autonomously expressed wishes of the potential donor. Physicians should make every reasonable effort to be aware and considerate of the cultural and religious views of their patients as they pertain to OTDT. Likewise, Canadian medical schools, relevant subspecialties, and institutions should provide training and continuing professional development opportunities on OTDT, including both medicolegal implications and cultural competency.
To protect the voluntariness of the potential donor’s decision, public appeals to encourage altruistic donation should not seek to compensate potential donors through payment and should not subvert established systems of organ allocation. Any exploitation or coercion of a potential donor must be avoided. However, remuneration from officially sanctioned sources for the purpose of reimbursement of costs associated with living donation (e.g., transfer to another location or lost wages during the procedure), may be considered when no party profits financially from the exchange. The CMA supports proposed amendments to the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that criminalizes or otherwise seeks to prevent the coercive collection and transplantation of organs domestically and internationally (i.e., organ trafficking – see relevant guidelines on trafficking ). The CMA also discourages Canadians from participating in organ tourism as either a recipient or donor; physicians should not take part in transplantation procedures where it is reasonable to suspect that organs have been obtained without the donor’s informed consent or where the donor received payment (from WHO Guiding Principle 7); however, in accordance with physicians’ commitment to the well-being of the patient and the professional responsibilities relating to the patient-physician relationship in the CMA Code of Ethics and Professionalism, physicians have an obligation to treat a post-tranplant patient if requested after the patient has participated in organ tourism; physicians should be aware of any legal or regulatory obligations they may have to report a patient’s organ tourism to national authorities, taking into consideration their duties of privacy and confidentiality to the patient. ,
3. BALANCING BENEFICENCE AND NON-MALEFICENCE
Balancing beneficence and non-maleficence means to: Consider first the well-being of the patient; always act to benefit and promote the good of the patient; provide appropriate care and management across the care continuum; take all reasonable steps to prevent or minimize harm to the patient; disclose to the patient if there is a risk of harm or if harm occurs; recognize the balance of potential benefits and harms associated with any medical act; and act to bring about a positive balance of benefits over harms.
Prospective donors can benefit from the knowledge that they can potentially save lives after their own deaths. However, potential donors must not be harmed by the act of donating. In accordance with the Dead Donor Rule, organ or tissue procurement should never be the cause of death. Moreover, the care of the dying patient must never be compromised by the desire to protect organs for donation or expedite death to allow timely organ retrieval. Physicians determining that a potential donor has died should not be directly involved in tissue or organ removal from the donor or subsequent transplantation procedures, nor should they be responsible for the care of any intended recipients of such tissues and organs (from WHO Guiding Principle 2). Leading clinical criteria, in conjunction with legally prescribed definitions of death and procedures, should inform the determination of death before donation procedures are initiated.
DCD should be practiced in compliance with the regulations of individual transplant centers, relevant legislation, and leading Canadian clinical guidelines including the national recommendations for donation after cardiocirculatory death in Canada and the guidelines for the withdrawal of life-sustaining measures. Patients undergoing medical assistance in dying (MAiD) may also be eligible for organ and tissue donation – see relevant policy guidelines.
Living donors are motivated to act primarily for the benefit of the recipient. The perceived acceptability of living donation varies from person to person; living donation is deemed to be ethically acceptable when the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks of living donation; living donation is not ethically acceptable where there is a material risk of death of the donor; living donors must provide informed consent, meet medical and psychological requirements, and receive appropriate follow-up care. It is not necessary for the potential donor to be biologically or emotionally related to the recipient.
4. CONFIDENTIALITY AND PRIVACY
Current practice protects the privacy of both donor and recipient and does not allow donation teams, organ donation organizations, or transplant teams to inform either party of the other’s identity. The continuation of this practice is encouraged at the present time to protect the privacy of both donors and recipients. In addition, healthcare providers should consider the privacy and confidentiality implications of practices employed throughout the assessment and post-operative periods – patient consent should be obtained for practices involving any loss of privacy or confidentiality (e.g. group education sessions, etc.).
A person’s choice about whether or not they intend to donate organs and tissues after their death is individual and, like other health-related information, should be considered private. The right to privacy regarding personal health information extends beyond the declaration of death.
Whenever possible, potential donor and recipients should be cared for and evaluated by separate medical teams. In the case of non-directed donations, it may be necessary for information to be shared between donor and recipient teams (e.g. recipient’s underlying disease and risk for recurrence); however, such information should be limited to what is necessary for making an informed choice. Conversely, the CMA recognizes that the choice and process of directed donation is one that is deeply personal, which is likely to result in the intersection of both donor and recipient pathways of care. In such cases, the same onus of confidentiality may not apply given the choices of the donor and recipient involved.
Approved by the CMA Board of Directors December 2019
The objective of this policy is to provide guidance to physicians and institutions by identifying a set of guiding principles and commitments to promote equity and diversity in medicine (as defined in the Guiding Principles section). We address equity and diversity in medicine to improve circumstances and opportunities for all physicians and learners as part of our efforts to create a more collaborative and respectful culture and practice of medicine. To achieve this, we must redress inequities, bias, and discrimination in learning and practice environments.
Individual protection from bias and discrimination is a fundamental right of all Canadians. By embracing the principles of equity and diversity, we can systematically address root causes and reduce structural barriers faced by those who want to enter the medical profession and those practicing medicine. In so doing, we improve their opportunities for advancement, health, and livelihood.
The principles of equity and diversity are grounded in the fundamental commitment of the medical profession to respect for persons. This commitment recognizes that everyone has equal and inherent worth, has the right to be valued and respected, and to be treated with dignity. When we address equity and diversity, we are opening the conversation to include the voices and knowledge of those who have historically been under-represented and/or marginalized. It is a process of empowerment—where a person can engage with and take action on issues they define as important. Empowerment involves a meaningful shift in experience that fosters belonging in the profession and draws on community supports.
As part of equity and diversity frameworks, inclusion is often articulated to refer to strategies used to increase an individual’s ability to contribute fully and effectively to organisational structures and processes. Inclusion strategies are specific organisational practices or programs focused on encouraging the involvement and participation of individuals from diverse backgrounds to integrate and value their perspectives in decision-making processes. Robust processes for inclusion are a vehicle to achieving equity and diversity. Thus, in this policy, the process of inclusion is understood to be positioned at the nexus of the overarching principles of equity and diversity.
Equity and diversity initiatives can be carefully structured to complement and strengthen merit-based approaches. Enhanced support and appropriate methods of evaluation that increase equity of opportunity (for example, equity in training, hiring processes, and in access to resources) provide all physicians and learners with a fair opportunity to cultivate and demonstrate their unique capabilities and strengths, and to realize their full potential.
Promoting equity and diversity fosters a just professional and learning culture that cultivates the diverse perspectives within it, reflects the communities physicians serve, and promotes professional excellence and social accountability as means to better serve patients. An increasingly diverse medical population provides opportunities for underserviced populations to receive better access to medical services and bolsters the management of clinical cases through the contribution of different points of view. Evidence indicates that when demonstrably more equity and diversity in medicine is achieved, physicians experience greater career satisfaction, health and wellness, and a sense of solidarity with the profession while patients experience improved care and a more responsive and adaptable health care system. Evidence further indicates that realizing the full potential of human capital is an essential driver of innovation and health system development.
This policy is consistent with the CMA Code of Ethics and Professionalism and the CMA Charter of Shared Values and strives to be in the spirit of the recommendations relevant to health made in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The policy is informed by a body of evidence described in the accompanying Background document that includes a Glossary of terms.
A clear set of principles and commitments to improving equity and diversity demonstrates that we hold ourselves accountable to recognizing and challenging behaviours, practices, and conditions that hinder equity and diversity and to promoting behaviours, practices, and conditions that will achieve these goals.
Achieving equity in medicine
Equity refers to the treatment of people that recognizes and is inclusive of their differences by ensuring that every individual is provided with what they need to thrive, which may differ from the needs of others. It is a state in which all members of society have similar chances to become socially active, politically influential, and economically productive through the absence of avoidable or remediable differences among groups of people (defined socially, economically, demographically, or geographically). Equity in the medical profession is achieved when every person has the opportunity to realize their full potential to create and sustain a career without being unfairly impeded by discrimination or any other characteristic-related bias or barrier. To achieve this, physicians must 1) recognize that structural inequities that privilege some at the expense of others exist in training and practice environments and 2) commit to reducing these by putting in place measures that make recruitment, retention, and advancement opportunities more accessible, desirable, and achievable. To that end, physicians must apply evidence-based strategies and support applied research into the processes that lead to inequities in training and practice environments.
Fostering diversity in medicine
Diversity refers to observable and non-observable characteristics which are constructed—and sometimes chosen—by individuals, groups, and societies to identify themselves (e.g., age, culture, religion, indigeneity, ethnicity, language, gender, sexuality, health, ability, socio-economic and family status, geography). The barriers to diversity in medicine are broad and systemic. Individuals and groups with particular characteristics can be excluded from participation based on biases or barriers. Even when they are included, they are often not able to use the full range of their skills and competencies. As with improving equity, the benefits of a more diverse medical profession include improved health outcomes, system-level adaptation, and physician health and wellness. To achieve these benefits, the medical profession must become increasingly diverse by striving to create, foster, and retain physicians and learners who reflect the diversity of the communities they serve and it must be responsive to the evolving (physical, emotional, cultural, and socioeconomic) needs of patients.
Promoting a just professional and learning culture
Physicians value learning and understand that it reflects, and is informed by, the professional culture of medicine. A just professional and learning culture is one of shared respect, shared knowledge, shared opportunity, and the experience of learning together. An environment that is physically and psychologically safe by reducing bias, discrimination, and harassment is critical to creating and sustaining such a culture. To achieve this, the profession must strive to integrate cultural safety by fostering and adopting practices of cultural competence and cultural humility. Physicians and leaders across all levels of training, practice, and health settings, and through formal and informal mentorships, must also promote and foster environments where diverse perspectives are solicited, heard, and appreciated. In this way, diverse individuals are both represented in the professional culture of medicine and actively involved in decision-making processes in all aspects of the profession.
Fostering solidarity within the profession
Solidarity means standing alongside others by recognizing our commonality, shared vulnerabilities and goals, and interdependence. It is enacted through collective action and aims. To show solidarity within the profession means making a personal commitment to recognizing others as our equals, cultivating respectful, open, and transparent dialogue and relationships, and role modelling this behaviour. Solidarity enables each of us to support our colleagues in meeting their individual and collective responsibilities and accountabilities to their patients and to their colleagues. Being accountable to these goals and to each other means taking action to ensure the principles that guide the medical profession are followed, responding justly and decisively when they are not, and continually searching for ways to improve the profession through practice-based learning and experience.
Promoting professional excellence and social accountability
Engaged and informed research and action on equity and diversity is critical to promoting professional excellence and social accountability in medicine as means to better serve patients. Professional excellence is a fundamental commitment of the profession to contribute to the development of and innovation in medicine and society through clinical practice, research, teaching, mentorship, leadership, quality improvement, administration, and/or advocacy on behalf of the profession or the public. Social accountability is a pillar of the commitment to professional excellence by focusing those efforts on fostering competence to address the evolving health needs of the patients and communities physicians are mandated to serve. For care to be socially accountable, and to achieve professional excellence, physicians must provide leadership through advocacy and through action: advocacy about the benefits of addressing equity and diversity to achieve equitable health outcomes; and actions to be responsive to patient, community, and population health needs through high-quality evidence-based patient care.
To accomplish equity and diversity in medicine, organizational and institutional changes will be required across many facets of operation and culture including leadership, education, data gathering/analysis, and continuous improvement through feedback and evaluation of policies and programs. To achieve this, the CMA seeks to provide direction on broad action areas that require further specific actions and development measures in specific recruitment, training, and practice contexts. The CMA recommends:
All medical organizations, institutions, and physician leaders:
A. Take a leadership role in achieving greater equity and diversity by co-creating policies and processes that apply to them, and the individuals therein, in an accountable and transparent manner. This includes:
1. Identifying and reducing structural inequities, barriers, and biases that exist in training and practice environments to create fair opportunities for all physicians and learners; and providing the appropriate platforms, resources, and training necessary to do so to effect change collaboratively.
2. Practicing and promoting cultural safety, cultural competence, and cultural humility.
3. Providing training on implicit bias, allyship, cultural safety, cultural competence, and cultural humility, structural competence, and the value of diversity in improving health outcomes.
4. Ensuring a process is in place to review all workforce and educational policies, procedures, and practices toward considering their impact on equity and diversity. Areas of consideration include (but are not limited to) recruitment, promotion, pay, leave of absence, parental leave, resources and support, and working/learning conditions and accommodations.
5. Ensuring safe, appropriate, and effective avenues exist for those who may have experienced discrimination, harassment, or abuse in training and practice environments to report these events outside of their supervisory/promotional chain. Those experiencing these events should also be able to seek counselling without the fear of negative consequences.
6. Working towards creating and appropriately funding equity and diversity Chairs, Committees, or Offices with a mandate to investigate and address issues in equity and diversity.
7. Promoting and enabling formal and informal mentorship and sponsorship opportunities for historically under-represented groups.
B. Encourage the collection and use of data related to equity and diversity through research and funding, and, specifically, review their data practices to ensure:
1. Historically under-represented groups are meaningfully engaged through the co-development of data practices.
2. Data regarding the representation of under-represented groups is being systematically and appropriately collected and analyzed.
3. Information collected is used to review and inform internal policy and practice with the aim of reducing or eliminating system-level drivers of inequity.
4. Findings relating to these data are made accessible.
C. Support equity and diversity in recruitment, hiring, selection, appointment, and promotion practices by:
1. Requesting and participating in training to better understand approaches and strategies to promote equity and diversity, including implicit bias and allyship training that highlights the roles and responsibilities of all members of the community with emphasis on self-awareness, cultural safety, and sensitivity to intersectionalities.
2. Studying organizational environments and frameworks and identifying and addressing hiring procedures, especially for leadership and executive positions, that perpetuate institutional inequities and power structures that privilege or disadvantage people.
3. Adopting explicit criteria to recruit inclusive leaders and to promote qualified candidates from historically under-represented groups in selection processes.
Additional recommendations for institutions providing medical education and training:
1. Establishing programs that espouse cultural safety, cultural competence, and cultural humility.
2. Encouraging all instructors develop competencies including non-discriminatory and non-stereotyping communication, awareness of intersectionality, and cultural safety.
3. Providing training programs, at the undergraduate level onwards, that include awareness and education around stereotypes (gender and otherwise), intersectionalities, and the value of diversity in improving health outcomes.
4. Providing diversity mentorship programs that aim to support diverse candidates through education and training to graduation.
5. Promoting and funding student-led programs that create safe and positive spaces for students and principles of equity and diversity.
6. Ensuring recruitment strategies and admission frameworks in medical schools incorporate more holistic strategies that recognize barriers faced by certain populations to enable a more diverse pool of candidates to apply and be fairly evaluated.
7. Developing learning communities (such as undergraduate pipelines described in the background document) to promote careers in medicine as a viable option for individuals from historically under-represented communities.
Approved by the CMA Board of Directors December 2019
The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change
Policy brief for Canada
1 Finding: Exposure to wildfires is increasing in Canada, with more than half of the
448,444 Canadians evacuated due to wildfires between 1980 and 2017 displaced in the
Recommendation: Incorporate lessons learned from recent severe wildfire seasons
into a strengthened pan-Canadian emergency response approach that anticipates
increasing impacts as the climate continues to change.
Finding: The percentage of fossil fuels powering transport in Canada remains high, though
electricity and biofuels are gaining ground. Fine particulate air pollution generated by
transportation killed 1063 Canadians in 2015, resulting in a loss of economic welfare for
Canadians valued at approximately $8 billion dollars.
Recommendation: Develop provincial and territorial legislation requiring automakers to
gradually increase the annual percentage of new light-duty vehicles sold that are zero
emissions, working toward a target of 100% by 2040.
Finding: Canada has the third-highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions from healthcare in
the world, with healthcare accounting for approximately 4% of the country’s total emissions.
Recommendation: Establish a sustainable healthcare initiative that assembles experts from
research, education, clinical practice, and policy to support Canada’s healthcare sector in
reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preventing pollution-related deaths, consistent with
healthcare’s mandate to ‘do no harm’ and the timelines and goals of the Paris Agreement,
charting a course for zero-emissions healthcare by 2050.
Finding: The health of Canadians is at risk due to multiple and varied risks of climate
change, including those described in this policy brief (see Figure 1). An ongoing,
coordinated, consistent and pan-Canadian effort to track, report, and create healthy
change is required.
Recommendation: Integrate health considerations into climate-related policymaking
across sectors, including in Canada’s updated 2020 Nationally Determined Contribution
Commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC) process, and increase ambition to ensure Canada commits to doing its fair share
in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century,1 and tackling it could be our greatest health opportunity.2
“The health of a child born today will be impacted by climate change at every stage in their life. Without significant intervention, this new era
will come to define the health of an entire generation.”3
However, another path is possible: a world that meets the ambition of the Paris Agreement and proactively adapts to protect health from the
climate impacts we cannot now avoid. This year’s briefing presents key findings and recommendations toward this path.
Key messages and recommendations
Health and climate change in Canada
Imagine an infant born today in Canada. This child enters a country warming at double the global rate, with the average temperature in
Canada having increased 1.7oC between 1948-2016.4 The North is warming even faster: areas in the Northwest Territories’ Mackenzie
Delta are now 3oC warmer than in 1948.5 Climate-related impacts on health and health systems are already being felt,6 with examples
outlined in Figure 1. By the time the child is in their twenties, in all feasible emissions scenarios, Canada will have warmed by at least
1.5oC as compared to a 1986-2005 reference period.4
Two scenarios are possible for the remainder of the child’s life.
If GHG emissions continue to rise at the current rate (a situation referred to by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as
the “high emissions scenario,” or ‘RCP8.5’) temperature increases in Canada will continue after 2050, reaching 6oC relative to
1986-2005 by the time the child is in their child’s sixties.4 Globally, this degree of warming places populations at a greater risk of
wildfires, extreme heat, poor air quality, and weather-related disasters. It will also lead to changes in vector-borne disease, as well as
undernutrition, conflict, and migration. These impacts and others negatively impact mental health,3 including via ecological anxiety
and grief.8 Climate change will not impact everyone equally, and can widen existing disparities in health outcomes between and within
populations, with Indigenous populations, people in low-resource settings,28 and future generations29 disproportionately affected.30 This
degree of warming has the potential to disrupt core public health infrastructure and overwhelm health services.2
Alternatively, if global emissions peak soon and quickly fall to net zero, consistent with the IPCC’s low-emissions scenario, (RCP 2.6),
temperatures will remain steady from 2040 onwards.4 Measures needed to accomplish this, such as increasing clean energy, improving
Figure 1: Examples of impacts of Climate Change on Health and Health Systems in Canada
Indicators of climate-related health impacts
This year’s policy brief presents information on three key indicators of climate-related health impacts and adaptive responses. Additional
recommendations can also be found in the 2017 and 2018 policy briefs.6,24
Lancet Countdown data indicates that the number of daily population wildfire exposure events increased from an average of 35,300 in
2001-2004 to 54,100 in 2015-2018, not including those subjected to wildfire smoke. Canadian data supports increasing impacts: more
than half of the 448,444 Canadians evacuated due to wildfires between 1980-2017 were displaced in the last decade.35 These exposures
not only pose a threat to public health, but also result in major economic and social burdens.
2019 marks a crux point for humanity: choices and policies made in
the lead up to the 2020 UNFCCC Nationally Determined Contribution
submissions will determine whether the world follows the disastrous
high-emissions scenario, or the safer low-emissions path. Children
are taking to the streets to demand a livable world. It is the task of
today’s political leaders and other adults to exert maximal effort
within their spheres of influence in order to set a course for a
healthy response to climate change.
public transit, cycling and walking rates, and adhering to a plantrich
diet in accordance with Canada’s new food guide,
decrease emissions, and also improve health and decrease
Canada is not on track: in 2016, total Canadian GHG emissions were
704 Mt CO2e, an increase of more than 100 Mt since 1990.31
Policies and measures currently under development but not yet
implemented are forecast to reduce national emissions to 592 Mt
CO2e by 2030,32 79 Mt CO2e above Canada’s 2030 target of 513
32—a goal which is itself too weak to represent a fair
contribution by Canada to the emissions reductions necessary to
meet the goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
The Earth as a whole is warming less quickly than Canada—but still
far too fast. The IPCC and the World Health Organization have
emphasized that keeping global surface temperature warming to
1.5oC is key to obtaining the best outcomes now possible for human
health.33,34 To do so would require global net human-caused
emissions to fall by about 45% from 2010 by 2030, reaching ‘net
zero’ by 2050.34 Updated Nationally Determined Contributions to
the Paris Agreement are due to be submitted by 2020: policymakers
must integrate health considerations through proposed
Figure 2: Number of Wildfire Evacuees in Canada 1980-2017.*
Source: Wildland Fire Evacuation Database, Natural Resources Canada.35 (used with permission)
*N.B. Reporting for 2017 only includes evacuations up to and including July
In a mid-range GHG emissions scenario, wildfires in Canada are
projected to rise 75% rise by the end of the 21st century,36
necessitating a strong adaptive response. Human health impacts of
fire include death, trauma, and major burns,37 anxiety during
wildfire periods,35,38 and post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety
and depression related to evacuations.39,40 Wildfire smoke also
travels vast distances41 and increases asthma and chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbations, with growing evidence
of an association with all-cause mortality.41 Impacts on health
systems can be severe: during the Fort McMurray fire hospital staff
evacuated 103 patients in a matter of hours,10,42 and the 2017 British
Columbia wildfires resulted in 700+ staff displaced, 880 patients
evacuated, and 19 sites closed by the Interior Health Authority, at a
cost of $2.7 million.12 Such devastating events also generate
significant emissions, contributing to climate change, and helping to
generate conditions conducive to future blazes.43
Much can be done to lessen the health impacts of wildfires.
Qualitative data indicates that populations who are better-briefed
on the local evacuation plan, as well as ways to lessen the risk of fire
to their property, are not only more prepared but also less
anxious.35,38 Building codes can be changed to help keep smoke out,
primary care practitioners can ensure vulnerable patients receive
at-home air filtration systems and respiratory medications prior to
wildfire season,44 public health professionals can collaborate with
municipal officials to maximize smoke forecast-informed outdoor
and well-ventilated indoor recreation opportunities,38 and health
personnel can help ensure evacuation plans are clearly
Sustainable and healthy transport
since 2000, they account for less than 4% of the energy used in
transport (Figure 3). This rate of change is inconsistent with the
emissions pathway required to keep today’s and future children
Support is therefore required for investments in public transit,47
and cycling infrastructure,48 creating win-wins for health by
increasing physical activity levels and improving community
cohesion, while reducing chronic disease, healthcare costs and
GHG emissions.49,50 Zero emissions vehicles also reduce air pollution
and are increasingly affordable: the up-front cost of electric vehicles
is forecast to become competitive on an un-subsidized basis from
2024 onwards.51 British Columbia recently passed legislation
requiring all new cars sold to be zero-emission by 2040.52 Other
provinces would benefit from matching this ambition.
Figure 3: Per Capita Fuel Consumption for Transport in Canada.
Source: Lancet Countdown
Transport-related pollution is harming the health of Canadians. Fine
particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution related to land-based
transportation was responsible for approximately 1063 deaths in
2015 in Canada, resulting in a loss of economic welfare for
Canadians valued at approximately $8 billion dollars.24 Additionally,
Canada has the highest pediatric asthma rate amongst countries of
comparable income level, with nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from traffic
responsible for approximately 1 in 5 new cases of asthma in
With transport responsible for 24% of national GHG emissions in
2017,31 decarbonizing this sector must be prioritized. Progress is
entirely too slow: total fuel consumption for road transport per
capita decreased 5.4% from 2013 to 2016. While per capita
use of electricity and biofuels for transport increased by 600%
Healthcare sector emissions
Though Canadians are proud of the care they provide for one another
with this country’s system of universal healthcare,53 Lancet Countdown
analysis reveals an area which should give pause to all who endeavor to
“do no harm”: Canada’s healthcare system has the world’s third highest
emissions per capita.
Previous analysis showed healthcare sector emissions to be responsible
for 4.6% of the national total,54 as well as more than 200,000 tons of
other pollutants, resulting in 23,000 disability-adjusted life years (DALYs)
lost annually.54 Emissions from the health sector represent a strategic
mitigation target in a single-payer healthcare system straining under
the weight of an inexorably increasing burden of disease.
While Canadian healthcare sector emissions are increasing, the
world-leading Sustainable Development Unit in England reported an
18.5% decrease in National Health Service, public health and social
care system emissions from 2007-2017 despite an increase in clinical
Despite healthcare being a provincial jurisdiction, there is a role for
pan-Canadian sustainability initiatives to unite diverse experts
spanning public health and the spectrum of clinical disciplines,
economics, sustainability science and beyond. This demands health
sector-wide education, consistent with existing efforts to increase
environmental literacy for health professionals.56
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Organisations and acknowledgements
The concept of this brief was developed by the Lancet Countdown on Health
and Climate Change.
This brief was written by Courtney Howard, MD; Chris Buse, PhD; Caren Rose,
PhD; Andrea MacNeill, MD, MSc; and Margot Parkes, MBChB, MAS, PhD.
Review was provided by Owen Adams, PhD; Ian Culbert; and Sandy Buchman,
Thanks to Sarah Henderson, PhD; Peter Barry, PhD; Brian Wiens, PhD;
Robin Edger, LLB, LLM; Jeff Eyamie, and Ashlee Cunsolo, PhD for their
Contributions and review on behalf of the Lancet Countdown were provided
by Jess Beagley and Nick Watts, MBBS.
THE LANCET COUNTDOWN
The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change is an
international, multi-disciplinary collaboration that exists to monitor the links
between public health and climate change. It brings together 35 academic
institutions and UN agencies from every continent, drawing on the expertise
of climate scientists, engineers, economists, political scientists, public health
professionals, and doctors. Each year, the Lancet Countdown publishes an
annual assessment of the state of climate change and human health, seeking
to provide decision-makers with access to high-quality evidence-based
policy guidance. For the full 2019 assessment, visit www.lancet
THE CANADIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA), formed in Quebec City in 1867,
has led some of Canada’s most important health policy changes. As we
look to the future, the CMA will focus on advocating for a healthy population
and a vibrant profession.
THE CANADIAN PUBLIC HEALTH ASSOCIATION
The Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) is a national, independent,
non-governmental organization that advances public health education,
research, policy and practice in Canada and around the world through the
Canadian Journal of Public Health, position statements, discussion
documents and other resources.
Homeless and vulnerably housed populations are heterogeneous
and continue to grow in numbers in urban and
rural settings as forces of urbanization collide with gentrification and austerity policies.2
Collectively, they face dangerous living conditions and marginalization within health care systems.3
However, providers can improve the health of people who
are homeless or vulnerably housed, most powerfully by following
evidence-based initial steps, and working with communities and
adopting anti-oppressive practices.1,4,5
Broadly speaking, “homelessness” encompasses all individuals without stable, permanent and acceptable housing, or lacking the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it.6
Under such conditions, individuals and families face intersecting
social, mental and physical health risks that significantly increase
morbidity and mortality.7,8 For example, people who are homeless
and vulnerably housed experience a significantly higher prevalence of trauma, mental health conditions and substance use disorders than the general population.7,9 Canadian research reports
that people who experience homelessness face life expectancies
as low as 42 years for men and 52 years for women.7
A generation ago, homeless Canadians were largely middleaged, single men in large urban settings.10 Today, the epidemiology has shifted to include higher proportions of women, youth,
Indigenous people (Box 1), immigrants, older adults and people
from rural communities.13,14 For example, family homelessness
(and therefore homelessness among dependent children and
youth) is a substantial, yet hidden, part of the crisis.15 In 2014, of
the estimated 235 000 homeless people in Canada, 27.3% were
women, 18.7% were youth, 6% were recent immigrants or
migrants, and a growing number were veterans and seniors.10
Practice navigators, peer-support workers and primary care
providers are well placed to identify social causes of poor health
and provide orientation to patient medical homes.16,17 A patient’s
medical home is “a family practice defined by its patients as the
place they feel most comfortable presenting and discussing their
personal and family health and medical concerns.”18 Medical
care is “readily accessible, centred on the patients’ needs, provided throughout every stage of life, and seamlessly integrated
with other services in the health care system and the community”
(https://patientsmedicalhome.ca). Primary care providers are
also well positioned to mobilize health promotion, disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment, and rehabilitation services.19
GUIDELINE VULNERABLE POPULATIONS CPD
Clinical guideline for homeless and vulnerably
housed people, and people with lived
Kevin Pottie MD MClSc, Claire E. Kendall MD PhD, Tim Aubry PhD, Olivia Magwood MPH,
Anne Andermann MD DPhil, Ginetta Salvalaggio MD MSc, David Ponka MDCM MSc, Gary Bloch MD,
Vanessa Brcic MD, Eric Agbata MPH MSc, Kednapa Thavorn PhD, Terry Hannigan, Andrew Bond MD,
Susan Crouse MD, Ritika Goel MD, Esther Shoemaker PhD, Jean Zhuo Jing Wang BHSc, Sebastian Mott MSW,
Harneel Kaur BHSc, Christine Mathew MSc, Syeda Shanza Hashmi BA, Ammar Saad, Thomas Piggott MD,
Neil Arya MD, Nicole Kozloff MD, Michaela Beder MD, Dale Guenter MD MPH, Wendy Muckle BScN MHA,
Stephen Hwang MD, Vicky Stergiopoulos MD, Peter Tugwell MD
n Cite as: CMAJ 2020 March 9;192:E240-54. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.190777
CMAJ Podcasts: author interview at https://soundcloud.com/cmajpodcasts/190777-guide
See related article at www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.200199
Clinical assessment and care of homeless and vulnerably housed
populations should include tailoring approaches to a person’s
gender, age, Indigenous heritage, ethnicity and history of
trauma; and advocacy for comprehensive primary health care.
As initial steps in the care of homeless and vulnerably housed
populations, permanent supportive housing is strongly
recommended, and income assistance is also recommended.
Case-management interventions, with access to psychiatric
support, are recommended as an initial step to support primary
care and to address existing mental health, substance use and
Harm-reduction interventions, such as supervised consumption
facilities, and access to pharmacologic agents for opioid use
disorder, such as opioid agonist treatment, are recommended
for people who use substances.
MARCH 9, 2020
ISSUE 10 E241
However, the social and health resources available to homeless
and vulnerably housed people may vary based on geographic
setting, municipal resources, housing coordination, and patients’
mental health and substance use–related care needs. In addition, many physical and mental health disorders remain undiagnosed or inconsistently treated because of missed opportunities
for care, patient mistrust of the health care system or limited
access to health services.3
Homeless and vulnerably housed people can benefit from
timely and effective health, addiction and social interventions.
Our guideline provides initial steps for practice, policy and future
research, and is intended to build collaboration among clinicians, public health providers and allied health providers. Values
such as trauma-informed and patient-centred care, and dignity
are needed to foster trust and develop sustainable therapeutic
relationships with homeless and vulnerably housed people.20,21
The purpose of this clinical practice guideline is to inform providers
and community organizations of the initial priority steps and effective interventions for homeless and vulnerably housed people. The
guideline addresses upstream social and health needs (i.e., housing), as well as downstream health-related consequences of inadequate housing. The target audiences are health providers, policymakers, public health practitioners and researchers.
Our guideline does not aim to address all conditions associated with homelessness, nor does it aim to discuss in depth the
many etiologies of homelessness, such as childhood trauma, the
housing market, or the root causes of low social assistance rates
and economic inequality. Rather, this guideline aims to reframe
providers’ approach toward upstream interventions that can
prevent, treat and work toward ending the morbidity and mortality associated with homelessness.
A parallel set of Indigenous-specific clinical guidelines is currently being developed by an independent, Indigenous-led
team.22 This process recognizes the distinct rights of Indigenous
Peoples, including the right to develop and strengthen their own
economies, social and political institutions; the direct links
between historic and ongoing colonial policies and Indigenous
homelessness; and the need for Indigenous leadership and participation in research that is about Indigenous Peoples.
The steering committee and guideline panel members developed
and approved recommendations to improve social and health
outcomes for homeless and vulnerably housed people. The order
of these recommendations highlights priority steps for homeless
health care. We list a summary of the recommendations in Table 1
and we present our list of good practice statements in Table 2.
These good practice statements are based on indirect evidence
and support the delivery of the recommendations.
The methods used to develop the recommendations are
described later in this document. A summary of how to use this
guideline is available in Box 2.
Permanent supportive housing
Identify homelessness or housing vulnerability and willingness to consider housing interventions.
Ensure access of homeless or vulnerably housed individuals to
local housing coordinator or case manager (i.e., call 211 or
via a social worker) for immediate link to permanent supportive housing and/or coordinated access system (moderate certainty, strong recommendation).
Our systematic review (Tim Aubry, University of Ottawa, Ottawa,
Ont.: unpublished data, 2020) identified 14 trials on permanent
supportive housing (PSH).30–43 Several trials across Canada and the
United States showed that PSH initiatives house participants more
rapidly compared with usual services (73 v. 220 d; adjusted absolute difference 146.4, 95% confidence interval [CI] 118.0 to 174.9);30
increase the number of people who maintain stable housing at
2 years (pooled odds ratio [OR] 3.58, 95% CI 2.36 to 5.43);30,40 and
significantly increase the percentage of days spent stably
housed.41 No trials showed a significant improvement in mental
health symptoms compared with standard care.30,31,33,34,41,42
Two studies found that the mental health of PSH participants did
not improve as much as that of usual care participants (e.g., mean
difference –0.49, 95% CI –0.85 to –0.12).30,31
The At Home/Chez Soi trial showed small improvements in quality
of life for high-needs (adjusted standardized mean difference 0.15,
95% CI 0.04 to 0.24)30 and moderate-needs (mean difference 4.37,
95% CI 1.60 to 7.14) homeless participants in patients receiving PSH.41
Youth receiving PSH saw larger improvements in their quality of life
during the first 6 months (mean difference 9.30, 95% CI 1.35 to 17.24),
which diminished over time (mean difference 7.29, 95% CI –1.61 to
16.18).44 No trials showed a significant improvement in substance use
compared with standard care.30,33,41–43 Most trials reported no effect of
PSH on acute care outcomes (e.g., number of emergency department
visits and percentage of participants admitted to hospital).30,41 However, 2 trials suggest that PSH participants had lower rates of hospital
admission (rate reductions of 29%, 95% CI 10 to 44) and time in hospital (e.g., mean difference –31, 95% CI –48 to –14).34,38,45 One trial found
no effect of PSH on job tenure, hours of work per week or hourly wage
compared with standard care.46 Participants receiving PSH may have
increased odds of employment, but this depends on the severity of
participant needs.46 One trial found no effect on income outcomes.46
Box 1: Indigenous homelessness
Indigenous homelessness is a term used to describe First Nations,
Métis and Inuit individuals, families or communities who lack
stable, permanent and appropriate housing, or the immediate
prospects, means or ability to acquire such housing. However, this
term must be interpreted through an Indigenous lens to
understand the factors contributing to this condition. These
factors include individuals, families and communities isolated
from their relationships to land, water, place, family, kin, each
other, animals, cultures, languages and identities as well as the
legacy of colonialism and genocide.11 It is estimated that urban
Indigenous people are 8 times more likely to experience
homelessness than the general population.11,12
The certainty of the evidence was rated moderate, because
blinding of participants and personnel was not feasible in any of
the trials we examined as a result of the nature of the intervention. Furthermore, several trials did not employ allocation concealment or blinding of outcome-assessment procedures, which
could introduce high risks of detection and performance biases.
Identify income insecurity.
Assist individuals with income insecurity to identify incomesupport resources and access income (low certainty, conditional recommendation).
We identified 10 trials on income-assistance interventions, including
rental assistance,47–56 financial empowerment,47 social enterprise
interventions,48 individual placement and support,48,54 and compensated work therapy.52 Our systematic review showed the benefit that
income-assistance interventions have on housing stability (Gary
Bloch, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont., and Vanessa Brcic, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC: unpublished data, 2020).
Rental assistance increased the likelihood of being stably housed
(OR 4.60, 95% CI 3.10 to 6.83).56 Rental assistance combined with
case management increased the number of days in stable housing
per 90-day period compared with case management alone (mean
Table 1: Summary of evidence-based recommendations
Recommendations and clinical considerations Grade rating*
Recommendation 1: A homeless or vulnerably housed person Moderate certainty
Ensure access for homeless or vulnerably housed individuals to local housing coordinator or case manager (i.e., call
211 or via a social worker) for immediate link to permanent supportive housing and coordinated access system.
Clinical considerations: Many jurisdictions will provide alternative housing services for specific marginalized
populations, for example, Indigenous people, women and families, youth, those who identify as LGBTQ2+, those
with disabilities, refugees and migrants.
Recommendation 2: A homeless or vulnerably housed person with experience of poverty, income instability or
living in a low-income household
Assist individuals with income insecurity to identify income-support resources and access income.
Clinical considerations: Consult poverty screening tools when needed (e.g., https://cep.health/clinical-products
Recommendation 3: A homeless or vulnerably housed person with multiple comorbid or complex health needs
(including mental illness and/or substance use)
Identify history of severe mental illness, such as psychotic or mood and anxiety disorders, associated with
substantial disability, substance use, or multiple/complex health needs.
Ensure access to local community mental health programs, psychiatric services for assessment, and linkage to
intensive case management, assertive community treatment or critical time intervention where available.
Clinical considerations: Call 211 or consult primary care providers, social workers or case managers familiar
with local access points and less intensive community mental health programs.
Recommendation 4: A homeless or vulnerably housed person currently using opioids Very low certainty
Identify opioid use disorder.
Ensure access within primary care or via an addiction specialist to opioid agonist therapy (OAT), potentially in
collaboration with a public health or community health centre for linkage to pharmacologic interventions.
Clinical considerations: Encourage all patients taking opioid medication to have a naloxone kit. Though barriers
to prescribing methadone and buprenorphine remain, be aware of new regulations that aim to facilitate OAT
access and options in your jurisdiction, in particular for buprenorphine.
Recommendation 5: A homeless or vulnerably housed person with substance use disorder Very low certainty
Identify, during history or physical examination, problematic substance use, including alcohol or other drugs.
Identify the most appropriate approach, or refer to local addiction and harm-reduction/prevention services
(e.g., supervised consumption facilities, managed alcohol programs) via appropriate local resources such as
public health or community health centre or local community services centre.
Clinical considerations: In case of active opioid use disorder, facilitate patient access to OAT. Patients should be
made aware of supervised consumption facility locations (Appendix 1, available at www.cmaj.ca/lookup/suppl/
Note: LGBTQ2+ = lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and two-spirited.
*See Box 2 for definitions.
†211 is a special abbreviated telephone number reserved in Canada and the United States as an easy-to-remember 3-digit telephone number meant to provide information and
referrals to health, human and social service organizations.
ISSUE 10 E243
difference 8.58, p < 0.004).55 Compensated work therapy was found
to reduce the odds of homelessness (OR 0.1, 95% CI 0.1 to 0.3).52 No
income interventions showed an effect on mental health
The impact of these interventions on substance use outcomes
were mixed. Provision of housing vouchers did not affect substance
use over 3 years;55 however, compensated work therapy showed
immediate reductions in drug (reduction: –44.7%, standard error [SE]
12.8%; p = 0.001) and alcohol use problems (–45.4%, SE 9.4%; p =
0.001), as well as the number of substance use–related physical
symptoms (–64.4%, SE 8.0%; p = 0.001).52 These differences, however, tended to decline with time. No significant effects were found
on overall quality-of-life, finances, health and social relations scores.
Provision of housing vouchers resulted in higher family-relations
score and satisfaction, and quality of housing compared with standard care.55 One trial reported that rental assistance was associated
with reduced emergency department visits and time spent in hospital, but this reduction was not significantly different than in the comparator group.56 Individual placement and support was found to
improve employment rates only when there was high fidelity to the
model (OR 2.42, 95% CI 1.13 to 5.16).54 Financial-empowerment education and provision of housing vouchers had no effect on employment outcomes.47,55 Financial-empowerment education and individual placement and support had no effect on hourly wages.47,54
Provision of housing vouchers had no effect on monthly income.55
The certainty of the evidence was rated low because several
trials introduced high risk of detection and performance bias. Furthermore, 1 trial reported low consent rates of 47% and a 1:4 sampling ratio that further limited statistical power.52 As well, participants in the control group wanting to enter income-assistance
programs after completing the study had incentives to underreport
symptoms, which introduced high risk for measurement bias.
Identify history of severe mental illness, such as psychotic or
mood and anxiety disorders, associated with substantial disability, substance use disorders, or multiple or complex
Ensure access to local community mental health programs,
psychiatric services for assessment and linkage to intensive
case management, assertive community treatment or critical
time intervention where available (low certainty, conditional
Our systematic review examined the effectiveness of standard
case management, as well as specific intensive casemanagement interventions, such as assertive community treatment, intensive case management and critical time intervention
among homeless and vulnerably housed populations and corresponding level of need (David Ponka, University of Ottawa,
Ottawa, Ont.: unpublished data, 2020). We included a total of
56 citations, of which 10 trials reported on standard case management,51,57–65 8 trials on assertive community treatment,66–73
16 trials on intensive case management74–89 and 5 trials on critical
Box 2: How to use and understand this GRADE guideline
This guideline supplies providers with evidence for decisions
concerning interventions to improve health and social outcomes
for people who are homeless or vulnerably housed. This guideline
is not meant to replace clinical judgment. Statements about
clinical considerations, values and preferences are integral parts of
the recommendations meant to facilitate interpretation and
implementation of the guideline. Recommendations in this
guideline are categorized according to the Grading of
Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation
(GRADE) system as strong or conditional recommendations.
Strong recommendations indicate that all or almost all fully
informed patients would choose the recommended course of
action, and indicate to clinicians that the recommendation is
appropriate for all or almost all individuals. Strong
recommendations represent candidates for quality-of-care criteria
or performance indicators.
Conditional recommendations indicate that most informed
patients would choose the suggested course of action, but an
appreciable minority would not. With conditional
recommendations, clinicians should recognize that different
choices will be appropriate for individual patients, and they should
help patients arrive at a decision consistent with their values and
preferences. Conditional recommendations should not be used as
a basis for standards of practice (other than to mandate shared
Good practice statements represent common-sense practice, are
supported by indirect evidence and are associated with assumed
large net benefit.
Clinical considerations provide practical suggestions to support
implementation of the GRADE recommendation.
GRADE certainty ratings
High: further research is very unlikely to change our confidence in
the estimate of effect.
Moderate: further research is likely to have an important impact on
the confidence in the estimate of effect and may change the estimate.
Low: further research is very likely to have an important impact
on our confidence in the estimate of effect and is likely to change
Very low: any estimate of the effect is very uncertain.
Table 2: Good practice statements to support delivery of care
Good practice statement
1. Homeless and vulnerably housed populations
should receive trauma-informed and personcentred care.
2. Homeless and vulnerably housed populations
should be linked to comprehensive primary
care to facilitate the management of multiple
health and social needs.
3. Providers should collaborate with public health
and community organizations to ensure
programs are accessible and resources
appropriate to meet local patient needs.
Of 10 trials on standard case management, 10 evaluated
housing stability. Only 3 reported significant decreases in homelessness,57,62,63 an effect that diminished over time in 1 trial of a
time-limited residential case management in which participants
in all groups accessed substantial levels of services.57 A program
tailored to women reduced the odds of depression at 3 months
(OR 0.38, 95% CI 0.14 to 0.99), but did not show improvements in
the women’s overall mental health status (mean difference 4.50,
95% CI –0.98 to 9.98).64 One trial reported higher levels of hostility (p < 0.001) and depression symptoms (p < 0.05) among female
participants receiving nurse-led standard case management
compared with those receiving standard care.60 Few studies
reported on substance use, quality of life, employment or
Findings of assertive community treatment on housingstability, quality-of-life and hospital-admission outcomes are
mixed. Two trials found that participants receiving the treatment
reported fewer days homeless (p < 0.01)71 and more days in community housing (p = 0.006),70 whereas 2 trials reported no effect
on episodes of homelessness or number of days homeless.66,73
Further, these interventions showed an added benefit in reducing the number of participants admitted to hospital (mean difference –8.6, p < 0.05) and with visits to the emergency department
(mean difference –1.2, p = 0.009).67 Most trials of assertive community treatment reported no significant differences in mental
health outcomes, including psychiatric symptoms, substance
use, or income-related outcomes between the treatment and
Intensive case management reduced the number of days
homeless (pooled standardized mean difference –0.22, 95% CI
–0.40 to –0.03), but not the number of days spent in stable housing.78,80,89 In most studies, there was no major improvement in
psychological symptoms between the treatment and control
groups. However, 1 trial reported significantly greater reductions
in anxiety, depression and thought disturbances after 24 months
(mean difference change from baseline –0.32, p = 0.007), as well
as improved life satisfaction (mean difference 1.23, p = 0.001)
using intensive case management.86 One trial reported no significant difference in quality of life.83 Findings on substance use
were mixed. Six of the 10 trials reported that intensive case management was associated with improvements in substance use
behaviours.74,78,82,84,87,88 Participants receiving intensive case management reported fewer visits to the emergency department
(mean difference 19%, p < 0.05) but did not have shorter hospital
stays compared with control groups.85 Intensive case management had no effect on the number of days of employment, or on
income received from employment; however, income received
by participants through public assistance increased (e.g., mean
difference 89, 95% CI 8 to 170).78,85
Critical time intervention was beneficial in reducing the number of homeless nights (mean difference –591, p < 0.001) and the
odds of homelessness (OR 0.23, 95% CI 0.06 to 0.90) during the
final 18 weeks of follow-up.91 Participants receiving the treatment were rehoused sooner than those receiving standard
care,95 but did not spend more days rehoused.90 Adults receiving
critical time intervention showed significant improvements in
psychological symptoms (mean difference –0.14, 95% CI –0.29 to
0.01).90 However, findings for children’s mental health were
mixed: children aged 1.5–5 years showed improvements in internalizing (ß coefficient –3.65, 95% CI –5.61 to –1.68) and externalizing behaviours (ß coefficient –3.12, 95% CI –5.37 to –0.86),
whereas changes for children aged 6–10 years and 11–16 years
were not significant.93 There were no significant effects of critical
time intervention on substance-use,90 quality-of-life90,92 or
income-related outcomes.96 Two trials reported mixed findings
on hospital admission outcomes; in 1 study, allocation to critical
time intervention was associated with reduced odds of hospital
admission (OR 0.11, 95% CI 0.01 to 0.96) and total number of
nights in hospital (p < 0.05) in the final 18 weeks of the trial.97
However, another study reported a greater total number of
nights in hospital for the treatment group compared with usual
care (1171 v. 912).98
The certainty of the evidence was rated low because several
trials introduced high risk of detection and performance bias.
Opioid agonist therapy
Ensure access to opioid agonist therapy in primary care or by
referral to an addiction specialist, potentially in collaboration
with public health or community health centre for linkage to
pharmacologic interventions (low certainty, conditional
We conducted a review of systematic reviews on pharmalogic
interventions for opioid use disorder.99 Twenty-four reviews,
which included 352 unique primary studies, reported on pharmacologic interventions for opioid use disorder among general
populations.100–123 We expanded our inclusion criteria to general
populations, aware that most studies among “general populations” had a large representation of homeless populations in
their samples. We did not identify any substantial reason to
believe that the mechanisms of action of our interventions of
interest would differ between homeless populations who use
substances and the general population of people who use substances. Reviews on pharmacologic interventions reported on
the use of methadone, buprenorphine, diacetylmorphine (heroin), levo-a-acetylmethadol, slow-release oral morphine and
hydromorphone for treatment of opioid use disorder.
We found pooled all-cause mortality rates of 36.1 and 11.3 per
1000 person years for participants out of and in methadone
maintenance therapy, respectively (rate ratio 3.20, 95% CI 2.65 to
3.86), and mortality rates of 9.5 per 1000 person years for those
not receiving buprenorphine maintenance therapy compared
with 4.3 per 1000 person years among those receiving the therapy (rate ratio 2.20, 95% CI 1.34 to 3.61).116 Overdose-specific
mortality rates were similarly affected, with pooled overdose
mortality rates of 12.7 and 2.6 per 1000 person years for participants out of and in methadone maintenance therapy, and rates
of 4.6 and 1.4 per 1000 person years out of and in buprenorphine
maintenance therapy.116 Compared with nonpharmacologic
approaches, methadone maintenance therapy had no significant
ISSUE 10 E245
effect on mortality (relative risk 0.48, 95% CI 0.10 to 2.39).110 With
respect to morbidity, pharmacologic interventions for opioid use
disorder reduced the risk of hepatitis C virus (HCV) acquisition
(risk ratio 0.50, 95% CI 0.40 to 0.63)112 and HIV infection.103
Adverse events were reported for all agents.100,109,119,122 Treatment with methadone and buprenorphine was associated with
reduced illicit opioid use (standardized mean difference –1.17,
95% CI –1.85 to –0.49).109 Availability of buprenorphine treatment
expanded access to treatment for patients unlikely to enrol in
methadone clinics and facilitated earlier access for recent initiates to opioid use.117 The relative superiority of one pharmacologic agent over another on retention outcomes remains unclear;
however, use of methadone was found to show better benefits
than nonpharmacologic interventions for retention (risk ratio
4.44, 95% CI 3.26 to 6.04).110
The certainty of evidence ranged from very low to moderate,
primarily because of inconsistency, high risk of bias and evidence
from nonrandomized studies.
Identify problematic substance use, including alcohol or other
Identify the most appropriate approach or refer to local addiction and harm reduction/prevention services (e.g., supervised
consumption facilities, managed alcohol programs) via appropriate local resources, such as public health or community
health centre or les centres locaux de services communautaires (low certainty, conditional recommendation).
We conducted a review of systematic reviews on supervised
consumption facilities and managed alcohol programs.99 Two
systematic reviews, which included 90 unique observational
studies and 1 qualitative meta-synthesis reported on supervised
consumption facilities.124–126 For managed alcohol programs,
1 Cochrane review had no included studies,127 and 2 greyliterature reviews reported on 51 studies.128,129
Establishment of supervised consumption facilities was associated with a 35% decrease in the number of fatal opioid overdoses within 500 m of the facility (from 253.8 to 165.1 deaths per
100 000 person years, p = 0.048), compared with 9% in the rest of
the city (Vancouver).124 There were 336 reported opioid overdose
reversals in 90 different individuals within the Vancouver facility
over a 4-year period (2004–2008).125 Similar protective effects
were reported in Australia and Germany. Observational studies
conducted in Vancouver and Sydney showed that regular use of
supervised consumption facilities was associated with decreased
syringe sharing (adjusted OR 0.30, 95% CI 0.11 to 0.82), syringe
reuse (adjusted OR 2.04, 95% CI 1.38 to 3.01) and public-space
injection (adjusted OR 2.79, 95% CI 1.93 to 3.87).125 These facilities mediated access to ancillary services (e.g., food and shelter)
and fostered access to broader health support.125,126 Attendance
at supervised consumption facilities was associated with an
increase in referrals to an addiction treatment centre and initiation of methadone maintenance therapy (adjusted hazard ratio
1.57, 95% CI 1.02 to 2.40).125
Evidence on supervised consumption facilities was rated very
low to low, as all available evidence originated from nonrandomized studies.
There was a lack of high-quality evidence for managed alcohol
programs. Few studies reported on deaths among clients of these
programs.128 The effects of managed alcohol programs on hepatic
function are mixed, with some studies reporting improvement in
hepatic laboratory markers over time, and others showing
increases in alcohol-related hepatic damage;129 however, this may
have occurred regardless of entry into such a program. This evidence suggested that managed alcohol programs result in stabilized alcohol consumption and can facilitate engagement with
medical and social services.128 Clients experienced significantly
fewer social, health, safety and legal harms related to alcohol
consumption.129 Individuals participating in these programs had
fewer hospital admissions and a 93% reduction in emergency service contacts.128 The programs also promoted improved or stabilized mental health128 and medication adherence.129
Cost effectiveness and resource implications
Permanent supportive housing
We found 19 studies assessing the cost and net cost of housing
interventions.30,41,45,130–145 In some studies, permanent supportive
housing interventions were associated with increased cost to the
payers, and the costs of the interventions were only partially offset by savings in medical and social services as a result of the
intervention.30,41,131–134,142 Six studies showed that these interventions saved payers money.135,137,139,141,144,145 Four of these studies,
however, employed a pre–post design.135,139,141,145 Moreover,
1 cost-utility analysis of PSH suggested that the provision of housing services was associated with increased costs and increased
quality-adjusted life years, with an incremental cost-effectiveness
ratio of US$62 493 per quality-adjusted life year.136 Compared
with usual care, PSH was found to be more costly to society (net
cost Can$7868, 95% CI $4409 to $11 405).138
Two studies55,146 focused on the cost effectiveness of incomeassistance interventions. Rental assistance with clients receiving
case-management intervention had greater annual costs compared with usual care or groups receiving only case management.55 For each additional day housed, clients who received
income assistance incurred additional costs of US$58 (95% CI $4
to $111) from the perspective of the payer, US$50 (95% CI –$17 to
$117) from the perspective of the health care system and US$45
(95% CI –$19 to $108) from the societal perspective. The benefit
gained from temporary financial assistance was found to outweigh its costs with a net savings of US$20 548.146
Twelve publications provided evidence on cost and costeffectiveness of case-management interventions.44,55,67,69,73,75,88,96,147–150
Findings of these studies were mixed; the total cost incurred by
clients of standard case management was higher than that of
clients receiving usual or standard care61,88 and assertive
community treatment,67,147 but lower compared with a US clinical
case-management program that included housing vouchers and
intensive case management.55 Cost-effectiveness studies using a
societal perspective showed that standard case management
was not cost effective compared with assertive community
treatment for people with serious mental disorders or those with
a concurrent substance-use disorder, as it was more expensive.67
For intensive case management, the cost of supporting housing
with this program could be partially offset by reductions in the use
of emergency shelters and temporary residences.41 Intensive case
management is more likely to be cost effective when all costs and
benefits to society are considered.41 A pre–post study showed that
providing this program to high-need users of emergency departments resulted in a net hospital cost savings of US$132 726.150
Assertive community treatment interventions were associated with lower costs compared with usual care.66,67,73,148,149 We
identified only 1 study on the cost effectiveness of critical time
intervention that reported comparable costs (US$52 574 v.
US$51 749) of the treatment compared with the usual services
provided to men with severe mental illness.96
Interventions for substance use
We identified 2 systematic reviews that reported findings from
6 studies in Vancouver on the cost effectiveness of supervised
consumption facilities;124,125 5 of these 6 studies found the facilities to be cost effective. After consideration of facility operating
costs, supervised consumption facilities saved up to Can$6 million from averted overdose deaths and incident HIV cases. Similarly, Can$1.8 million was saved annually from the prevention of
incident HCV infection.
Providers can, in partnership with directly affected communities,
employ a range of navigation and advocacy tools to address the
root causes of homelessness, which include poverty caused by
inadequate access to social assistance, precarious work, insufficient access to quality child care, social norms that allow the
propagation of violence in homes and communities, inadequate
supports for patients and families living with disabilities or going
through life transitions, and insufficient and poor-quality housing stock.151 In addition, providers should tailor their approach to
the patient’s needs and demographics, taking into account
access to services, personal preferences and other illnesses.152
Providers should also recognize the social and human value
of accepting homeless and vulnerably housed people into their
clinical practices. The following sections provide additional evidence for underserved and marginalized populations.
A scoping review of the literature on interventions for homeless
women (Christine Mathew, Bruyère Research Institute, Ottawa,
Ont.: unpublished data, 2020) yielded 4 systematic reviews153–156
and 9 randomized controlled trials (RCTs)36,60,92,95,157–161 that focused
specifically on homeless and vulnerably housed women. Findings
showed that PSH was effective in reducing the risk of intimate partner violence and improving psychological symptoms.158 For women
with children experiencing homelessness, priority access to permanent housing subsidies can reduce child separations and foster
care placements, allowing women to maintain the integrity of their
family unit.158 As well, Housing First programs for families, critical
time interventions during times of crisis, and therapeutic communities are associated with lower levels of psychological distress,
increased self-esteem and improved quality of life for women and
their families.92,155 A gender-based analysis highlighted the importance of safety, service accessibility and empowerment among
homeless women. We suggest that providers focus on patient
safety, empowerment among women who have faced genderbased violence, and improve access to resources, including
income, child care and other social support services.
A systematic review on youth-specific interventions reported
findings from 4 systematic reviews and 18 RCTs.162 Permanent
supportive housing improved housing stability. As well, individual cognitive behavioural therapy has been shown to result in
significant improvements in depression scores, and family-based
therapies are also promising, resulting in reductions in youth
substance use through restoring the family dynamic. Findings on
motivational interviewing, skill building and case-management
interventions were inconsistent, with some trials showing a positive impact and others not identifying significant benefits.
Refugee and migrant populations
A qualitative systematic review on homeless migrants (Harneel
Kaur, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ont.: unpublished data,
2020) identified 17 qualitative articles that focused on the experiences of homeless migrants.163–179 Findings indicated that discrimination, limited language proficiency and severed social networks negatively affected homeless migrants’ sense of belonging
and access to social services, such as housing. However, employment opportunities provided a sense of independence and
improved social integration.
Composition of participating groups
In preparation for the guideline, we formed the Homeless Health
Research Network (https://methods.cochrane.org/equity/
projects/homeless-health-guidelines), composed of clinicians,
academics, and governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders. The Homeless Health Guideline Steering Committee (K.P.
[chair], C.K., T.A., A.A., G.S., G.B., D.P., E.A., V.B., V.S. and P.T.) was
assembled to coordinate guideline development. Expert representation was sought from eastern and western Canada, Ontario,
Quebec and the Prairie provinces for membership on the steering committee. In addition, 5 people with lived experience of
homelessness (herein referred to as “community scholars”180)
were recruited to participate in the guideline-development activities. A management committee (K.P., C.K. and P.T.) oversaw the
participating groups and monitored competing interests.
The steering committee decided to develop a single guideline
publication informed by a series of 8 systematic reviews. The
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steering committee assembled expert working groups to operationalize each review. Each working group consisted of clinical
topic experts and community scholars who were responsible for
providing contextual expertise.
The steering committee also assembled a technical team,
which provided technical expertise in the conduct and presentation of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Finally, the steering committee assembled the guideline panel, which had the
responsibility to provide external review of the evidence and
drafted recommendations. The panel was composed of 17 individuals, including physicians, primary care providers, internists,
psychiatrists, public health professionals, people with lived
experience of homelessness, medical students and medical residents. Panel members had no financial or intellectual conflicts of
interest. A full membership list of the individual teams’ composition is available in Appendix 2, available at www.cmaj.ca/lookup/
Selection of priority topics
We used a 3-step modified Delphi consensus method (Esther
Shoemaker, Bruyère Research Institute, Ottawa, Ont.: unpublished
data, 2020) to select priority health conditions for marginalized
populations experiencing homelessness or vulnerable housing.
Briefly, between May and June 2017, we developed and conducted
a survey (in French and English), in which we asked 84 expert providers and 76 people with lived homelessness experience to rank
and prioritize an initial list of needs and populations. We specifically asked participants, while answering the Delphi survey, to
keep in mind 3 priority-setting criteria when considering the
unique challenges of implementing health care for homeless or
vulnerably housed people: value added (i.e., the opportunity for a
unique and relevant contribution), reduction of unfair and preventable health inequities, and decrease in burden of illness (i.e.,
the number of people who may have a disease or condition).181
The initial top 4 priority needs identified were as follows: facilitating access to housing, providing mental health and addiction care,
delivering care coordination and case management, and facilitating
access to adequate income. The priority marginalized populations
identified included Indigenous people; women and families; youth;
people with acquired brain injury, or intellectual or physical disabilities; and refugees and other migrants (Esther Shoemaker, Bruyère
Research Institute, Ottawa, Ont.: unpublished data, 2020). Each
working group then scoped the literature using Google Scholar and
PubMed to determine a list of interventions and terms relating to
each of the priority-need categories. Each working group came to
consensus on the final list of interventions to be included (Table 3).
We followed the GRADE (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation) approach for the development
of this clinical guideline, including the identification of clinical
questions, systematic reviews of the best available evidence,
Table 3: Descriptions of priority-need interventions
Permanent supportive housing
Long-term housing in the community with no set preconditions for access. Housing may be paired with the
provision of individualized supportive services that are tailored to participants’ needs and choices,
including assertive community treatment and intensive case management.
This guideline groups the Housing First model (a homeless assistance approach that prioritizes providing
housing) with permanent supportive housing.
Benefits and programs that improve socioeconomic status. This may include assistance that directly
increases income and programs that help with cost reduction of basic living necessities.
This guideline also groups employment programs (e.g., individual placement and support, and
compensated work therapy) in this category.
Standard case management allows for the provision of an array of social, health care and other services
with the goal of helping the client maintain good health and social relationships.
Intensive case management offers the support of a case manager who brokers access to an array of
services. Case-management support can be available for up to 12 hours per day, 7 days a week, and each
case manager often has a caseload of 15–20 service users.
Assertive community treatment offers team-based care to individuals with severe and persistent mental
illness by a multidisciplinary group of health care workers in the community. This team should be available
24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
Critical time intervention supports continuity of care for service users during times of transition. Case
management is administered by a critical time intervention worker and is a time-limited service, usually
lasting 6–9 months.
Pharmacologic interventions for
substance use disorder
Pharmacologic interventions for opioid use disorder, including methadone, buprenorphine,
diacetylmorphine, levo-a-acetylmethadol and naltrexone.
Pharmacologic agents for reversal of opioid overdose: opioid antagonist administered intravenously or
intranasally (e.g., naloxone).
Harm reduction for substance
Supervised consumption facilities: facilities (stand-alone, co-located or pop-up) where people who use
substances can consume preobtained substances under supervision.
Managed alcohol programs: shelter, medical assistance, social services and the provision of regulated
alcohol to support residents with severe alcohol use disorder.
assessment of the certainty of the evidence and development of
recommendations.182 We conducted a series of systematic reviews
to answer the following clinical question:
Should PSH, income assistance, case management, pharmacologic agents for opioid use, and/or harm-reduction interventions
be considered for people with lived experience of homelessness?
Systematic reviews for each intervention were driven by a logic
model. A detailed description of the methods used to compile evidence summaries for each recommendation, including search
terms, can be found in Appendix 3, available at www.cmaj.ca/
lookup/suppl/doi:10.1503/cmaj.190777/-/DC1. We sought evidence on questions considering population, interventions and
comparisons according to published a priori protocols.183–186 We
used relevant terms and structured search strategies in 9 bibliographic databases for RCTs and quasi-experimental studies. The
technical team reviewed titles, abstracts and full texts of identified
citations, selected evidence for inclusion and compiled evidence
reviews, including cost-effectiveness and resource-use data, for
consideration by the guideline panel. The technical team collected
and synthesized data on the following a priori outcomes: housing
stability, mental health, quality of life, substance use, hospital
admission, employment and income. Where possible, we conducted meta-analyses with random effects and assessed certainty
of evidence using the GRADE approach. Where pooling of results
was not appropriate, we synthesized results narratively.
In addition to the intervention and cost-effectiveness reviews,
the technical team conducted 3 systematic reviews to collect
contextual and population-specific evidence for the populations
prioritized through our Delphi process (women, youth, refugees
and migrants) (Christine Mathew, Bruyère Research Institute,
Ottawa, Ont.: unpublished data, 2020; Harneel Kaur, University
of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ont.: unpublished data, 2020).162 Additionally,
we conducted 1 qualitative literature review to capture patient
values and preferences, focused on the experiences of people
who are homeless in engaging with our selected interventions.20
Drafting of recommendations
The steering committee hosted a 2-day knowledge-sharing
event, termed the “Homeless Health Summit,” on Nov. 25–26,
2018. Attendees included expert working group members, community scholars, technical team members, and other governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders. Findings from all
intervention reviews were presented and discussed according to
the GRADE Evidence to Decision framework.187 After the meeting,
the steering committee drafted GRADE recommendations (Box 2)
through an iterative consensus process. All steering-committee
members participated in multiple rounds of review and revision
of the drafted clinical recommendations.
Guideline panel review
We used the GRADE Evidence to Decision framework to facilitate
the development of recommendations187–189 (Appendix 4, available
We used GRADEpro and the Panel Voice software to obtain input
from the guideline panel.190 Panellists provided input on the wording and strength of the draft recommendations. They also provided
considerations for clinical implementation. We required endorsement of recommendations by 60% of panel members for acceptance
of a recommendation. After review by the guideline panel, the steering committee reviewed the final recommendations before sign-off.
Good practice statements
We developed a limited number of good practice statements to support the delivery of the initial evidence-based recommendations. A
good practice statement characteristically represents situations in
which a large and compelling body of indirect evidence strongly
supports the net benefit of the recommended action, which is
necessary for health care practice.191–193 Guideline-development
groups consider making good practice statements when they have
high confidence that indirect evidence supports net benefit, there
is a clear and explicit rationale connecting the indirect evidence,
and it would be an onerous and unproductive exercise and thus a
poor use of the group’s limited resources to collect this evidence.
The steering committee came to a consensus on 3 good practice
statements based on indirect evidence.
Identification of implementation considerations
We completed a mixed-methods study to identify determinants
of implementation across Canada for the guideline (Olivia
Magwood, Bruyère Research Institute, Ottawa, Ont.: unpublished
data, 2020). Briefly, the study included a survey of 88 stakeholders and semistructured interviews with people with lived experience of homelessness. The GRADE Feasibility, Acceptability, Cost
(affordability) and Equity (FACE) survey collected data on guideline priority, feasibility, acceptability, cost, equity and intent to
implement. We used a framework analysis and a series of meetings (Ottawa, Ont., Jan. 13, 2020; Hamilton, Ont., Aug. 16, 2019;
Gatineau, Que., July 18, 2019) with relevant stakeholders in the
field of homeless health to analyze our implementation data.
Management of competing interests
Competing interests were assessed using a detailed form adapted
from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors Uniform Disclosure Form for Potential Conflicts of Interest194 and the
Elsevier sample coauthor agreement form for a scientific project,
contingencies and communication.195 These forms were collected
at the start of the guideline activities for the steering committee,
guideline panel and community scholars. All authors submitted
an updated form in June 2019 and before publication.
The management committee iteratively reviewed these statements and interviewed participants for any clarifications and
concerns. A priori, the management committee had agreed that
major competing interests would lead to dismissal. There were
no competing interests declared.
Our mixed-methods study (Olivia Magwood, Bruyère Research
Institute, Ottawa, Ont.: unpublished data, 2020) looking at guideline priority, feasibility, acceptability, cost, equity and intent to
implement, identified the following concerns regarding implementation of this guideline.
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Stakeholders highlighted the importance of increasing primary care providers’ knowledge of the process of applying to
PSH programs and informing their patients about the resources
available in the community.
The major concerns regarding feasibility arose around the limited availability of existing services, such as housing, as well as
administrative and human resources concerns. For example, not
all primary care providers work in a team-based comprehensive
care model and have access to a social worker or care coordinator
who can help link the patient to existing services. Furthermore,
wait lists for PSH are frequently long. Despite this, all stakeholders agreed that access to PSH was a priority and is a feasible
Allied health practitioners and physicians do not always agree
with their new role in this area. Some feedback suggested pushback from family physicians who have limited time with patients
and less experience exploring social determinants of health, such
as housing or income. The initial steps outlined in this guideline
would come at an opportunity cost for them. Stigma attached to
the condition of homelessness was recognized as an important
barrier to care for homeless populations.
Many stakeholders recognized that successful implementation of these recommendations may require moderate costs to
increase the housing supply, income supports and human
resources. However, supervised consumption facilities, with their
range of benefits, were perceived as cost-saving.
Many interventions have the potential to increase health
equity, if available and accessible in a local context. Many stakeholders highlighted opportunities to increase knowledge of the
initial steps and advocate on a systematic level to increase availability of services.
Suggested performance measures
We developed a set of performance measures to accompany this
guidleline for consideration by providers and policy-makers:
The proportion of adults who are assessed for homelessness
or vulnerable housing over 1 year.
The proportion of eligible adults who are considered for
income assistance over 1 year.
The proportion of eligible adults using opioids who are
offered opioid agonist therapy over 1 year.
The Homeless Health Research Network will be responsible for
updating this guideline every 5 years.
This guideline complements other published guidelines. This
current guideline aims to support the upcoming Indigenousspecific guidelines that recognize the importance of Indigenous
leadership and methodology that will recognize distinct underlying causes of Indigenous homelessness (Jesse Thistle, York University, Toronto, Ont.: personal communication, 2020).
The World Health Organization has developed guidelines to
promote healthy housing standards to save lives, prevent disease
and increase quality of life.196 Other guidelines specific to opioid
use disorder exist,197,198 including 1 for “treatment-refractory”
patients.199 In the United Kingdom, the National Institute for
Health Care and Excellence has published guidelines for outpatient treatment of schizophrenia and has published multimorbidity guidelines (www.nice.org.uk/guidance). The National
Health Care for the Homeless Council in the US has adapted best
practices to support front-line workers caring for homeless
How is this guideline different?
This guideline distills initial steps and evidence-based
approaches, to both homeless and vulnerably housed people,
with the assistance of patients and other stakeholders. It also
introduces a new clinical lens with upstream interventions that
provide a social and health foundation for community integration. Its initial steps support the vision of the Centre for Homelessness Impact in the UK, which envisions a society where the
experience of homelessness, in instances where it cannot be prevented, is only ever rare, brief and nonrecurrent.201 Finally, we
hope that our stakeholder engagement inspires and equips
future students, health providers and the public health community to implement the initial step recommendations.
Gaps in knowledge
Evidence-based policy initiatives will need to address the accelerating health and economic disparities between homeless and general
housed populations. As primary care expands its medical home
models,27 there will be a research opportunity for more traumainformed care202 to support the evidence-based interventions in
this guideline. Indeed, clinical research can refine how providers
use the initial steps protocol: housing, income, case management
and addiction. With improved living conditions, care coordination
and continuity of care, research and practice can shift to treatable
conditions, such as HIV and HCV infection, substance use disorder,
mental illness and tuberculosis.203
Medical educators will also need to develop new training
tools to support the delivery of interventions. Curricula and training that support the delivery of interventions, such as traumainformed and patient-centred care, will also be needed.12 Many
of the recommended interventions in this guideline rely on collaboration of community providers, housing coordinators and
case management. Interdisciplinary primary care research and
maintenance of linkages to primary care will benefit from new
homeless health clinic networks. Monitoring transitions in care
and housing availability will be an important research goal for
Canada’s National Housing Strategy and the associated Reaching
Homelessness has become a health emergency. Initial steps in
addressing this crisis proposed in this guideline include strongly
recommending PSH as an urgent intervention. The guideline also
recognizes the trauma, disability, mental illness and stigma
facing people with lived homelessness experience and thus recommends initial steps of income assistance, intensive case management for mental illness, and harm-reduction and addictiontreatment interventions, including access to opioid agonist
therapy and supervised consumption facilities.
The successful implementation of this guideline will depend
on a focus on the initial recommendations, trust, patient safety
and an ongoing collaboration between primary health care,
mental health providers, public health, people with lived experience and broader community organizations, including those
beyond the health care field.
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Competing interests: Gary Bloch is a founding member, former board
member and currently a clinician with Inner City Health Associates
(ICHA), a group of physicians working with individuals experiencing
homelessness in Toronto, which provided funding for the development
of this guideline. He did not receive payment for work on the guideline
and did not participate in any ICHA board decision-making relevant to
this project. Ritika Goel, Michaela Beder and Stephen Hwang also receive payment for clinical services from ICHA, and did not receive
payment for any aspect of the submitted work. No other competing interests were declared.
This article has been peer reviewed.
Affiliations: C.T. Lamont Primary Health Care Research Centre (Pottie,
d Wendy Muckle led
the Homeless Health Summit. Esther Shoemaker led the Delphi consensus. Olivia Magwood led the reviews on lived experiences and substance
use, Tim Aubry led the review on housing, Gary Bloch and Vanessa Brcic
led the review on income, David Ponka and Eric Agbata led the review
on case management, Jean Zhuo Jing Wang and Sebastian Mott led the
homeless youth review, Harneel Kaur led the homeless migrant review,
Christine Mathew and Anne Andermann led the homeless women
review, Syeda Shanza Hashmi and Ammar Saad led medical student
engagement and competency review, Thomas Piggott co-led the GRADE
Assessment with Olivia Magwood and Kevin Pottie, Michaela Beder and
Nicole Kozloff contributed substantially to the substance use review,
and Neil Arya and Stephen Hwang provided critical policy information.
All of the named authors engaged in the writing and review, gave final
approval of the version of the guideline to be published, and agreed to
be accountable for all aspects of the work.
Funding: This guideline was supported by a peer-reviewed grant from
the Inner City Health Associates, and supplemental project grants from
the Public Health Agency of Canada, Employment Social Development
Canada, Canadian Medical Association and Champlain Local Integrated
Health Network. Personnel from collaborating agencies provided nonbinding feedback during the preparation of systematic reviews and the
guideline. The funders had no role in the design or conduct of the study;
collection, analysis and interpretation of the data; or preparation,
review or final approval of the guideline. Final decisions regarding the
protocol and issues that arose during the guideline-development process were solely the responsibility of the guideline steering committee.
Acknowledgements: The authors thank everyone who participated in
the development of this guideline, including community scholars, technical team leads, guideline panel members and working group members.
Endorsements: Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Public Health
Association, Canadian Federation of Medical Students, The College of
Family Physicians of Canada, Public Health Physicians of Canada, Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, The Canadian Alliance to
End Homelessness, Canadian Nurses Association
Disclaimer: The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent
the views of the funding agencies.
Correspondence to: Kevin Pottie, email@example.com
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) appreciates this opportunity to respond to the notice as published in the Canada Gazette, Part 1 for interested stakeholders to provide comments on Health Canada’s intent to establish a single set of regulations under the authorities of the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act (TVPA) and the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA) with respect to the labelling and packaging of vaping products.1
Canada’s physicians, who see the devastating effects of tobacco use every day in their practices, have been working for decades toward the goal of a smoke-free Canada. The CMA issued its first public warning concerning the hazards of tobacco in 1954 and has continued to advocate for the strongest possible measures to control its use.
The CMA has always supported strong, comprehensive tobacco control legislation, enacted and enforced by all levels of government, and we continue to do so. This includes electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). Our approach to tobacco and vaping products is grounded in public health policy. We believe it is incumbent on all levels of government in Canada to continue working on comprehensive, coordinated and effective tobacco control strategies, including vaping products, to achieve the goal of reducing smoking prevalence.
In our most recent brief, the CMA expressed its concerns regarding vaping and youth. This included marketing, flavours, nicotine levels, and reducing vaping and e-cigarette use among youths.2 In April 2019, the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health expressed alarm at the rising number of Canadian youths who are vaping, having found this trend “very troubling.”3 The CMA concurred with this assessment and supports Health Canada’s intention to further tighten the regulations.2
Identifying Vaping Substances
The findings of a recent Canadian study indicate an increase in vaping among adolescents in Canada and the United States.4 The growing acceptance of this practice is of concern to the CMA because of the rapidly emerging popularity of vaping products such as JUUL® and similar devices.4 It will be very important to identify clearly on the packaging all the vaping substances contained therein, along with a list of ingredients, as not enough is known about the long-term effects users may face.5,6 Users need to know what they are consuming so they can make informed choices about the contents. Studies have found substances in e-cigarette liquids and aerosols such as “nicotine, solvent carriers (PG and glycerol), tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs), aldehydes, metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), phenolic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), flavorings, tobacco alkaloids, and drugs.”7
As Hammond et al noted in their recent study, “JUUL® uses benzoic acid and nicotine salt technology to deliver higher concentrations of nicotine than conventional e-cigarettes; indeed, the nicotine concentration in the standard version of JUUL® is more than 50 mg/mL, compared with typical levels of 3-24 mg/mL for other e-cigarettes.”4 The salts and flavours available to be used with these devices reduce the harshness and bitterness of the taste of the e-liquids. Some of its competition deliver even higher levels of nicotine.8
The CMA has expressed its concerns about the rising levels of nicotine available through the vaping process.2 They supply “high levels of nicotine with few of the deterrents that are inherent in other tobacco products. Traditional e-cigarette products use solutions with free-base nicotine formulations in which stronger nicotine concentrations can cause aversive user experiences.”9
The higher levels of nicotine in vaping devices is also of concern because it “affects the developing brain by increasing the risk of addiction, mood disorders, lowered impulse control, and cognitive impairment.”10,11 The CMA has called on Health Canada to restrict the level of nicotine in vaping products to avoid youth (and adults) from developing a dependence.2
The CMA reiterates, again, its position that health warnings for vaping should be similar to those for tobacco packages.12,13 We support placing warning labels on all vaping products, regardless of the size of the package. The “space given to the warnings should be sufficient to convey the maximum amount of information while remaining clear, visible, and legible. The warnings should be in proportion to the packaging available.”13 The need for such cautions is important as there is still much that is not known about the effects vaping can have on the human body.
A US study found “evidence that using combusted tobacco cigarettes alone or in combination with e-cigarettes is associated with higher concentrations of potentially harmful tobacco constituents in comparison with using e-cigarettes alone.”14 Some researchers have found that there is “significant potential for serious lung toxicity from e-cig(arette) use.”15,16
Another recent US study indicates that “adults who report puffing e-cigarettes, or vaping, are significantly more likely to have a heart attack, coronary artery disease and depression compared with those who don’t use them or any tobacco products.”17 Further, it was found that “compared with nonusers, e-cigarette users were 56 percent more likely to have a heart attack and 30 percent more likely to suffer a stroke.17
A worrisome development has emerged in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working in consultation with the states of Wisconsin, Illinois, California, Indiana, and Minnesota regarding a “cluster of pulmonary illnesses linked to e-cigarette product use, or “vaping,” primarily among adolescents and young adults.”18 Additional possible cases have been identified in other states and are being investigated.
The CMA supports the need for child-resistant containers in order to enhance consumer safety; we have adopted a similar position with respect to cannabis in all forms.19,20 The need to include warning labels should reinforce the need for packaging these vaping products such that they will be inaccessible to small children.
1. The CMA recommends more research into the health effects of vaping as well as on the components of the vaping liquids.
2. Health Canada should work to restrict the level of nicotine available for vaping products to avoid youth and adults from developing a dependence.
3. The CMA reiterates its position that health warnings for vaping should be like those being considered for tobacco packages. We support the proposed warning labels being placed on all vaping products.
4. The CMA recommends that all the vaping substances be identified clearly on the packaging, along with a list of ingredients.
5. The CMA supports the need for child-resistant containers.
1 Government of Canada. Canada Gazette, Part I, Volume 153, Number 25: Vaping Products Labelling and Packaging Regulations. Ottawa: Government of Canada; 2019. Available: http://gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p1/2019/2019-06-22/html/reg4-eng.html (accessed 2019 Jul 10).
2 Canadian Medical Association (CMA). Health Canada Consultation on Reducing Youth Access and Appeal of Vaping Products. Ottawa: CMA; 2019 May 24. Available: https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14078 (accessed 2019 Jul 10).
3 Public Health Agency of Canada. Statement from the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health on the increasing rates of youth vaping in Canada. Ottawa: Health Canada; 2019. Available: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/statement-from-the-council-of-chief-medical-officers-of-health-on-the-increasing-rates-of-youth-vaping-in-canada-812817220.html (accessed 2019 Jul 24).
4 Hammond David, Reid Jessica L, Rynard Vicki L, et al. Prevalence of vaping and smoking among adolescents in Canada, England, and the United States: repeat national cross sectional surveys BMJ. 2019; 365:2219. Available: https://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/365/bmj.l2219.full.pdf (accessed 2019 Jul 24).
5 WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2019. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2019. Available: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/326043/9789241516204-eng.pdf?ua=1 (accessed 2019 Jul 30).
6 Dinakar, C., O’Connor GT. The Health Effects of Electronic Cigarettes. N Engl J Med. 2016;375:1372-81. Available: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra1502466 (accessed 2019 Jul 30).
7 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Public health consequences of e-cigarettes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2018. Available: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/24952/public-health-consequences-of-e-cigarettes (accessed 2019 Jul 29).
8 Jackler RK, Ramamurthi D. Nicotine arms race: JUUL and the high-nicotine product market Tob Control 2019;0:1–6.
9 Barrington-Trimis JL, Leventhal AM. Adolescents’ Use of “Pod Mod” E-Cigarettes —Urgent Concerns. N Engl J Med 2018; 379:1099-1102. Available: https://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMp1805758?articleTools=true (accessed 2019 Jul 30).
10 Chen-Sankey JC, Kong G, Choi K. Perceived ease of flavored e-cigarette use and ecigarette use progression among youth never tobacco users. PLoS ONE 2019;14(2): e0212353. Available: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0212353 (accessed 2019 Jul 30).
11 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2016. Available: https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/documents/2016_sgr_full_report_non-508.pdf (accessed 2019 Jul 30).
12 Canadian Medical Association (CMA) CMA’s Recommendations for Bill S-5: An Act to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-smokers’ Health Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. Ottawa: CMA; 2017 Apr 7. Available: https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13641 (accessed 2019 Jul 30).
13 Canadian Medical Association. Health Canada consultation on tobacco products regulations (plain and standardized appearance) Ottawa: CMA; 2018 Sep 6. Available: https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13930 (accessed 2019 Jul 30).
14 Goniewicz ML. et al. Comparison of Nicotine and Toxicant Exposure in Users of Electronic Cigarettes and Combustible Cigarettes JAMA Network Open. 2018;1(8):e185937. Available: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2718096 (accessed 2019 Jul 30).
15 Chan LF. Et al. Pulmonary toxicity of e-cigarettes Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 313: L193–L206, 2017 Available: https://www.physiology.org/doi/pdf/10.1152/ajplung.00071.2017 (accessed 2019 Jul 30).
16 Li D, Sundar IK, McIntosh S, et al. Association of smoking and electronic cigarette use with wheezing and related respiratory symptoms in adults: cross-sectional results from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study, wave 2. Tob Control. 0:1-8, 2019.
17 American College of Cardiology. E-Cigarettes Linked to Heart Attacks, Coronary Artery Disease and Depression. Media Release March 7, 2019 Available: https://www.acc.org/about-acc/press-releases/2019/03/07/10/03/ecigarettes-linked-to-heart-attacks-coronary-artery-disease-and-depression (accessed 2019 Jul 30).
18 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC, states investigating severe pulmonary disease among people who use e-cigarettes. Media Statement 2019 Aug 17. Available: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2019/s0817-pulmonary-disease-ecigarettes.html (accessed 2019 Aug 20).
19 Canadian Medical Association (CMA). Health Canada Consultation on Edible Cannabis, Extracts & Topicals Ottawa: CMA; 2019 Feb 20. Available: https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14020 (accessed 2019 Aug 6).
20 Canadian Medical Association (CMA). Proposed Approach to the Regulation of Cannabis Submission to Health Canada. 2018 Jan 19 Available: https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13838. (accessed 2019 Aug 6).
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) appreciates this opportunity to respond to Health Canada’s consultation on potential markets for cannabis health products that would not require practitioner oversight.1
The CMA’s approach to cannabis is grounded in public health policy. It includes promotion of health and
prevention of problematic use; access to assessment, counseling and treatment services; and a harm reduction perspective. The CMA endorsed the Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines2 and has expressed these views in our recommendations to the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation,3 and recommendations regarding Bill C-45.4 As well, we submitted comments to Health Canada with respect to the consultation on the proposed regulatory approach for the Cannabis Act, Bill C-45.5 We also responded to Health Canada’s recent Consultation on Edible Cannabis, Extracts & Topicals.6
The CMA first expressed its concerns about the sale of natural health products containing cannabis in our response to the proposed regulatory approach to the Cannabis Act, Bill C-45.5 We recognize that, in general, health products include prescription health products, non-prescription drugs, natural health products, cosmetics and medical devices. Although all these products are regulated by Health Canada, they are subject to different levels of scrutiny for safety, efficacy and quality, and in some cases, industry does not need to provide scientific evidence to support the claims made on the label.
As with all health products, the CMA supports an approach in which higher risk products, that is, those for which health claims are made, must be subject to a more meticulous standard of review. Rigorous scientific evidence is needed to support claims of health benefits and to identify potential risks and adverse reactions.
We support Health Canada’s proposal that authorized health claims for cannabis health products (CHP) would be permitted for treatment of minor ailments, on the strict condition they are substantiated via a strong evidentiary process. It is the view of the CMA that all such products making a health claim must be reviewed thoroughly for efficacy, as well as safety and quality, for the protection of Canadians.5
Recent experience in the United States supports this approach. A warning letter was sent to Curaleaf Inc. of Wakefield, Massachusetts, by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “for illegally selling unapproved products containing cannabidiol (CBD) online with unsubstantiated claims that the products treat cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, opioid withdrawal, pain and pet anxiety, among other conditions or diseases.”7
This is not the first time it was necessary for the FDA to take such action. The agency had sent letters on previous occasions to other businesses over claims “to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure serious diseases, such as cancer. Some of these products were in further violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act because they were marketed as dietary supplements or because they involved the addition of CBD to food.”7
The CMA shares the FDA’s concerns that such claims “can put patients and consumers at risk by leading them to put off important medical care.”7 A study conducted by Dalhousie University found that only 35.8% of respondents were familiar with the biochemical properties of CBD when asked what cannabinoid they thought was potentially a pain killer.8 Systematic reviews and guidelines have highlighted the state of the science and the limited indications for which there is evidence.9,10,11
Both cannabis and CBD specifically have been approved for use in a few conditions, but more research is needed in this rapidly growing field. For example, medical cannabinoids have been approved in several jurisdictions for the treatment of multiple sclerosis but the evidence of how well it works is limited. As the Canadian authors note, “carefully conducted, high-quality studies with thought given to the biologic activity of different cannabis components are still required to inform on the benefits of cannabinoids for patients with MS.”12 Consumers need to be reassured that health claims are being assessed thoroughly so they can make informed decisions.13
Packaging and Labelling Requirements
The CMA has laid out its position with respect to packaging and labelling with respect to cannabis products.5,6 Strict packaging requirements are necessary as their wider availability raises several public health issues, not the least of which is ingestion by young children. Requirements for tamper-resistant and child-proof containers need to be in place to enhance consumer safety. To reiterate:
a requirement for plain and standard packaging
prohibition of the use of appealing flavours and shapes,
a requirement for adequate content and potency labelling,
a requirement for comprehensive health warnings,
a requirement for childproof packaging, and
a requirement that the content in a package should not be sufficient to cause a poisoning
Prescription Drugs Containing Cannabis
The CMA addressed prescription drugs containing cannabis in a previous brief.5 The level of proof required to obtain a Drug Identification Number (DIN) for prescription drugs is considerably higher than the level of proof required for a Natural Product Number (NPN); rigorous scientific evidence to support claims of efficacy is needed for a DIN but not for an NPN. Consumers generally do not know about this distinction, believing that Health Canada has applied the same level of scrutiny to the health claims made for every product. As a result, consumers presently do not have enough information to choose appropriate products.
Prescription drugs are subject to Health Canada’s pharmaceutical regulatory approval process, based on each drug’s specific indication, dose, route of administration and target population. Health claims need to be substantiated via a strong evidentiary process. All potential prescription medications containing cannabis must meet a high standard of review for safety, efficacy and quality, equivalent to that of the approval of prescription drugs (e.g., Marinol® and Sativex®), to protect Canadians from further misleading claims.
The CMA urges caution especially around exemptions for paediatric formulations that would allow for traits that would “appeal to youth.” The CMA understands that these products, used under strict health professional supervision, should be child friendly, for example, regarding palatability, but we do not support marketing strategies that would suggest their use is recreational (e.g., producing them in candy or animal formats).
1. The CMA recommends that all cannabis health products, including those with CBD, making a health claim must be reviewed thoroughly for efficacy, as well as safety and quality, for the protection of Canadians.
2. The CMA recommends that strict packaging requirements be put in place with respect cannabis health products as their wider availability raises several public health issues, not the least of which is ingestion by young children.
3. The CMA recommends tamper-resistant and child-proof containers need to be in place to enhance consumer safety.
4. The CMA recommends that all potential prescription medications containing cannabis must meet a high standard of review for safety, efficacy and quality, equivalent to that of the approval of prescription drugs to protect Canadians from further misleading claims.
1Health Canada. Document: Consultation on Potential Market for Cannabis Health Products that would not Require Practitioner Oversight. Ottawa: Health Canada; 2019. Available: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/programs/consultation-potential-market-cannabis/document.html (accessed 2019 Aug 8).
2 Fischer B, Russell C, Sabioni P, et al. Lower-risk cannabis use guidelines: A comprehensive update of evidence and recommendations. AJPH. 2017 Aug;107(8):e1-e12. Available: https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2017.303818?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3Dpubmed&. (accessed 2019 Aug 8).
3 Canadian Medical Association (CMA). Legalization, regulation and restriction of access to marijuana. CMA submission to the Government of Canada – Task Force on cannabis, legalization and regulation. Ottawa: CMA; 2016 Aug 29. Available: https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy11954 (accessed 2019 Aug 8).
4 Canadian Medical Association (CMA). Bill C-45: The Cannabis Act. Submission to the House of Commons Health Committee. Ottawa: CMA; 2017 Aug 18. Available: https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13723
(accessed 2019 Aug 8).
5 Canadian Medical Association (CMA). Proposed Approach to the Regulation of Cannabis. Ottawa: CMA; 2018 Jan 19. Available: https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13838 (accessed 2019 Aug 8).
6 Canadian Medical Association (CMA). Health Canada Consultation on Edible Cannabis, Extracts & Topicals Ottawa: CMA; Available: https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14020 (accessed 2019 Aug 8).
7 Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA warns company marketing unapproved cannabidiol products with unsubstantiated claims to treat cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, opioid withdrawal, pain and pet anxiety. Media Release. Silver Spring, MD: FDA; 2019 Jul 23. Available: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-warns-company-marketing-unapproved-cannabidiol-products-unsubstantiated-claims-treat-cancer (accessed 2019 Aug 15).
8 Charlebois S., Music J., Sterling B. Somogyi S. Edibles and Canadian consumers’ willingness to consider recreational cannabis in food or beverage products: A second assessment. Faculty of Management: Dalhousie University; May, 2019 Available: https://cdn.dal.ca/content/dam/dalhousie/pdf/management/News/News%20%26%20Events/Edibles%20and%20Canadian%20Consumers%20English_.pdf (accessed 2019 Aug 20).
9 Allan GM. Et al. Simplified guideline for prescribing medical cannabinoids in primary care. Canadian Family Physician. Feb 2018;64(2):111. Available: https://www.cfp.ca/content/cfp/64/2/111.full.pdf (accessed 2019 Aug 29).
10 Health Canada. Information for Health Care Professionals. Cannabis (marihuana, marijuana) and the cannabinoids) Dried or fresh plant and oil administration by ingestion or other means Psychoactive agent. Ottawa: Health Canada; October 2018. Available: https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/hc-sc/documents/services/drugs-medication/cannabis/information-medical-practitioners/information-health-care-professionals-cannabis-cannabinoids-eng.pdf (accessed 2019 Aug 29).
11 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: Current state of evidence and recommendations for research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2017. Available: http://www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/reports/2017/health-effects-of-cannabis-and-cannabinoids.aspx (accessed 2019 Aug 29).
12 Slaven M., Levine O. Cannabinoids for Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis JAMA Network Open. 2018;1(6):e183484. Available: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2706491 (accessed 2019 Aug 26).
13 Food and Drug Administration (FDA). What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD Consumer Updates. Silver Spring, MD: FDA; 2019 July 17. Available: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-need-know-and-what-were-working-find-out-about-products-containing-cannabis-or-cannabis (accessed 2019 Aug 29).
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is pleased to provide the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance this pre-budget submission. It provides recommendations to address major pan-Canadian challenges to the health of Canadians: improve how we provide care to our growing elderly population; improve access to primary care across the country; increase digital health literacy to take advantage of the benefits of new health information technologies; and better prepare for and mitigate the health impacts of a changing climate on Canadians.
Health systems across the country are currently struggling to meet the needs of our aging population. People aged 85 years and over—many of whom are frail—make up the fastest growing age group in Canadai.
Provincial and territorial health care systems (as well as care systems for populations falling under federal jurisdiction) are facing many challenges to meet the needs of an aging population. Canadians support a strong role for the federal government in leading a national seniors strategy and working with the provinces to ensure that all Canadians have the same level of access and quality of services, no matter where they live.
The 2017 federal/provincial/territorial funding agreement involving $6 billion over 10 years to improve access to home care services is a welcomed building block. But without greater investment in seniors care, health systems will not keep up. To be truly relevant and effectively respond to Canadians’ present and future needs, our health care system must provide integrated, continuing care able to meet the chronic and complex care needs of our growing and aging population. This includes recognizing the increased role for patients and their caregivers in the care process.
The federal government must ensure transfers are able to keep up with the real cost of health care. Current funding levels clearly fail to do so. Health transfers are estimated to rise by 3.6% while health care costs are expected to rise by 5.1% annually over the next decade.ii
The federal government ensure provincial and territorial health care systems meet the care needs of their aging populations by means of a demographic top-up to the Canada Health Transfer.iii
Providing care often comes with a financial cost such as lost income due to the caregiver’s withdrawal from the workforce to provide care. There are also increasing out-of-pocket costs for both caregivers and care receivers for health care-related expenses—privately covered expenditures on home and long-term care for seniors are projected to grow by an average of 5.8 per cent annually—nearly 1.5 times the pace of household disposable income growth. While the federal government offers tax credits that can be claimed by care receivers/caregivers, they are significantly under-utilized. While representing a significant proportion of caregivers, those with low or no income receive little to no federal government support through these programs. Middle-income earners also receive less than those earning high incomes.
The federal government create a Seniors Care Benefit that would be an easier, fairer and more effective way to support caregivers and care receivers alike.iv
Access to Care
Since the mid-1990s, the federal and provincial/territorial governments (FPT) have provided sustained leadership in promoting and supporting the transformation of primary care in Canada. In 2000, the First Ministers concluded the first of three Health Accords in which they agreed to promote the establishment of primary health care teamsv supported by a $800 million Primary Health Care Transition Fund (PHCTF) funded by the federal government, but jointly governed. The PHCTF resulted in large-scale sustained change in primary care delivery models in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta with interest in other jurisdictions as well.
However, the job is far from finished. Across Canada, access to primary care is challenging for many Canadians with a persistent shortage of family physicians. In 2017, 4.7 million Canadians aged 12+ reported they did not have a regular health care provider.vi Even those who have a regular provider experience wait time issues.
There has been widespread interest in primary care models since the development of the College of Family Physicians of Canada’s (CFPC) vision document Family Practice: The Patient’s Medical Home (PMH), initially launched in 2011vii and recently re-launched.viii The model is founded on 10 pillars depicted in Figure 1.
Figure 1. The Patient’s Medical Home, 2019
The updated model places increased emphasis on team-based care and introduces the concept of the patient’s medical neighborhood that sets out connections between the primacy care practice and all delivery points in the surrounding community. While comprehensive baseline data are lacking, it seems
safe to conjecture that most Canadians are not enrolled in a primary care model that would measure up to the model’s 10 pillars.
The federal government, in concert with provinces and territories, establish a targeted fund in the amount of $1.2 billion to support a new time-limited Primary Health Care Transition Fund that would build on the success of the fund launched in 2000 with the goal of widely introducing a sustainable medical home model across jurisdictions. This would include the following key elements:
Age-sex-weighted per capita allocation across the provinces and territories;
Joint governance of the FPT governments with meaningful stakeholder engagement;
Respect for the Canada Health Act principles;
Common objectives (e.g., modeled on the CFPC Patient’s Medical Home framework);
Canada and most industrialized countries will experience a digital health revolution over the next decade with great potential to improve patient and population health. Digital health can be described as the integration of the electronic collection and compilation of health data, decision support tools and analytics with the use of audio, video and other technologies to deliver preventive, diagnostic and treatment services that promote patient and population health.
While most Canadian physicians’ offices and health care facilities are now using some form of electronic record keeping and most households have internet access, there remains a large deficit in using virtual care, both within jurisdictions and across provincial/territorial boundaries. Recently the CMA, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the College of Family Physicians of Canada established a Virtual Care Task Force to identify opportunities for digital health to improve health care delivery, including what regulatory changes are required for physicians to deliver care to patients within and across provincial/territorial boundaries.
To take full advantage of digital health capabilities it will be essential for the population to have a functional level of digital health literacy: the ability to seek, find, understand and appraise health information from electronic sources and apply the knowledge gained to addressing or solving a health problem.ix This also includes the capability of communicating about one’s health to health care professionals (e.g., e-consults), self-monitoring health (e.g., patient portals) and receiving treatment online (e.g., Web-based cognitive behavioral therapy).x
There are no current data available on health literacy in Canada, let alone digital health literacy. One basic barrier to achieving digital health literacy is access to, and usage of the Internet, which has been termed the “digital divide” (e.g., older Canadians and low income households are less likely to have Internet access).Error! Bookmark not defined.
In 2001 the federal government established the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC). Its mandate includes informing consumers about their rights and responsibilities in dealing with financial institutions and providing information and tools to help consumers understand and shop for financial products and services.xi In 2014 the FCAC appointed a Financial Literacy Leader who has focused on financial literacy, including activities such as conducting financial capability surveys and the development of a National Strategy for Financial Literacy.xii
Considering the anticipated growth of digital/virtual care it would be desirable to understand and promote digital health literacy across Canada. What the federal government has done for financial literacy could serve as a template for digital health literacy.
The federal government establish a Digital Health Literacy Secretariat to:
Develop indicators and conducting surveys to measure and track the digital health literacy of Canadians;
Develop tools that can be used both by Canadians and their health care providers to enhance their digital health literacy; and
Assess and make recommendations on the “digital divide” that may exist among some population sub-groups due to a lack of access to information technology and lower digital health literacy.
Climate Change and Health
Climate change is the public health imperative of our time. There is a high level of concern among Canadians about their changing climate. A 2017 poll commissioned by Health Canada demonstrates a high level of concern among Canadians about their changing climate: 79% were convinced that climate change is happening, and of these, 53% accepted that it is a current health risk, with 40% believing it will be a health risk in the future.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified air pollution and climate change as one of the biggest threats to global health. Health care professionals see first-hand the devastating health impacts of our changing climate including increased deaths from fine particulate matter air pollution and increased heat-related conditions. Impacts are most common in vulnerable populations such as adults over 65 years, the homeless, urban dwellers and people with a pre-existing disease.
Canada’s health care system is already treating the health effects of climate change. A lack of progress in reducing emissions and building adaptive capacity threatens both human lives and the viability of Canada’s health system, with the potential to disrupt core public health infrastructure and overwhelm health services, not to mention the economic and social costs. The federal government must provide leadership to deal with the impact already being felt in Canada and around the world.
The federal government make strong commitments to minimize the impact of climate change on the health of Canadians by:
Ensuring pan-Canadian and inter-jurisdictional coordination to standardize surveillance and reporting of climate-related health impacts such as heat-related deaths, develop knowledge translation strategies to inform the public, and generate clinical and public health response plans that minimize the health impacts;
Increasing funding for research on the mental health impacts of climate change and psychosocial adaptation opportunities; and
Ensuring funding is provided to the health sector to prepare for climate change impacts through efforts to increase resiliency (i.e., risk assessments, readiness to manage disease outbreaks, sustainable practice).
i Statistics Canada. The Chief Public Health Officer's Report on the State of Public Health in Canada, 2014: Public Health in the Future. Ottawa: Statistics Canada; 2015. Available: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/cphorsphc-respcacsp/2014/chang-eng.php; (accessed 2016 Sep 19).
ii The Conference Board of Canada. Meeting the care needs of Canada’s aging population. Ottawa: The Conference Board; 2018.
iii Canadian Medical Association. Meeting the demographic challenge: Investments in seniors care. Pre-budget submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. August 3, 2018. https://policybase.cma.ca/documents/Briefpdf/BR2018-16.pdf
iv The Conference Board of Canada. Measures to Better Support Seniors and Their Caregivers. March 2019. https://www.cma.ca/sites/default/files/pdf/health-advocacy/Measures-to-better-support-seniors-and-their-caregivers-e.pdf
v Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat. News release – First Ministers’ meeting communiqué on health. September 11, 2000. http://www.scics.ca/en/product-produit/news-release-first-ministers-meeting-communique-on-health/. Accessed 04/22/19.
vi Statistics Canada. Primary health care providers, 2017. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/pub/82-625-x/2019001/article/00001-eng.pdf?st=NGPiUkM5. Accessed 04/21/19.
vii College of Family Physicians of Canada. A vision for Canada. Family Practice: the patient’s medical home. http://www.cfpc.ca/uploadedFiles/Resources/Resource_Items/PMH_A_Vision_for_Canada.pdf. Accessed 04/22/19.
viii College of Family Physicians of Canada. The patient’s medical home 2019. https://patientsmedicalhome.ca/files/uploads/PMH_VISION2019_ENG_WEB_2.pdf. Accessed 04/21/19.
ix Norman C, Skinner H. eHealth literacy: essential skills for consumer health in a networked world. J Med Internet Res 2006;8(2):e9. Doi:10.2196/jmir.8.2.e9.
x Van der Vaart R, Drossaert C. Development of the digital health literacy instrument: measuring a broad spectrum of health 1.0 and health 2.0 skills. J Med Internet Res. 2017;19(1):e27. Doi:10.2196/jmir.6709.
xi Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. About FCAC.
xii Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. National Strategy for Financial Literacy. Phase 1: strengthening seniors’ financial literacy. https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/canada/financial-consumer-agency/migration/eng/financialliteracy/financialliteracycanada/documents/seniorsstrategyen.pdf. Accessed 06/24/19. https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/corporate/about.html. Accessed 07/01/19.
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) appreciates this opportunity to respond to Health Canada’s consultation on Reducing Youth Access and Appeal of Vaping Products - Consultation on Potential Regulatory Measures.1
Canada’s physicians, who see the devastating effects of tobacco use every day in their practices, have been working for decades toward the goal of a smoke-free Canada. The CMA issued its first public warning concerning the hazards of tobacco in 1954 and has continued to advocate for the strongest possible measures to control its use.
The CMA has always supported strong, comprehensive tobacco control legislation, enacted and enforced by all levels of government, and we continue to do so. This includes electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). Our approach to tobacco and vaping products is grounded in public health policy. We believe it is incumbent on all levels of government in Canada to continue working on comprehensive, coordinated and effective tobacco control strategies, including vaping products, to achieve the goal of reducing smoking prevalence.
The CMA has stated its position to the federal government on electronic cigarettes and vaping clearly in recent years.2,3 In our April 2017 submission on Bill S-5 to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology we recommended that the restrictions on promotion of vaping products and devices should be the same as those for tobacco products.2 We also argued that the government should take the same approach to plain and standardized packaging regulations for e-cigarettes as has now been implemented for tobacco products.2
In our most recent brief we addressed the two main issues outlined in the government’s Notice of Intent with respect to the advertising of vaping products: the placement of that advertising and the use of health warnings.3,4 We expressed concerns that the proposed regulations leave too wide an opening for vaping manufacturers to promote their products, especially to youth. Further, we reiterated our position that health warnings for vaping should be like those being considered for tobacco packages.
This brief will address the issues of greatest concern to the CMA with respect to vaping and youth. This includes marketing, flavours, nicotine levels, and reducing vaping and e-cigarette use among youths.
The Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health have expressed alarm at the rising number of Canadian youths who are vaping, finding this trend “very troubling.”5 The Canadian Medical Association concurs with this assessment and appeals to the federal government to move urgently on this important public health issue.
As our knowledge about the risks of using e-cigarettes increases, there is an even greater imperative to dissuade youth from taking up the habit. This is important because those youth “who believe that e-cigarettes are not harmful or are less harmful than cigarettes are more likely to use e-cigarettes than youth with more negative views of e-cigarettes.”6
The e-cigarette marketplace is evolving quickly as new products emerge. The industry has made clever use of social media channels to promote their wares by taking advantage of the belief that they are a safer alternative to cigarettes.7 They have also promoted “innovative flavoring and highlighted the public performance of vaping.”7 It is no surprise that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has referred to youth vaping as an “epidemic,” calling it “one of the biggest public health challenges currently facing the FDA.”8 As the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has noted “young people who begin with e-cigarettes are more likely to transition to combustible cigarette use and become smokers who are at risk to suffer the known health burdens of combustible tobacco cigarettes.”9
However, some of the efforts employed to convince youth to take up vaping are especially troublesome. As the
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported, “one in 5 (US) high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days in 2018,” a significant rise in the number of high school students between 2011 and 2018.10 The use of social media campaigns employing “influencers” to capture more of the youth and young adult market or influence their choices shows the need to be especially vigilant.11 In an attempt to counter this influence, a group of over 100 public health and anti-tobacco organizations from 48 countries “are calling on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snap to take “swift action” to curb advertising of tobacco products on their platforms.”12
As much as the industry is making major efforts to attract or sway customers through advertising, youth themselves may hold the key to countering that pressure. A recent US study found that “adolescents generally had somewhat negative opinions of other adolescents who use e-cigarettes. Building on adolescents’ negativity toward adolescent e-cigarette users may be a productive direction for prevention efforts, and clinicians can play an important role by keeping apprised of the products their adolescent patients are using and providing information on health effects to support negative opinions or dissuade formation of more positive ones.”13 Health Canada can play a major role in encouraging and facilitating peer-to-peer discussions on the risks associated with vaping and help to offset the social media influencers.14
We reiterate the concerns we expressed in our recent brief on the potential measures to reduce advertising of vaping products and to help diminish their appeal to youth. The CMA noted that the sections most problematic to the Association were those encompassing public places, broadcast media, and the publications areas.3 Vaping advertisements should not be permitted at all in any of these spaces, with no exceptions.3 These areas need to be addressed on an urgent basis.
As of 2013, over 7,000 flavours had been marketed in the US.15 The data indicated that “about 85% of youth who used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days adopted non-tobacco flavors such as fruit, candy, and dessert.”15 Flavours are helpful in attracting youth, especially when coupled with assertions of lower harm.13 And they have been successful in doing so, as evidenced by the rise in the rates of vaping among youth.8, 16
The addition of a wide variety of flavours available in the pods makes them taste more palatable and less like smoking tobacco.16,17,18 The concern is that e-cigarettes “may further entice youth to experiment with e-cigarettes and boost e-cigarettes’ influence on increased cigarette smoking susceptibility among youth.”15 More worrisome, flavoured e-cigarettes “are recruiting females and those with low smoking-risk profile to experiment with conventional cigarettes.”19
Limiting the availability of “child-friendly flavors” should be considered to reduce the attraction of vaping to youth.19 In a recent announcement, the US FDA has proposed to tighten e-cigarette sales and “remove from the market many of the fruity flavors …blamed on fueling “epidemic” levels of teen use.”20 As we have noted in previous submissions, the CMA would prefer to see flavours banned to reduce the attractiveness of vaping to youth as much as possible, a sentiment shared by other expert groups. 2,3,21
One of the most popular devices to vape with is JUUL™, entering the US market in 2015.22 JUUL’s™ nicotine pods contain 5% nicotine salt solution consisting of 59 mg/mL in 0.7 mL pods.17 Some of JUUL’s™ competition have pods containing even higher levels (6% and 7%).17
The CMA is very concerned about the rising levels of nicotine available through the vaping process, especially by the newer delivery systems. They supply “high levels of nicotine with few of the deterrents that are inherent in other tobacco products. Traditional e-cigarette products use solutions with free-base nicotine formulations in which stronger nicotine concentrations can cause aversive user experiences.”23
Nicotine, among other issues, “affects the developing brain by increasing the risk of addiction, mood disorders, lowered impulse control, and cognitive impairment.15,24 In addition to flavours, and to ease delivery and to make the taste more pleasant, nicotine salts are added to make the e-liquid “less harsh and less bitter” and “more
palatable despite higher nicotine levels.”17
Addressing the Rise in Youth Vaping
There are many factors that lead youth to experiment with vaping and e-cigarettes. For some it is simple curiosity, for others it is the availability of different flavours while still others perceive vaping as “cool,” especially when they can use the vapour to perform “smoke tricks.”25 The pod devices themselves (e.g., JUUL™) help enhance the allure because of the “unique aesthetic appeal of pod devices, ability to deliver nicotine at high concentrations and the convenience of using them quickly and discreetly.”26
As vaping continues to grow in popularity, it will not be easy to curb youths’ enthusiasm for it. However, it is too important of a public health issue to not intervene More research is needed into how youth perceive vaping and e-cigarettes as they do not hold a universally positive view of the habit.7,13 As well, there is evidence to suggest that many are coming to see vaping as being “uncool” and that there are potential health consequences to continued use.25
In view of the still-evolving evidence of the safety of vaping and e-cigarettes, “strategic and effective health communication campaigns that demystify the product and counteract misconceptions regarding e-cigarette use are needed.”25 Further, “to reduce youth appeal, regulation efforts can include restricting the availability of e-cigarette flavors as well as visible vapors.”25 Another approach to consider is the state of Colorado’s recent creation of “a health advisory recommending that health care providers screen all youth specifically for vaping, in addition to tobacco use, because young people may not necessarily associate tobacco with vaping.”27
1. The CMA calls for all vaping advertising to be strictly limited. The restrictions on the marketing and promotion of vaping products and devices should be the same as those for tobacco products.
2. The CMA recommends the limitation of number of flavours available to reduce the attractiveness of vaping to youth.
3. Health Canada should work to restrict the level of nicotine available for vaping products to avoid youth becoming addicted.
4. Health Canada must play a major role in encouraging and facilitating peer-to-peer discussions on the risks associated with vaping and help to offset the social media influencers.
5. Health Canada must develop communication campaigns directed at youth, parents and health care providers to demystify vaping and e-cigarettes and that create a link between tobacco and vaping.
1 Government of Canada. Reducing Youth Access and Appeal of Vaping Products - Consultation on Potential Regulatory Measures. Ottawa: Health Canada; 2019. Available: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/programs/consultation-reducing-youth-access-appeal-vaping-products-potential-regulatory-measures.html (accessed 2019 Apr 11).
2 Canadian Medical Association (CMA). CMA’s Recommendations for Bill S-5: An Act to amend the Tobacco Act and the Nonsmokers’ Health Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. Ottawa: CMA; 2017 Apr 7. Available: https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13641 (accessed 2019 May 13).
3 Canadian Medical Association (CMA). Health Canada consultation on the impact of vaping products advertising on youth and non-users of tobacco products. Ottawa: CMA; 2019 Mar 22. Available: https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14022 (accessed 2019 May 13).
4 Government of Canada. Notice to Interested Parties – Potential Measures to Reduce the Impact of Vaping Products Advertising on Youth and Non-users of Tobacco Products. Ottawa: Health Canada; 2019. Available:
https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/programs/consultation-measures-reduce-impact-vaping-products-advertising-youthnon-users-tobacco-products.html (accessed 2019 Feb 27).
5 Public Health Agency of Canada. Statement from the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health on the increasing rates of youth vaping in Canada. Health Canada; 2019. Available: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/statement-from-the-council-of-chief-medical-officers-of-health-on-the-increasing-rates-of-youth-vaping-in-canada-812817220.html (accessed 2019 May 14).
6 Glantz SA. The Evidence of Electronic Cigarette Risks Is Catching Up with Public Perception. JAMA Network Open 2019;2(3):e191032. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.1032. Available: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2729460 (accessed 2019 May 14).
7 McCausland K., et al. The Messages Presented in Electronic Cigarette–Related Social Media Promotions and Discussion: Scoping Review. J Med Internet Res 2019;21(2):e11953). Available: https://www.jmir.org/2019/2/e11953/ (accessed 2019 May 14).
8 Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on new data demonstrating rising youth use of tobacco products and the agency’s ongoing actions to confront the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use. Silver Spring, MD: FDA; February 11, 2019. Available: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/statement-fda-commissioner-scott-gottlieb-md-new-data-demonstrating-rising-youth-use-tobacco (accessed 2019 May 17).
9 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Public health consequences of e-cigarettes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2018. Available: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/24952/public-health-consequences-of-e-cigarettes (accessed 2019 May 17).
10 Kuehn B. Youth e-Cigarette Use. JAMA. 2019;321(2):138. Available: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2720740 (accessed 2019 May 14).
11 Kirkum C. Philip Morris suspends social media campaign after Reuters exposes young 'influencers'. New York: Reuters; May 10, 2019. Available: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-philipmorris-ecigs-instagram-exclusiv/exclusive-philip-morris-suspends-social-media-campaign-after-reuters-exposes-young-influencers-idUSKCN1SH02K (accessed 2019 May 13).
12 Kirkham C. Citing Reuters report, health groups push tech firms to police tobacco marketing. New York: Reuters; May 22, 2109. Available: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-philipmorris-ecigs-socialmedia/citing-reuters-report-health-groups-push-tech-firms-to-police-tobacco-marketing-idUSKCN1SS1FX (accessed 2019 May 22).
13 McKelvey K, Popova L, Pepper JK, Brewer NT, Halpern-Felsher. Adolescents have unfavorable opinions of adolescents who use e-cigarettes. PLoS ONE 2018;13(11): e0206352. Available: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0206352 (accessed 2019 May 14).
14 Calioa D. Vaping an 'epidemic,' Ottawa high school student says. Ottawa: CBC News; November 27, 2018. Available: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/vaping-epidemic-ottawa-high-school-student-says-1.4918672 (accessed 2019 May 14).
15 Chen-Sankey JC, Kong G, Choi K. Perceived ease of flavored e-cigarette use and ecigarette use progression among youth never tobacco users. PLoS ONE 2019;14(2): e0212353. Available: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0212353 (accessed 2019 May 17).
16 Drazen JM, Morrissey S, Campion EW. The Dangerous Flavors of E-Cigarettes. N Engl J Med 2019; 380:679-680. Available: https://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMe1900484?articleTools=true (accessed 2019 May 17).
17 Jackler RK, Ramamurthi D. Nicotine arms race: JUUL and the high-nicotine product market Tob Control 2019;0:1–6. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30733312 (accessed 2019 May 20).
18 Reichardt EM., Guichon J. Vaping is an urgent threat to public health. Toronto: The Conversation; March 13, 2019. Available: https://theconversation.com/vaping-is-an-urgent-threat-to-public-health-112131 (accessed 2019 May 20).
19 Chen JC. et al. Flavored E-cigarette Use and Cigarette Smoking Susceptibility among Youth. Tob Regul Sci. 2017 January ; 3(1): 68–80. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30713989 (accessed 2019 May 20).
20 LaVito A. FDA outlines e-cigarette rules, tightens restrictions on fruity flavors to try to curb teen vaping. New Jersey: CNBC; March 13, 2019 Available: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/13/fda-tightens-restrictions-on-flavored-e-cigarettes-to-curb-teen-vaping.html (accessed 2019 Mar 20).
21 Ireland N. Pediatricians call for ban on flavoured vaping products — but Health Canada isn't going there. Toronto: CBC News; November 17, 2018 Available: https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/canadian-pediatricians-flavoured-vaping-second-opinion-1.4910030 (accessed 2019 May 20).
22 Huang J, Duan Z, Kwok J, et al. Vaping versus JUULing: how the extraordinary growth and marketing of JUUL transformed the US retail e-cigarette market. Tobacco Control 2019;28:146-151. Available: https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/tobaccocontrol/28/2/146.full.pdf (accessed 2019 May 21).
23 Barrington-Trimis JL, Leventhal AM. Adolescents’ Use of “Pod Mod” E-Cigarettes — Urgent Concerns. N Engl J Med 2018; 379:1099-1102. Available: https://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMp1805758?articleTools=true (accessed 2019 May 20).
24 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2016. Available: https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/documents/2016_sgr_full_report_non-508.pdf (accessed 2019 May 20).
25 Kong G. et al. Reasons for Electronic Cigarette Experimentation and Discontinuation Among Adolescents and Young Adults. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 2015 Jul;17(7):847-54. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4674436/pdf/ntu257.pdf (accessed 2019 May 21).
26 Keamy-Minor E, McQuoid J, Ling PM. Young adult perceptions of JUUL and other pod electronic cigarette devices in California: a qualitative study. BMJ Open. 2019;9:e026306. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6500190/pdf/bmjopen-2018-026306.pdf (accessed 2019 May 21).
27 Ghosh TS, Et al. Youth Vaping and Associated Risk Behaviors — A Snapshot of Colorado. N Engl J Med 2019; 380:689-690.Available: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc1900830 (accessed 2019 May 21).
Re: Standing Committee on Health’s study on violence faced by healthcare workers
Dear Mr. Casey:
I am writing on behalf of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) to submit recommendations for
consideration by the Standing Committee on Health (the Committee) as part of the study on violence
faced by healthcare workers.
The CMA is deeply concerned with the state of workplace safety in all health care settings, including
hospitals, long-term care, and home care settings. As in all experiences of violence, it is
unacceptable for healthcare workers to be victims of violence in the provision of care to patients.
While there is limited data nationally to understand the incidence of violence against healthcare
workers, anecdotal evidence suggests that these experiences are increasing in frequency and severity.
A 2010 survey of members of the College of Family Physicians of Canada shockingly found that, in
the previous month, nearly one-third of respondents had been exposed to some form of aggressive
behaviour from a patient (90%) or patient’s family (70%). The study concluded that “Canadian family
physicians in active practice are subjected to regular abuse from their patients or family members of
These concerns were brought to the CMA’s General Council in 2015, where our members passed a
resolution calling for:
“the federal government to amend the Criminal Code by making it a specific criminal offence to
assault health care providers performing their duties.”
The CMA is prioritizing initiatives that support physician health and wellness. Increasingly, there is a
recognition of the role of the workplace, primarily health care settings, and safe working conditions as
having an important influence of physician health and wellness.
1 Miedema BB, Hamilton R, Tatemichi S et al. Monthly incidence rates of abusive encounters for Canadian family physicians by patients and their families. Int J Family
Med. 2010; 2010: 387202. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3275928/pdf/IJFM2010-387202.pdf (accessed 2019 May 9).
Mr. Bill Casey
Addressing violence against providers in healthcare settings will require action from both federal and
provincial/territorial governments. In light of the above, the CMA respectfully submits the following
recommendations for consideration by the Committee in its study on violence against healthcare
1) The CMA recommends that the Committee on Health support the call to amend the Criminal
Code of Canada to introduce a new criminal offence for assault against a healthcare
provider performing their duty.
2) The CMA recommends that the Committee on Health support establishing monitoring of
violence against healthcare workers, that is consistent across jurisdictions, and have an active
role in responding appropriately to trends.
3) The CMA recommends that the Committee on Health support federal leadership in a pan-
Canadian approach to support workplace safety in healthcare settings, including
collaborating with the provinces and territories to improve violence prevention.
Finally, the CMA welcomes and supports the petition recently tabled in the House of Commons by
Dr. Doug Eyolfson, calling for the Minister of Health “to develop a pan-Canadian prevention strategy
to address growing incidents of violence against health care workers.”
In closing, the CMA is encouraged that the Committee is undertaking this study. I look forward to the
Committee’s report on this topic and the opportunity to collaborate on federal and
provincial/territorial action in this matter.
F. Gigi Osler, BScMed, MD, FRCSC
c.c.: Marilyn Gladu, M.P., Vice Chair, Standing Committee on Health
Don Davies, M.P., Vice Chair Standing Committee on Health
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) appreciates this opportunity to respond to Health Canada’s consultation on Potential Measures to Reduce the Impact of Vaping Products Advertising on Youth and Non-users of Tobacco Products under the authority of the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act (TVPA).
Canada’s physicians, who see the devastating effects of tobacco use every day in their practices, have been working for decades toward the goal of a smoke-free Canada. The CMA issued its first public warning concerning the hazards of tobacco in 1954 and has continued to advocate for the strongest possible measures to control its use. The CMA has always supported strong, comprehensive tobacco control legislation, enacted and enforced by all levels of government, and we continue to do so. This includes electronic cigarettes.
This brief will address the two main issues outlined in the Notice of Intent: the placement of advertising and health warnings.
Placement of Advertising
The CMA’s approach to tobacco and vaping products is grounded in public health policy. We believe it is incumbent on all levels of government in Canada to continue working on comprehensive, coordinated and effective tobacco control strategies, including vaping products, to achieve the goal of reducing smoking prevalence.
In our April 2017 submission on Bill S-5 to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology we recommended that the restrictions on promotion of vaping products and devices should be the same as those for tobacco products. This would include the same approach to plain and standardized packaging regulations under consideration for tobacco products.2,
The CMA is concerned that the proposed regulations leave too wide an opening for vaping manufacturers to promote their products, especially to youth. It is from a public health perspective that the CMA is calling for all vaping advertising to be strictly limited. The CMA supports the provisions proposed for point-of-sale information. The material offered will need to have the health warnings included in this Notice of Intent.
However, the sections of the proposed regulations most problematic to the CMA are those encompassing public places, broadcast media, and the publications areas. Vaping advertisements should not be permitted at all in any of these spaces, with no exceptions.2 The advertisements permitted currently seem to have managed to find their way to youth, even if they are not directed at them, as claimed. A report published by the World Health Organization and the US National Cancer Institute indicated that websites dedicated to retailing e-cigarettes “contain themes that may appeal to young people, including images or claims of modernity, enhanced social status or social activity, romance, and the use of e-cigarettes by celebrities.” Social media provides an easy means of promoting vaping products and techniques, especially to youth.21 A US study found that the landscape is “being dominated by pro-vaping messages disseminated by the vaping industry and vaping proponents, whereas the uncertainty surrounding e-cigarette regulation expressed within the public health field appears not to be reflected in ongoing social media dialogues.” The authors recommended that “real-time monitoring and surveillance of how these devices are discussed, promoted, and used on social media is necessary in conjunction with evidence published in academic journals.”6
The need to address the issue of advertising around vaping is growing more urgent. Vaping is becoming more popular and more attractive to Canadian youth, especially with the arrival of more high-tech versions of electronic cigarettes such as the pod-based JUUL™. , A similar trend has been observed in the United States where a recent study indicated that “use by adolescents and young adults of newer types of e-cigarettes such as pod-based systems is increasing rapidly.”
JUUL™ entered the US market in 2015 “with a novel chemistry (nicotine salts) enabling higher concentrations in a limited aerosol plume.” JUUL’s™ nicotine levels contained 5% nicotine salt solution consisting of 59 mg/mL in 0.7 mL pods. Some of JUUL’s™ competition have pods containing even higher levels (6% and 7%).10 The nicotine salts are “less harsh and less bitter, making e-liquids more palatable despite higher nicotine levels.”10 It has been noted by researchers that “among adolescents and young adults who use them, pod-based e-cigarettes are synonymous with the brand-name JUUL™ and use is termed “juuling,” whereas “vaping” has typically been used by youths to refer to using all other types of e-cigarettes.”9
The addition of a wide variety of flavours available in the pods makes them taste more palatable and less like smoking tobacco.10, The purpose in doing so is because “smoking is not a natural behavior, like eating or drinking, the manufacturers of these devices commonly add flavoring to the liquid from which the nicotine aerosol is generated, to make the initial exposures more pleasurable. The flavoring enhances the appeal to first-time users — especially teenagers.” The CMA and other expert groups would prefer to see flavours banned to reduce the attractiveness of vaping as much as possible.2, It is very important that the pod-based systems are cited specifically to ensure they are included under the new advertising regulations for all vaping products.
Youth vaping has reached the point where the US Food and Drug Administration referred to it as an “epidemic,” calling it “one of the biggest public health challenges currently facing the FDA.” Durham Region Health Department, using data from the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey conducted by CAMH and administered by the Institute for Social Research, York University, noted that 17% of high school students in that region had used an electronic cigarette in the past year (2016-17), numbers that are similar for the rest of Ontario. In the United States, a survey indicated that, among high school students, “current e-cigarette use increased from 1.5% (220,000 students) in 2011 to 20.8% (3.05 million students) in 2018;” between 2017 and 2018 alone it rose 78% (from 11.7% to 20.8%).
Concern is growing across Canada among educators seeing a rise in the number of youths turning to vaping. , , The problem has reached the point where a school official resorted to removing the doors from the washrooms to “crack down” on vaping in the school. Youth themselves are aware of the increasing problem; many are turning to YouTube to learn “vape tricks” such as making smoke rings. Some refer to the practice of vaping as “the nic;” as a University of Ottawa student noted “They call it getting light-headed. Sometimes it's cool.”
As the Canadian Paediatric Society noted in 2015, efforts to “denormalize tobacco smoking in society and historic reductions in tobacco consumption may be undermined by this new ‘gateway’ product to nicotine dependency.” , Decades of effort to reduce the incidence of smoking are in danger of being reversed. A growing body of evidence indicates that vaping can be considered the prime suspect. A Canadian study provides “strong evidence” that use of electronic cigarettes among youth is leading them to the consumption of combustible tobacco products. In a similar vein, a “large nationally representative study of US youths supports the view that e-cigarettes represent a catalyst for cigarette initiation among youths.” Granting vaping manufacturers scope to advertise will likely exacerbate this problem.
The CMA reiterates its position that health warnings for vaping should be like those being considered for tobacco packages.2,3 We support the proposed warning labels being placed on all vaping products. The need for such warnings is important as there is still much that is not known about the effects vaping can have on the human body.
Substances that have been identified in e-cigarette liquids and aerosols include “nicotine, solvent carriers (PG and glycerol), tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs), aldehydes, metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), phenolic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), flavorings, tobacco alkaloids, and drugs.” Researchers have noted that there is a “striking diversity of the flavorings in e-cigarette liquids, (and that) the effects on health of the aerosol constituents produced by these flavorings are unknown.”
A US study found “evidence that using combusted tobacco cigarettes alone or in combination with e-cigarettes is associated with higher concentrations of potentially harmful tobacco constituents in comparison with using e-cigarettes alone.” Some researchers have found that there is “significant potential for serious lung toxicity from e-cig(arette) use.” ,
Another recent US study indicates that “adults who report puffing e-cigarettes, or vaping, are significantly more likely to have a heart attack, coronary artery disease and depression compared with those who don’t use them or any tobacco products.” Further, it was found that “compared with nonusers, e-cigarette users were 56 percent more likely to have a heart attack and 30 percent more likely to suffer a stroke.”32
The need for parents to be educated on the impact of vaping on children is also very important. A study examining how smoke-free and vape-free home and car policies vary for parents who are dual users of cigarettes and e-cigarettes, who only smoke cigarettes, or who only use e-cigarettes demonstrated that these parents may perceive e-cigarette aerosol as safe for children. It noted that “dual users were less likely than cigarette-only smokers to report various child-protective measures inside homes and cars.”33
1. The CMA calls for all vaping advertising to be strictly limited. The restrictions on the marketing and promotion of vaping products and devices should be the same as those for tobacco products.
2. The CMA recommends that vaping advertisements should not be permitted in any public places, broadcast media, and in publications of any type, with no exceptions.
3. The CMA supports the provisions proposed in this Notice of Intent for point-of-sale information. This should include health warnings.
4. The CMA reiterates its position that health warnings for vaping should be like those being considered for tobacco packages. We support the proposed warning labels being placed on all vaping products.
5. The CMA recommends more research into the health effects of vaping as well as on the components of the vaping liquids.
Government of Canada. Notice to Interested Parties – Potential Measures to Reduce the Impact of Vaping Products Advertising on Youth and Non-users of Tobacco Products Ottawa: Health Canada; 2019 Available: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/programs/consultation-measures-reduce-impact-vaping-products-advertising-youth-non-users-tobacco-products.html (accessed 2019 Feb 27)
Canadian Medical Association (CMA) CMA’s Recommendations for Bill S-5: An Act to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-smokers’ Health Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts Ottawa: CMA; 2017 Apr 7. Available: http://policybase.cma.ca/dbtw-wpd/Briefpdf/BR2017-06.pdf (accessed 2019 Mar 1).
Canadian Medical Association. Health Canada consultation on tobacco products regulations (plain and standardized appearance) Ottawa: CMA; 2018 Sep 6 Available: http://www.cma.corp/dbtw-wpd/Briefpdf/BR2019-01.pdf (accessed 2019 Mar 5)
Gagnon E. IMPERIAL TOBACCO: Kids shouldn’t be vaping; our marketing is aimed at adults. Halifax Chronicle Herald March 5, 2019 Available: https://www.thechronicleherald.ca/opinion/imperial-tobacco-kids-shouldnt-be-vaping-our-marketing-is-aimed-at-adults-289673/ (accessed 2019 Mar 8)
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Principles For Providing Information About Prescription Drugs To Consumers
Approved by the CMA Board of Directors, March 2003
Since the late 1990's expenditures on direct to consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs in the United States have increased many-fold. Though U.S.-style DTCA is not legal in Canada1, it reaches Canadians through cross-border transmission of print and broadcast media, and through the Internet. It is believed to have affected drug sales and patient behaviour in Canada. Other therapeutic products, such as vaccines and diagnostic tests, are also being marketed directly to the public.
Proponents of DTCA argue that they are providing consumers with much-needed information on drugs and the conditions they treat. Others argue that the underlying intent of such advertising is to increase revenue or market share, and that it therefore cannot be interpreted as unbiased information.
The CMA believes that consumers have a right to accurate information on prescription medications and other therapeutic interventions, to enable them to make informed decisions about their own health. This information is especially necessary as more and more Canadians live with chronic conditions, and as we anticipate the availability of new products that may accompany the "biological revolution", e.g. gene therapies.
The CMA recommends a review of current mechanisms, including mass media communications, for providing this information to the public. CMA believes that consumer information on prescription drugs should be provided according to the following principles. 2
Principle #1: The Goal is Good Health
The ultimate measure of the effectiveness of consumer drug information should be its impact on the health and well-being of Canadians and the quality of health care.
Principle #2: Ready Access
Canadians should have ready access to credible, high-quality information about prescription drugs. The primary purpose of this information should be education; sales of drugs must not be a concern to the originator.
Principle #3: Patient Involvement
Consumer drug information should help Canadians make informed decisions regarding management of their health, and facilitate informed discussion with their physicians and other health professionals. CMA encourages Canadians to become educated about their own health and health care, and to appraise health information critically.
Principle #4: Evidence-Based Content
Consumer drug information should be evidence based, using generally accepted prescribing guidelines as a source where available.
Principle #5: Appropriate Information
Consumer drug information should be based as much as possible on drug classes and use of generic names; if discussing brand-name drugs the discussion should not be limited to a single specific brand, and brand names should always be preceded by generic names. It should provide information on the following:
* indications for use of the drug
* side effects
* relative cost.
In addition, consumer drug information should discuss the drug in the context of overall management of the condition for which it is indicated (for example, information about other therapies, lifestyle management and coping strategies).
Principle #6: Objectivity of Information Sources
Consumer drug information should be provided in such a way as to minimize the impact of vested commercial interests on the information content. Possible sources include health care providers, or independent research agencies. Pharmaceutical manufacturers and patient or consumer groups can be valuable partners in this process but must not be the sole providers of information. Federal and provincial/territorial governments should provide appropriate sustaining support for the development and maintenance of up-to-date consumer drug information.
Principle #7: Endorsement/ Accreditation
Consumer drug information should be endorsed or accredited by a reputable and unbiased body. Information that is provided to the public through mass media channels should be pre-cleared by an independent board.
Principle #8: Monitoring and Revision
Consumer drug information should be continually monitored to ensure that it correctly reflects current evidence, and updated when research findings dictate.
Principle #9: Physicians as Partners
Consumer drug information should support and encourage open patient-physician communication, so that the resulting plan of care, including drug therapy, is mutually satisfactory.
Physicians play a vital role in working with patients and other health-care providers to achieve optimal drug therapy, not only through writing prescriptions but through discussing proposed drugs and their use in the context of the overall management of the patient's condition. In addition, physicians and other health care providers, and their associations, can play a valuable part in disseminating drug and other health information to the public.
Principle #10: Research and Evaluation
Ongoing research should be conducted into the impact of drug information and DTCA on the health care system, with particular emphasis on its effect on appropriateness of prescribing, and on health outcomes.
1 DTCA is not legal in Canada, except for notification of price, quantity and the name of the drug. However, "information-seeking" advertisements for prescription drugs, which may provide the name of the drug without mentioning its indications, or announce that treatments are available for specific indications without mentioning drugs by name, have appeared in Canadian mass media.
2 Though the paper applies primarily to prescription drug information, its principles are also applicable to health information in general.
Guidelines for Assessing Health Care System Performance
In recent years, Canadians have expressed a loss of confidence in the ability of the health care system to meet their needs. At the same time, governments, health professionals, patients and the public are demanding greater accountability from the system and those responsible for how it currently functions. Attempts to respond to these concerns have highlighted the fact that the development and evolution of the system have not been based on assessment of performance or outcome measurements.
Through proper assessment, the capacity and performance of the health care system can be evaluated to identify opportunities for improvements in quality of care, health outcomes or both. These improvements should be based on sound decision-making using the best available information. The following guidelines have been created by the CMA in consultation with a broad group of stakeholders to serve as guiding principles for those involved in the establishment and ongoing development of health care system performance processes.
1) Recognizing that the ultimate goal of the health care system is to improve health, assessment of the system's performance and capacity must address structure, process and outcomes in the following domains: clinical services; governance; management; finances; human, intellectual and physical capital; and stakeholder perception and satisfaction.
2) Assessment of health care system performance must be comprehensive throughout the continuum of care at all levels(f1) and involving all activities related to providing care.
3) The issues of privacy and confidentiality of patient information must be addressed at all levels as outlined in the Principles for the Protection of Patients' Personal Health Information.
4) Assessment of health care system performance must enhance accountability (f2) among administrators, patients, payers, providers and the public.
5) Assessing the performance of the health care system requires information that is reliable, valid, complete, comprehensive and timely. The information used for the purpose of assessing health care system performance must be continually evaluated and audited in a transparent process.
6) An independent group (f3) (f4) working with an advisory body (or bodies) composed of representative stakeholders should be responsible for overseeing the definition, collection and custodianship of data and the interpretation and dissemination of health care system performance assessment.
7) The advisory body (or bodies) must rely on the best available evidence, which may include or be limited to expert opinion in the areas of data definition and collection, privacy, analysis and interpretation (f5) in assessment of health care system performance.
8) In the assessment of health care system performance, and in particular with respect to the interpretation of information, the advisory body (or bodies) should place heavy emphasis on the viewpoints of relevant peer groups.
9) The processes of data collection, analysis, interpretation and communication to administrators, patients, payers, providers and the public should be systematic and ongoing.
10) The process of assessing health care system performance should be evaluated on an ongoing basis to determine whether it is achieving the desired effects on quality of care and health outcomes.
1-Provider, institutional, regional, provincial and national levels.
2-Accountability entails the procedures and processes by which one party justifies and takes responsibility for its activities (Emanuel EJ, Emanuel LL. What is accountability in health care? Ann Intern Med 1996;124:229).
3-Without ownership or equity in the group being evaluated and without financial incentives related to the content of the evaluation.
4-Chosen through a transparent process.
5-Must include consideration of relevant legislation and regulations.
The method a country chooses to fund and deliver health care demonstrates the values of its citizens and the type of nation that they wish to live in. Canadians, through their elected representatives, have placed a high value on a single-payer, tax-financed health care system with a delivery system that is essentially private and not-for-profit. The principles providing the underpinnings of the system are embodied in the Canada Health Act (CHA) and include the following: universality, comprehensiveness, access, portability and public administration.
Since the passing of the CHA, Canadians have grown increasingly passionate about these principles and have demonstrated time and again that these principles are in close alignment with their values.
Canadians have chosen tax-based financing for their health care system as it relates to hospital and physician services. The provincial and federal governments, through federal government transfers such as equalization payments and the Canada Health and Social Transfer and through provincial taxation, fund the various organizations and health care providers that deliver health care. Therefore the financing of the health care system has been socialized and publicly administered as opposed to privatized through compulsory private insurance. This indicates that Canadians view health care as not just an ordinary good, such as an automobile or a house that they pay for based on their own financial resources, but as a good whose cost should be shared by the community on the basis of the ability to pay of individuals. For those two components that are most likely to create true financial hardship for families and individuals, hospital services and physician services, the overwhelming majority of the funding is from public sources as opposed to private sources.
When it comes to the health services that are subject to the provisions of the CHA, namely hospital services and physicians' services, Canada has chosen a predominantly private delivery approach. Physicians are largely self-employed and operate within a private sector solo or group practice while community and teaching hospitals are largely private not-for-profit organizations. Most Canadian hospitals are governed by voluntary boards of trustees and are owned by voluntary organizations, municipal or provincial authorities or religious orders.
2.0 CANADIAN VALUES
The evolution of Canada's health care system has been profoundly influenced by Canadian values and as a result so will its future. The Prime Minister's National Forum on Health produced a series of documents on Canada's health care system including analyses that delved into Canadian values regarding health care and Canada's health care system in particular.
The following quotes are from Graves, Frank L. Beauchamp, Patrick, Herle, David, "Research on Canadian Values in Relation to Health and the Health Care System" Canada Health Action: Building on the Legacy, Papers Commissioned by the National Forum on Health, "Volume 5 - Making Decisions, Evidence and Information". These quotes exemplify the importance of health and the health care system in the hearts and minds of Canadians.
"There is a broad consensus that the Canadian health care system is a collective accomplishment, a source of pride, and a symbol of core Canadian values. The values of equality, access, and compassion are salient to perceptions of the system and often held in contradistinction to perceptions of the American system. Moreover, the system is seen as relatively effective and sound. It may be the only area of current public endeavour which is seen as a clear success story." p. 352
"The public perceptions of problems in the health care system reflect many of the themes evident in broader concerns about government. One of these themes is a growing wariness of "expert" prescriptions for the health care system." p. 353
"This finding reconfirms a consistent conclusion of other research in this area - the gap between expert rationality and public values. It would be prudent to acknowledge the public's entrenched resistance to a purely economic mode on health care." p. 354
"A number of key conclusions are evident. First, people were generally loath to trade-off elements of the current system against the promise of better or fairer future performance." p. 355
"The public will be resistant to a rational discourse on these cost issues because they are more likely to see these issues in terms of higher-order values. The evidence suggests that further dialogue will tilt the debate more to values than economics. The public will insist on inclusion and influence in this crucial debate and they will reject elite and expert authority." p. 356
"In response to a question on how health care was different from other commodities and services sold in the marketplace, participants agreed that its main difference lies in the fact that it was directly related to "life and death"." p. 370
"Most simply did not want efficiency to be the driving force in health policy." p. 378
"The focus group discussions augmented the belief that health care is more about values than economics." p. 389
"Although other competing priorities emerged over the period of the discussion, it is equality of access that serves as the primary source of this pride. The "Canadian" values are wrapped up in equality of access - everybody gets relatively equal care when they are sick and nobody has to lose their house to pay their hospital or doctor bill. It is this feature of the system which is seen to most distinguish it from the American model (which is the point of comparison)." p. 393
"Many people readily acknowledge that their belief in egalitarianism is restricted to health care and that they are not troubled by wide discrepancies based on ability to pay or status in other areas of society. They have no trouble isolating health care in this way because they see health care as something of a completely different character than housing or automobiles or vacations." p. 393
"There is an overwhelming consensus among Canadians about the importance of equality of access as the defining characteristic of our system. That consensus is premised upon the assumption that quality is a given, as they have perceived it to be in the past." p. 395
"It is also true that, since Canadians recognize that a truly private system like the U.S. version might provide even greater levels or quality of freedom of choice to at least some citizens, they are choosing to sacrifice some of that from the system in order to provide equality of access to a universal system." p. 396
Clearly, Canadians value their health care system and the principles that it is based on.
3.0 IMPLICATIONS FOR TRADE LIBERALIZATION
The core values that Canadians have expressed in relation to the health care system raise certain issues as to the impact of trade liberalization on those core values. Following is an analysis based on an examination of the various modes of trade.
3.1 Modes of Trade in Services
The Uruguay Round of trade negotiations leading to the World Trade Organization's creation in 1995 classified services into 160 sectors. Health services are classified as a sector. In addition, trade in insurance services may affect health services where a market for health insurance exists.
The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) distinguishes among four modes of trade in services. Each is briefly described below, together with examples, (involving the mythic countries 'A' and 'B') from the health sector.
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- provision of diagnosis or treatment planning services in country A by suppliers in country B, via telecommunications ('telemedicine')
- movement of patients from country A to country B for treatment
- establishment of hospitals in country A whose owners are from country B, i.e. foreign direct investment
Presence of natural persons1
- service provision in country A by health professionals who have emigrated from country B
To date, Canada has made no commitments in the health services sector. Commitments in general have been shallow in the health sector in comparison to the most liberalized sectors, telecommunications and financial services, reflecting in part the substantial uncertainty about how such commitments will affect health care systems. Many of the countries that have undertaken health sector commitments have opted for enshrining the status quo, or even the status quo with commitments that include language proficiency requirements for health care professionals.
Some WTO Members, however, have made more extensive commitments, driven in part by the hope that this will facilitate development of export opportunities and importation of foreign capital and know-how. Where developing countries have made such commitments, the general lack of resources appears to be a far more potent barrier to trade than the presence or absence of such commitments.
3.2 GATS and the Health System: Role of Insurance and Health System Structure
To understand trade implications for the health sector, it may be helpful to distinguish between three functions that undergird all health systems: regulation/stewardship, financing, and service provision. Since the inception of Medicare, Canadians have received their health care through a system of private providers regulated under statutes. This links them closely to a financing system comprised largely of public funds in the form of general taxation revenues disbursed to health care providers by provincial and territorial governments and drawn from provincial and federal revenues through the progressive income tax system.
The regulatory/stewardship established by the Canada Health Act and provincial regulation is pivotal to the system's structure. For example, building private hospitals need not be explicitly banned because funding levers make this a difficult business proposition as services provided there would not be automatically covered by provincially managed insurance schemes. A further useful distinction arises between input goods and services (drugs, devices, health care personnel, cleaning, laundry etc.) and the output of health care services. It is difficult to argue that the cleaning of hospitals is fundamentally part of the output of health services, rather it is similar to cleaning of other facilities and is increasingly performed by commercial entities in contractual relationships with health care facilities. These commercial entities include firms with foreign ownership or shareholders. Similarly many of the drugs and devices used in Canadian health care facilities are traded goods, moving in international trade from foreign-based suppliers and being accompanied by Canadian goods exported to other health care systems.
Another input into the health care system is medical education. Physicians have to be trained so that Canadians have access to appropriate physician resources. There is some concern about the effects of GATS on the medical education enterprise and the quality of medical education currently delivered in Canada. As well, there is international recognition of Canada's expertise in medical education and evaluation and that this is a part of the health care system that Canada should be exporting.
4.0 RESPONDING TO GATS: POTENTIAL IMPLICATIONS
In responding to GATS, it is helpful to consider each of the four modes of trade in health services, current levels of trade, and how GATS liberalization, (i.e. commitments by the government of Canada) could impact Canada's health care system.
Mode 1 - Cross-border supply
Cross border supply of health services, where the provider (health care professional) and consumer (patient) are in different jurisdictions has recently moved from the realm of science fiction to reality with advances in telemedicine. However, certain services, particularly those involving direct patient contact (nursing, rehabilitation professionals) are unlikely to be provided, regardless of advances in telemedicine. Cross-border supply appears most relevant to services involving diagnosis and treatment planning.
For example, a physician in Canada may digitize radiology films and send them for interpretation to a radiologist in the Caribbean or South Asia. Similarly, several experiments within Canada have attempted to use telediagnosis to spare families long trips from remote communities to consult with highly specialized paediatricians. If this were to occur across national borders with exchange of payment for services, it would constitute a form of international services trade.
Current limits on telemedicine's growth are essentially no longer technological but rather the regulatory/stewardship issues of professional certification and payment systems for services rendered. A commitment under mode 1 would do nothing to address either of these questions, particularly the first as governments retain full authority to establish licensing and certification regimes for professionals. Within Canada, payment has been hampered by provincial insurance plan insistence that the doctor-patient encounter must occur in such a way that both are in the same physical space.
At present, efforts have been directed to establishing cross-border recognition of professional accounting certification, fueled in large part by the concentration of accounting services work within a handful of multinational firms on behalf of their increasingly globalized clients. By contrast, similar efforts directed to social sector professions are unlikely given the atomistic nature of the professionals and the institutions and organizations where they work. The absence of a concerted desire for such cross-border recognition, coupled with the powerful role of governments in regulating not only certification but also numbers of health care professionals, suggests cross-border recognition will remain unlikely for the foreseeable future.
That having been said, a commitment by Canada and other countries to mode 1 liberalization could increase pressure on licensing authorities to develop programs of cross-border recognition. If this were to happen the export of telemedicine services outside of Canada would represent physician resources that would not be available to Canadians. Given the physician workforce issues that Canada is presently facing such a commitment could exacerbate an already difficult position. In addition, there are other implications that would have to be determined through stakeholder consultation, for example: provider legal liability and malpractice insurance, patient privacy and confidentiality of medical records to name a few.
Mode 2 - Consumption abroad
Individual Canadians have long sought care in other jurisdictions, most notably the United States. This is typically paid for from private health insurance or out of pocket funds. Changes to provincial insurance reimbursement for out-of-country care have dramatically limited publicly funded consumption abroad by Canadians. Two exceptions to this are treatment for specific rare conditions and, in several provinces, contracting for radiation therapy services with American institutions. Liberalization under mode 2 would do little for Canada in affecting the outward flow of Canadian patients to the US given the ease with which Canadians can cross the Canada-US border to purchase medical care. Similarly, opportunities for Canadian professionals and facilities to attract additional foreign patients are unlikely to grow substantially should a mode 2 commitment be made.
The obvious growth potential for Canadian physicians and facilities lies in the USA but has been substantially limited by two synergistic factors. First is the non-portability of insurance coverage, both publicly financed Medicare/Medicaid benefits and most market-purchased insurance. Exclusion from health maintenance organizations' (HMOs) networks of providers are a further impediment for Canadian providers seeking to attract American consumers. Should the United States be willing to commit to the generalized portability of Medicare benefits, Canada would be a logical destination for American consumers seeking care, but that would be contingent on a commitment from the United States or other action regarding portability, rather than a specific mode 2 commitment by Canada. Commitments in this direction may, however, only be made if similar commitments are made by potential trading partners for health services, notably Canada and Mexico.
A commitment by Canada and other countries, especially the United States, to mode 2 liberalization could change the business plans or strategies to attract foreign patients by some physicians especially certain niche subspecialists. Such a change could result in access difficulties for Canadian patients as providers substitute higher-paying foreign patients for Canadian ones for which payment is fixed by provincial insurance plans.
Mode 3 - Commercial presence
Commercial presence, usually through foreign direct investment (FDI), is often necessary for providing services such as banking or supply chain management. FDI in Canada's health service sector is relatively insignificant and that would appear unlikely to change with a mode 3 commitment. As with several of the other modes of trade, the regulatory and stewardship environment creates structural impediments to FDI, specifically concerning which services will be paid for in which facilities, that a mode 3 commitment is unlikely to remove.
A related area for the health system is that of consulting services, where multinational, foreign-origin firms already play a substantial role in providing various forms of management consulting services. While some hospital boards are reported to have been approached regarding the outsourcing of their management to foreign management services firms, the extent of implementation to date has been minimal. Should hospital management be outsourced in this way or hospital facilities networked through supra-facility organizations, American based firms are logical candidates for such work and can be expected to bring with them substantial experience in shaping and constraining physician decision-making, particularly around access to expensive procedures.
Mode 3 commitments are arguably neither necessary nor sufficient for such a change in hospital governance and management when compared to the power of provincial government regulation and financing mechanisms. If Canada made a mode 3 commitment, provincial governments would still have substantial latitude to regulate financing and provision of services, so long as these regulations applied to all potential suppliers, regardless of country of origin, thus ensuring national treatment.
However, the full ramifications of such a commitment remain largely unknown and there appears little to be gained by Canada in making such commitments.
Mode 4 - Presence of natural persons
Presence of natural persons, specifically physicians and other health professionals, is one of the most pressing issues in health systems around the world. For countries like South Africa, emigration of physicians hamstrings efforts to deliver health services. For parts of Canada, immigration of those physicians has been essential to providing Canadians with health care, particularly in rural and remote areas.
Nevertheless, mode 4 commitments are unlikely to be particularly useful for health human resource planning. For destination countries like Canada, a mode 4 commitment to liberalize immigration of natural persons, specifically health sector professionals, does not bind that country to forego national systems of certification and licensure. Moreover, existing systems of visas and work authorizations offer far more effective control over inflows than would a mode 4 commitment. Similarly, Canadian physicians who wish to emigrate, typically to the US, do so in the absence of a Mode 4 commitment by either country. Of concern to Canadians is the increased recognition of physician shortages as demonstrated by the fact that several provinces have increased medical school enrolment. Therefore any measures that would make it easier for physicians and other health care professionals to leave Canada and to practice elsewhere, especially the United States, could exacerbate an already tight supply of human health resources in several provinces.
After a decade of efforts to reduce the number of physicians in Canada, assessments of Canadian physician supply are increasingly identifying shortages or, at the very least, chronic undersupply, in rural areas. Substantial numbers of foreign-trained physicians already reside in Canada but are unable to practice due to some combination of limited language skills, insufficient training, or 'queuing' for the various transition requirements imposed on international medical graduates (IMGs) by provincial licensing authorities.
Commitments by Canada in this area however could result in pressure on licensing authorities to modify their requirements with potential implications on quality of care. Again, there is little to be gained for Canada to pursue commitments in this area until the ramifications are fully explored.
Two areas that are to be explored are: 1) cross-sectoral horse trading, and 2) equity perceptions.
'Cross-sectional horse trading' refers to countries offering commitments in one sector in return for commitments in other, unrelated sectors. As an example, Canada may wish to increase its access to foreign markets for financial or telecommunications services and face the choice of putting the health services sector 'into play' as part of negotiating on matters unrelated to health services. This would be potentially disastrous if Canada were to undertake specific health services commitments in the rush to secure benefits in other sectors without attention to the federal-provincial cooperation and coordination to ensure that such commitments did not undermine the foundations of Canada's health system.
Such cooperation and coordination appears to be becoming increasingly difficult and the pressure of a GATS commitment perceived to be negotiated by persons outside the health sector and health ministry would seem a surefire way to increase that difficulty.
The second issue, equity perceptions, arises from the confluence of increasing concern among Canadians about access to their health care system and the likely additional concern that would arise if Canadian physicians were perceived to be favouring foreign patients over Canadian patients. The clearest example of access concerns to date is likely that of ophthalmology services where the opportunities for these specialists to provide non-insured laser treatment to American citizens may have reduced the services available to provincially insured Canadians. Non-insured care, whether for Canadians or foreign patients is a growing part of physician revenues, but pushing for its expansion through a mode 2 commitment under GATS appears unlikely to generate benefits sufficient to offset the potential negatives when compared with other methods of expanding revenue from non-insured services.
The Government of Canada's bargaining position regarding health services in relation to the ongoing liberalization of trade in health services through the GATS will evolve from an assessment of the opportunities and costs associated with various levels of commitment. A major factor in the equation are the values of Canadians and their affinity for the publicly funded health care system.
"The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) recognizes that trade liberalization can have positive economic impacts on the Canadian economy, however the type of healthcare system that Canadians and health care providers want is of primary concern whereas the goals of trade liberalization in health services is of a secondary nature. Recognizing that the GATS process is an on-going and long-term approach to trade liberalization, the CMA recommends that the Federal government undertake extensive consultative sessions with the Canadian public and healthcare providers. Such a consultation process would help answer questions as to the implications of trade liberalization and would provide feedback as to what level of trade liberalization in health care services is consistent with Canadian values."
1 Mode 4: "Presence of 1Natural Persons" - this covers the conditions under which a service supplier can travel in person to a country in order to supply a service. Source: http://gats-info.eu.int/gats-info/gatscomm.pl?MENU=hhh