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Joint position statement: The role of health professionals in tobacco cessation

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy10090
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2011-03-05
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2011-03-05
Replaces
Tobacco : the role of the health professional in smoking cessation : joint statement (2001)
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
The Role of Health Professionals in Tobacco Cessation - Joint position statement This statement was developed cooperatively by the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists, Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association, Canadain Dental Hygienists Association, Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Nurses Association, and Canadian Physiotherapy Association. POSITION There is a role for every Canadian health professional in tobacco-use cessation.1 Tobacco use2 inflicts a heavy burden on Canadians' health and on the Canadian health-care system, and health professionals can advocate effectively for tobacco-use cessation at the clinical and public health levels. As providers of client and patient-centered services, health professionals are involved in tobacco cessation by: * assessing and documenting all forms of tobacco use, willingness to quit and risk of exposure to second-hand smoke; * discussing with clients and patients the negative health effects of tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke, and the health and other benefits (e.g., financial) of becoming tobacco free; * offering to help, and helping, tobacco users to quit; * offering a variety of tobacco-cessation strategies (e.g., counselling, behavioural therapy, self-help materials, pharmacotherapy) as appropriate to their knowledge, skills and tools; * providing strategies for non-smokers to help them reduce their exposure to second-hand smoke; * being knowledgeable about and providing referrals to community-based initiatives and resources; * recognizing that relapse occurs frequently, and conducting follow-up assessment and intervention; * tailoring interventions to the needs of specific populations (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity, diagnosis, socio-economic status); and * using a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach. As educators and researchers, health professionals are involved in tobacco cessation by: * including education on tobacco-cessation strategies and strategies for resisting tobacco use in basic education programs for health professionals; * providing professional development programs for health professionals on tobacco cessation; * conducting research to encourage and improve health professionals' knowledge and provision of tobacco cessation; and * communicating research evidence about tobacco-cessation strategies. As administrators of health-care organizations, health professionals are involved in tobacco cessation by: * offering training on tobacco cessation as part of employee orientation; * providing access to professional education on tobacco cessation for employees; * enforcing applicable bans on tobacco wherever health professionals are employed (e.g., health-care facilities, private homes); and * ensuring that tobacco-cessation programs and tobacco-free workplaces are included in accreditation standards. As public health advocates, health professionals are involved in tobacco cessation by: * increasing public awareness that health professionals can help people remain tobacco free or stop using tobacco; and * advocating for federal, provincial and territorial governments' investment in comprehensive tobacco control that includes programs, legislation and policies to prevent the uptake of tobacco and reduce tobacco use (e.g., bans on tobacco advertising). Programs must focus on health promotion and include community-based initiatives. BACKGROUND Tobacco is an addictive and harmful product, and its use is the leading cause of preventable death in Canada.3 Each year in Canada, more than 37,000 people die prematurely due to tobacco use.4 Approximately 17 per cent of the population 15 years of age and older (about 4.8 million Canadians) smoke.5 Strong evidence has revealed that smoking is associated with more than two dozen diseases and conditions.6 The economic costs of tobacco use are estimated at $17 billion annually ($4.4 billion in direct health-care costs and $12.5 billion in indirect costs such as lost productivity).7 Second-hand smoke is also harmful. Each year, more than 1,000 non-smoking Canadians die due to second-hand smoke.8 Exposure to second-hand smoke is the number two cause of lung cancer (smoking is the number one cause).9 Second-hand smoke can also aggravate allergies, bring about asthma attacks and increase the risk of bronchitis and pneumonia.10 Research also suggests that there may be a link between second-hand smoke and the risk of breast cancer.11 Tobacco use is the result of the complex interaction of individual and social factors, such as socio-economic status, having family members who smoke and exposure to marketing tactics of the tobacco industry. Reduction and elimination of tobacco use requires comprehensive, multi-faceted strategies addressing both physical dependence and social context. Such strategies will include: * prevention - helping to keep non-users from starting to use tobacco; * cessation - helping current smokers to quit, and helping prevent relapse; and * protection - protecting all Canadians from the harmful effects of tobacco use and from the influences of tobacco industry marketing. Prevention is the most important strategy of the three; being tobacco-free is a vital element of a healthy active life. Thus, for current tobacco users, quitting is the single most effective action they can take to enhance the quality and length of their lives. Most tobacco users would like to improve their health, and in a Canadian survey 30 per cent of all smokers stated that they intended to quit as means of doing so.12 Indeed, in studies in Canada, the U.K. and Germany, smokers rated health concerns and current health problems as the primary reason for wanting to quit;13 other reasons why smokers quit include the cost of cigarettes14 and persistent advice to quit from family15 and health professionals.16 However, the relapse rate is very high because of the addictive nature of tobacco.17 Most smokers attempt to quit several times before they finally succeed. Smoking cessation counselling is widely recognized as an effective clinical strategy. Even a brief intervention by a health professional significantly increases the cessation rate.18 Furthermore, counselling programs that initiate follow-up calls to smokers as a "proactive" measure have been found to increase smoking-cessation rates by 50 per cent.19 The majority of Canadians consult a health professional at least once a year,20 creating several "teachable moments" when they may be more motivated than usual to change unhealthy behaviours.21 A smoker's likelihood of quitting increases when he or she hears the message from a number of health-care providers from a variety of disciplines.22 However, health professionals encounter barriers that require solutions, notably: - the need for better education for health professionals (e.g., how to identify smokers quickly and easily, which treatments are most effective, how such treatments can be delivered); - the need to allow for sufficient time to provide counselling; - the need to focus on preventive care by * increasing funding for preventive care (e.g., providing reimbursement for smoking cessation interventions, follow-up or support); and * encouraging health-care settings to facilitate preventive care (e.g., access to quick reference guides or tools to identify people with specific risk factors); - the need to increase public awareness of the smoking cessation services a health professional can provide; and - the need to recognize the frustration associated with the high rate of relapse. Because of the powerful nature of tobacco dependence, smokers often go through a long period of reaching readiness before they finally quit. References Bao Y., Duan N., & Fox S. A. (2006). Is some provider advice on smoking cessation better than no advice? An instrument variable analysis of the 2001 National Health Interview Survey. Health Services Research, 41(6), 2114-2135 Breitling, L. P., Rothenbacher, D., Stegmaier, C., Raum, E., & Brenner, H. (2009). Older smokers' motivation and attempts to quit smoking. Deutsches Arzteblatt International, 106(27), 451-455. Canadian Action Network for the Advancement, Dissemination and Adoption of Practice-informed Tobacco Treatment. (2008). Dynamic guidelines for tobacco control in Canada Version 1.0 [Wiki clinical practice guidelines]. Toronto: Author. Canadian Cancer Society. (2010). Second-hand smoke is dangerous. Toronto: Author. Retrieved May 19, 2010, from http://www.cancer.ca/canada-wide/prevention/quit%20smoking/second-hand%20smoke.aspx Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, (2006). The costs of substance abuse in Canada in 2002. Ottawa: Author. Canadian Lung Association. (2006). Smoking and tobacco: Second-hand smoke. Retrieved June 14, 2010, from http://www.lung.ca/protect-protegez/tobacco-tabagisme/second-secondaire/hurts-nuit_e.php Canadian Dental Hygienists Association. (2004). Tobacco use cessation services and the role of the dental hygienist - a CDHA position paper. Canadian Journal of Dental Hygiene, 38(6), 260-279. Canadian Medical Association. (2008). Tobacco control [Policy statement]. Ottawa: Author. Fiore, M. C., Jaen, C. R., Baker, T. B., Bailey, W. C., Benowitz, N. L., & Curry, S. J. (2008). Treating tobacco use and dependence: 2008 update [Clinical practice guideline]. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service. Health Canada. (2009). Smoking and your body: Health effects of smoking. Ottawa: Author. Retrieved June 17, 2010, from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/tobac-tabac/body-corps/index-eng.php Health Canada. (2007). Overview of health risks of smoking. Ottawa: Author. Retrieved June 17, 2010, from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/tobac-tabac/res/news-nouvelles/risks-risques-eng.php Nabalamba, A, & Millar, W. J. (2007). Going to the doctor [Statistics Canada, catalogue 82-003]. Health Reports, 18(1), 23-35. Retrieved January 26, 2011, from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2006002/article/doctor-medecin/9569-eng.pdf Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada. (2005). Smoking in Canada: A statistical snapshot of Canadian smokers. Ottawa: Author. Retrieved May 14, 2010, from http://www.smoke-free.ca/pdf_1/SmokinginCanada-2005.pdf Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario. (2007). Integrating smoking cessation into daily nursing practice [Nursing best practice guideline]. Toronto: Author. Ross, H., Blecher, E., Yan, L., & Hyland, A. (2010) Do cigarette prices motivate smokers to quit? New evidence from the ITC survey. Addiction, November 2010. Shields, M. (2004). A step forward, a step back: Smoking cessation and relapse. National Population Health Survey, Vol. 1, No. 1. Ottawa: Statistics Canada. Statistics Canada. (2009). Canadian tobacco use monitoring survey (CTUMS): CTUMS 2009 wave 1 survey results. Ottawa: Author. Retrieved January 25, 2011, from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/tobac-tabac/research-recherche/stat/_ctums-esutc_2009/w-p-1_sum-som-eng.php Stead, L. F., Lancaster, T., & Perera, R. (2006). Telephone counselling for smoking cessation (review). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 3. Vangeli, E., & West, R. (2008). Sociodemographic differences in triggers to quit smoking: findings from a national survey. Tobacco Control, 17(6), 410-415. Young, R.P., Hopkins, R.J., Smith, M., & Hogarth, D.K. (2010). Smoking cessation: The potential role of risk assessment tools as motivational triggers. Post Graduate Medical Journal, 86(1011), 26-33. Replaces: Tobacco: The role of health professionals in smoking cessation [Joint position statement]. (2001) 1 For detailed recommendations and guidelines for tobacco treatment related to health professionals, see Canadian Action Network for the Advancement, Dissemination and Adoption of Practice-informed Tobacco Treatment, (2008); Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario, (2007); and Canadian Dental Hygienists Association, (2004). 2 For the purpose of this position statement, tobacco includes products that can be inhaled, sniffed, sucked or chewed (e.g., flavoured cigarillos, kreteks, chewing tobacco, moist snuff, betel or qat, hookah or shisha, bidis, cigars and pipes). 3 (Health Canada, 2009) 4 (Health Canada, 2007) 5 (Statistics Canada, 2009) 6 (Health Canada, 2007) 7 (Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2006) 8 (Canadian Cancer Society, 2010) 9 (Canadian Lung Association, 2006) 10 (Canadian Cancer Society, 2010) 11 (Canadian Cancer Society, 2010) 12 (Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, 2005) 13 (Vangeli & West, 2008; Ontario Tobacco Research Unit - Tobacco Informatics Monitoring System (TIMS), 2008; Breitling, Rothenbacher, Stegmaier, Raum & Brenner, 2009) 14 (Ross, Blecher, Yan & Hyland, 2010) 15 (Young, Hopkins, Smith & Hogarth, 2010) 16 (Bao, Duan & Fox, 2006) 17 (Fiore et al., 2008; Shields, 2004) 18 (Fiore et al., 2008) 19 (Stead, Lancaster & Perera, 2006) 20 (Nabalamba & Millar, 2007) 21 (Canadian Medical Association, 2008) 22 (Fiore et al., 2008)
Documents
Less detail

Recommended guidelines for low-risk drinking

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy10143
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2011-03-05
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy endorsement
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2011-03-05
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
Note: These Guidelines are not intended to encourage people who choose to abstain for cultural, spiritual or other reasons to drink, nor are they intended to encourage people to commence drinking to achieve health benefits. People of low bodyweight or who are not accustomed to alcohol are advised to consume below these maximum limits. Guideline 1 Do not drink in these situations: When operating any kind of vehicle, tools or machinery; using medications or other drugs that interact with alcohol; engaging in sports or other potentially dangerous physical activities; working; making important decisions; if pregnant or planning to be pregnant; before breastfeeding; while responsible for the care or supervision of others; if suffering from serious physical illness, mental illness or alcohol dependence. Guideline 2 If you drink, reduce long- term health risks by staying within these average levels: Women Men 0–2 standard drinks* per day 0–3 standard drinks* per day No more than 10 standard drinks per week No more than 15 standard drinks per week Always have some non-drinking days per week to minimize tolerance and habit formation. Do not increase drinking to the upper limits as health benefits are greatest at up to one drink per day. Do not exceed the daily limits specified in Guideline 3. Guideline 3 If you drink, reduce short- term risks by choosing safe situations and restricting your alcohol intake: Risk of injury increases with each additional drink in many situations. For both health and safety reasons, it is important not to drink more than: Three standard drinks* in one day for a woman Four standard drinks* in one day for a man Drinking at these upper levels should only happen occasionally and always be consistent with the weekly limits specified in Guideline 2. It is especially important on these occasions to drink with meals and not on an empty stomach; to have no more than two standard drinks in any three-hour period; to alternate with caffeine-free, non-alcoholic drinks; and to avoid risky situations and activities. Individuals with reduced tolerance, whether due to low bodyweight, being under the age of 25 or over 65 years old, are advised to never exceed Guideline 2 upper levels. Guideline 4 When pregnant or planning to be pregnant: The safest option during pregnancy or when planning to become pregnant is to not drink alcohol at all. Alcohol in the mother's bloodstream can harm the developing fetus. While the risk from light consumption during pregnancy appears very low, there is no threshold of alcohol use in pregnancy that has been definitively proven to be safe. Guideline 5 Alcohol and young people: Alcohol can harm healthy physical and mental development of children and adolescents. Uptake of drinking by youth should be delayed at least until the late teens and be consistent with local legal drinking age laws. Once a decision to start drinking is made, drinking should occur in a safe environment, under parental guidance and at low levels (i.e., one or two standard drinks* once or twice per week). From legal drinking age to 24 years, it is recommended women never exceed two drinks per day and men never exceed three drinks in one day. 2 Approved by the CMA Board in March 2011 Last reviewed and approved by the CMA Board in March 2019. The above is excerpted from the report, Alcohol and Health in Canada: A Summary of Evidence and Guidelines for Low-Risk Drinking Available: https://www.ccsa.ca/sites/default/files/2019-04/2011-Summary-of-Evidence-and-Guidelines-for-Low-Risk%20Drinking-en.pdf (accessed 2019 March 01).
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Determining the impact of chemical contamination on human health

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy10149
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2011-05-28
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2011-05-28
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
Industrialization and manufacturing have had enormous positive benefits for humankind, but the consequences of hazardous by-products (chemical contamination) to human health and the environment are less well recognized. A major incident such as Bhopal is an unequivocal example of catastrophic poisoning caused by industry. However, more subtle human health impacts can result from low levels of exposure to chemical and industrial by-products from agriculture, consumer products, manufacturing, and even medical sources. Chemicals from industrial sources have been found in the soil, water, air, food and human tissue. Due to improving technology, even minuscule amounts of potentially noxious substances can be detected. Some exposures warrant remedial action, but in others the health impact may be negligible: the toxin, dose, route and duration of exposure must be considered. Of course, there are potentially toxic substances that have been found to pose little or no harm to human health, but there are many more for which the health effects are unknown. A substantial knowledge gap exists in that the effects of many chemical agents have not been fully studied. As a result, rigorous surveillance and assessment to ensure potential health impacts are reduced or avoided is necessary. Chemicals like dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) can persist in the environment or in living beings long after the product was pulled from the market, making it essential that full and rigorous testing of new and existing chemicals is undertaken. Finally, research is needed to determine whether emerging issues, such as the presence of pharmaceuticals in drinking water, pose a legitimate threat to human health. Chemicals, properly managed, can and will continue to provide enormous benefits to society, but caution is warranted because of the potential health consequences. Provided below is a discussion of certain classes of chemicals that need to be regulated, monitored and properly researched. Agriculture Agriculture represents the largest component of the global economy. Rising pressures to meet the needs of a growing population have resulted in the mechanization of farming, and the widespread use of fertilizers and pesticides.1 Fertilizer and pesticide run-off has been found in soil, water and the human food supply.2 Approximately 40 chemicals classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as known, probable, or possible human carcinogens, are EPA registered pesticides available on the open market.3 Long-term low dose pesticide exposure has been linked to various cancers, immune suppression, hormonal disruption, reproductive abnormalities, birth defects, and developmental and behavioural problems.4 Certain pesticides are also known to be persistent in the human body.5 While many individual pesticides can be safely used, there is a lack of research on the effect of certain pesticides when used in combination. Consumer Products Modern technologies have led to advances with a positive impact on the quality of human life. While newer consumer products have benefits over earlier materials, their use is not without side effects. Both the chemicals used to make these products and those that form key components of the products themselves may be harmful. Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical added to many hard plastic bottles and to metal based food and beverage cans since the 1960s.6 In August 2010, Statistics Canada reported that measurable levels of BPA were found in the urine of 91 per cent of Canadians aged six to 79.7 Concerns have been raised about effects on the brain, behaviour, and prostate gland from exposure to this chemical, particularly in fetuses, infants, and children.8 In 2008, Canada banned BPA in infant bottles.9 In October 2010, Canada went a step further by becoming the first jurisdiction in the world to declare BPA toxic.10 Manufacturing With the growing demand for consumer products, there has been a corresponding growth in manufacturing. Manufacturing is one of the biggest contributors to outdoor air pollution, and contributes to soil and water pollution.11 In 2004, US industry released 1.8 billion pounds of potentially toxic chemicals. Exposure to some of these chemicals has been linked to severe health effects, including cancer. 12 One of the released chemicals, dioxin, can be harmful at very low levels. Dioxins accumulate in fats and break down slowly. This leads to contamination of the food supply, and human exposure through the consumption of meat, dairy, fish and shellfish.13 Even in the far north, animals have been found to contain dioxins.14 The EPA estimates that the cancer risk from dioxins already present in the general public is 1-per-1,000.15 In most cases the emissions pose minimal risk to human health. However, chemicals, and chemical combinations which remain unstudied should be properly assessed.16 Medical Practices Advancements in medical science and the use of pharmaceuticals, diagnostic equipment and other medical treatments have prolonged life expectancy. However, these interventions can also contribute to environmental contamination. In 2008, the Associated Press reported pharmaceuticals in the water of 24 major metropolitan areas in the United States, serving 41 million people.17 There is a concern that these pharmaceuticals could negatively impact male fertility, lead to birth defects, cause breast and testicular cancer in humans, and lead to antibiotic resistance.18 For many pharmaceuticals found in water sources, no concerted environmental impact surveys have been carried out.19 Mercury is used in fever thermometers, sphygmomanometers, gastrointestinal tubes, and oesophageal dilators20. Reports indicate that medical waste incinerators are among the largest sources of anthropogenic mercury emissions in both the United States and Canada.21 Medical waste, while not the principle source of mercury poisoning, contributes to the mercury levels present in the environment. In fetuses, infants and children, low-dose exposure to mercury can cause severe and lifelong behavioural and cognitive problems.22 At higher exposure levels, mercury may adversely affect the kidneys, the immune, neurological, respiratory, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and haematological systems of adults.23 It has also been linked to cancer.24 These examples highlight the major categories of human exposure to chemicals. As the review suggests, some of these chemicals have been linked to harmful human health impacts. What is important to keep in mind, however, is that the harm is conditional on the level and lengths of exposure. For most people, these chemicals pose no harm because the exposure is so low. In some cases, such as BPA, it has been determined that the potential harm is not worth the risk: the Canadian government has decided to declare BPA toxic and regulate it accordingly. In other cases, such as pharmaceuticals, the evidence simply warrants further study and surveillance. Given the potential harm to human health, surveillance and research are vitally important in all categories. The more information that is available to policy makers and health care professionals, the better the chance of limiting human health impacts. What has been done? International Action Concerns regarding chemical contamination and human health have led to numerous interventions from the international community. These include the International Programme on Chemical Safety (1980), the Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals (1995), the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling (2002), and the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management, which was adopted by governments and stakeholders at the first International Conference on Chemicals held in Dubai in 2006. 25 Various conventions have also been passed, including the Stockholm Convention (2004) on persistent organic pollutants such as DDT, and the Rotterdam Convention (2004) which applies to pesticides and industrial chemicals.26 There is some concern about the continued effectiveness of the Rotterdam convention. In 2006, the Canadian government was instrumental in preventing the listing of asbestos as a toxic chemical. Given the persuasive evidence of the harm caused by asbestos, this action undermines the legitimacy of voluntary international conventions.27 Canadian Action In addition to being a signatory to all international agreements listed above, the Canadian government has programs for chemical management domestically. The main tool is the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) 1999. Jointly administered by Environment Canada and Health Canada, it is intended to prevent pollution and address the potentially dangerous chemical substances to which Canadians are exposed.28 The plan calls for increased surveillance of certain chemicals to monitor exposure and health effects, and will increase focus on the management of the health and environmental risks of pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and chemical contamination in food.29 There were 23,000 chemical substances on the Domestic Substances List (DSL) in Canada in 1999. To date, only about 1,000 of these chemicals have been fully assessed. Of the remaining 22,000, 85% have been categorized as not requiring any additional action.30The most recent Canadian Chemicals Management Plan states that full assessments will be done on 550 substances identified as potentially harmful. Even with these additional assessments, more than 3,000 chemicals will not have been assessed. Canadian Medical Association In 2009, the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Nurses Association released a joint position statement on environmentally responsible activity for the health-care sector. Recommendations included the proper handling and disposal of toxic chemicals and the reduction of products using these substances. An adapted version of this position statement was then endorsed by a coalition of 12 national healthcare organizations and the David Suzuki Foundation. In October 2010, the World Medical Association, of which CMA is a member, adopted a policy statement on environmental degradation and the management of chemicals. The statement calls for mercury-free health care, support for international efforts to restrict chemical pollution and to monitor harmful chemicals in humans and the environment, and mitigation of the health effects of toxic exposure to chemicals. What needs to be done? Research and Surveillance Research on chemicals produced through man-made activities remains insufficient. While some of the more toxic chemicals have been reviewed and are now more closely regulated, thousands remain that have had neither health nor environmental assessments. The Domestic Substances List in Canada has 3,300 chemicals of concern that have not been assessed. There is limited research on the effect of these chemicals in combination or in different mediums. Finally, work must be done to ensure environmental and human surveillance of potential chemical exposure threats. The CMA: 1. Urges the government to complete the health and environmental assessment of the chemicals on the Domestic Substances List. 2. Encourages research on the health impacts of chemical substances, as well as the combinations of these substances in different products (e.g. pesticides), and in different mediums (e.g. pharmaceuticals in drinking water). Long-term research programs are required to determine health impacts from prolonged low-dose exposures. 3. Encourages ongoing surveillance of chemicals in the environment. 4. Encourages ongoing research on the impact of regulations and monitoring of chemicals on human health and the environment. Advocacy Regulations have been developed both internationally and domestically to undertake chemical management. However, gaps remain, largely due to the voluntary nature of the frameworks. Canada can play a lead role by respecting its commitments, seeking continued adherence to these agreements and providing leadership in developing effective domestic programs and legislation. The CMA: 5. Urges the government to continue to support international efforts to manage chemical pollution. In particular CMA urges the government to fully support the principles of the Rotterdam Convention and support the listing of Asbestos as an Annex III toxic chemical. 6. Supports government legislation and regulation which reduces dangerous chemical pollution, detects and monitors harmful chemicals in both humans and the environment, mitigates the health effects of toxic exposures, and requires an environmental and health impact assessment prior to the introduction of a new chemical. Regulatory frameworks should be favoured over voluntary frameworks in order to ensure a level playing field for all manufacturers and to secure rapid and equitable health protection for all Canadians. CMA encourages the government to advocate for similar legislation internationally. Leadership Physicians can participate in the monitoring of patients for potential health effects from chemical exposure. Additionally, physicians can be leaders in encouraging greener health care practices. Finally, physicians can support national medical organizations in developing clinical tools to assess patient risk to chemical exposure. The CMA: 7. Supports the phase out of mercury and other persistent, bio-accumulating and toxic chemicals in health care devices and products. 8. Supports the development of effective and safe systems to collect and dispose of pharmaceuticals that are not consumed. 9. Supports the development of clinical tools for physicians to help assess their patients' risk from chemical exposures. Education and Professional Development Physicians have a role to play in educating their patients, the public, and current and future colleagues about the potential human health consequences of chemical contamination. Medical education and continuing professional development in this area could have a significant impact on human health. The CMA: 10. Should assist in building professional and public awareness of the impact of the environment and global chemical pollutants on personal health. 11. Supports the development of locally appropriate continuing medical education on the clinical signs, diagnosis and treatment of diseases that are introduced into communities as a result of chemical pollution. 12. Encourages physicians to inform patients about the importance of safe disposal of pharmaceuticals that are not consumed. Conclusion National and International initiatives have substantially reduced the incidence of harmful chemical contamination, but more work is needed. Evidence of health effects (or lack thereof) may be strong for certain chemicals, but for others it remains incomplete. Given the dangers of chemicals such as dioxin, which can cause severe effects with small doses, more comprehensive research is warranted. To ensure human health consequences are identified and risks are minimized, improved surveillance is essential. Further policies and regulations are needed to ensure that chemicals utilized are as safe as possible. The Canadian BPA ban demonstrates the use of the precautionary principle in the presence of convincing if not complete evidence. While there are clear benefits associated with the use of chemicals, it is necessary to ensure that potential harmful effects are considered.' Finally, public and health care provider information is sorely lacking. Physicians can play a role in correcting some of these deficiencies through their actions to support research and surveillance, advocacy, leadership, education, and professional development. References 1 Ongley, Edwin D. (1996) Control of water pollution from agriculture- FAO irrigation and drainage paper 55.Chapter 1: Introduction to agricultural water pollution Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Available at: http://www.fao.org/docrep/w2598e/w2598e00.HTM 2 Peters, Ruud J.B. (2006) Man-Made Chemicals in Food Products. TNO Built Environment and Geosciences. Available at: http://assets.panda.org/downloads/tno_report.pdf 3 Reuben, Suzanne H. (2010) Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now: 2008-2009 Annual Report. President's Cancer Panel. Available at: http://deainfo.nci.nih.gov/advisory/pcp/annualReports/pcp08-09rpt/PCP_Report_08-09_508.pdf 4 Reuben, Suzanne H. (2010) Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk...; Shah, Binod P. & Bhupendra Devkota (2009) "Obsolete Pesticides: Their Environmental and Human Health Hazards." The Journal of Agriculture and Environment. Vol:10 June 2009. Available at: http://www.nepjol.info/index.php/AEJ/article/view/2130/1961 ; Kjellstrom, Tord et.al. (2006) Chapter 43: Air and Water Pollution: Burden and Strategies for Control in Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries. Disease Control Priorities Project. Available at: http://files.dcp2.org/pdf/DCP/DCP43.pdf 5 California Environmental Protection Agency (2002) Environmental Protection Indicators for California: Chapter 3: Environmental Exposure Impacts Upon Human Health. Available at: http://oehha.ca.gov/multimedia/epic/2002reptpdf/Chapter3-7of8-HumanHealth.pdf 6 United States Food and Drug Administration (2010) Update on Bisphenol A for Use in Food Contact Applications. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/newsevents/publichealthfocus/ucm064437.htm 7 CBC News (October 13, 2010) BPA declared toxic by Canada. Available at: http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2010/10/13/bpa-toxic.html 8 States Food and Drug Administration (2010) Update on Bisphenol A... 9 Health Canada (2008) Government of Canada Protects Families with Bisphenol A Regulations Available at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/media/nr-cp/_2008/2008_167-eng.php 10 CBC News (October 13, 2010) BPA declared toxic by Canada... 11 Kjellstrom, Tord et.al. (2006) Chapter 43: Air and Water Pollution... 12 Cassady, Alison & Alex Fidis (2007) Toxic Pollution and Health: An Analysis of Toxic Chemicals Released in Communities across the United States. U.S. PIRG Education Fund. Available at: http://cdn.publicinterestnetwork.org/assets/KTfes5EXnCLOgG9eWTKU6g/ToxicPollutionandHealth2007.pdf 13 World Health Organization (2010) Dioxins and their effects on human health. Available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs225/en/index.html 14 Woolford, Julian & Noemi Cano Ed. (2006) Killing them softly... 15 Cassady, Alison & Alex Fidis (2007) Toxic Pollution and Health... 16 Ibid 17 Natural Resources Defense Council (2010) Dosed Without Prescription: Preventing Pharmaceutical Contamination of Our Nation's Drinking Water. Available at: http://www.nrdc.org/health/files/dosed4pgr.pdf 18 Wright-Walters, Maxine & Conrad Volz (2009) Municipal Wastewater Concentrations of Pharmaceutical and Xeno-Estrogens: Wildlife and Human Health Implications. Available at: http://www.chec.pitt.edu/Exposure_concentration_of_Xenoestrogen_in_pharmaceutical_and_Municipal_Wastewater__Final8-28-07%5B1%5D.pdf; Daughton, Christian G. (N.D.) Pharmaceuticals and the Environment. Available at: www.epa.gov/osp/regions/emerpoll/daughton.ppt; Nikolaou, Anastasia; Meric, Sureyya & Despo Fatta (2007) "Occurrence patterns of pharmaceuticals in water and wastewater environments." Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry. 387: 1225-1234; Natural Resources Defense Council (2010) Dosed Without Prescription... 19 Daughton, Christian G. (N.D.) Pharmaceuticals and the Environment... 20 Environment Canada. (N.D.)Mercury and the Environment. Available at: http://www.ec.gc.ca/MERCURY/SM/EN/sm-mcp.cfm#MD 21 Health Care Without Harm (2007) The Global Movement for Mercury Free Health Care. Available at: http://www.noharm.org/lib/downloads/mercury/Global_Mvmt_Mercury-Free.pdf; World Health Organization (2005) Mercury in Health Care: Policy Paper. Available at: http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/medicalwaste/mercurypolpaper.pdf 22 Environmental Working Group (N.D.) Chemical Pollution: The Toll on America's Health. Available at: http://www.ewg.org/files/EWG-kid-safe-toll-on-health.pdf 23 California Environmental Protection Agency (2002) Environmental Protection Indicators... 24 Reuben, Suzanne H. (2010) Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk... 25 World Health Organization (N.D.) International Programme on Chemical Safety: About us. Available at: http://www.who.int/ipcs/en/; World Health Organization (N.D.) Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals. Available at: http://www.who.int/iomc/brochure/brochure_english.pdf; United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (N.D.) Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). Available at: http://www.unece.org/trans/danger/publi/ghs/ghs_welcome_e.html; Weinberg, Jack (2008) An NGO Guide to SAICM: The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management. Available at: http://www.ipen.org/ipenweb/documents/book/saicm%20introduction%20english.pdf 26 Eskenazi, Brenda et.al. (2009) "The Pine River Statement: Human Health Consequences of DDT Use." Environmental Health Perspectives. 117:1359-1367 Available at: http://www.eoearth.org/article/Human_Health_Consequences_of_DDT_Use#gen4; World Health Organization (N.D.) Rotterdam Convention: Share Responsibility. Available at: http://www.pic.int/home.php?type=t&id=5&sid=16 27 Kazan-Allen, Laurie (2007) Rotterdam Treaty Killed by Chrysotile Asbestos! International Ban Asbestos Secretariat. Available at: http://www.ibasecretariat.org/lka_rott_meet_geneva_oct_06.php 28 Government of Canada (2007) The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999). Available at: http://www.chemicalsubstanceschimiques.gc.ca/about-apropos/cepa-lcpe-eng.php 29 Government of Canada (2010) Chemicals Management Plan. Available at: http://www.chemicalsubstanceschimiques.gc.ca/plan/index-eng.php 30 Ibid.
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Climate Change and Human Health

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9809
Last Reviewed
2018-03-03
Date
2010-06-09
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Last Reviewed
2018-03-03
Date
2010-06-09
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
Climate Change and Human Health Background Climate change is increasingly recognized as a significant threat facing society and has the potential to be one of the greatest threats to human health in the 21st Century1. While the damage is being done now, many of the health effects may arise only decades in the future2. Possible impacts could include some or all of the following: * Increased mortality, disease and injuries from heat waves and other extreme weather events; * Continued change in the range of some infectious disease vectors (i.e. 260-320 million more cases of malaria predicted by 2080, with six billion more at risk for dengue fever); * Effects on food yields- increased malnutrition; * Increased flooding in some areas and increased droughts in others, along with other impacts on freshwater supply; * Increases in foodborne and waterborne illnesses; * Warming and rising sea levels adding to displacement and also impacting water supply through salination; * Impaired functioning of ecosystems; * Negative effects on air quality associated with ground level ozone, including increases in cardio-respiratory morbidity and mortality, asthma, and allergens; * Displacement of vulnerable populations (especially in coastal areas)1; and * Loss of livelihoods3. Most of the impacts of climate change will result from amplifying the existing health hazards found in populations4. How susceptible a population is to the effects of climate change is dependent on their existing vulnerabilities (i.e. disease burden, resources etc.) as well as their adaptive capacity5. The World Health Organization has projected that countries that have, and will likely continue to suffer the greatest effects, are those who have contributed the smallest amount to the causes of climate change.6 While the vast majority of climate change deaths will occur in developing countries with systemic vulnerabilities, a recent Health Canada report has noted that Canada is likely to experience higher rates of warming in this century than most other countries in the world. Climate change scenarios predict an increased risk of extreme weather and other climate events for all regions of Canada, with the exception of extreme cold7. Canadians most vulnerable to climate change include seniors, children and infants, socially disadvantaged individuals, and those with pre-existing medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease8. Those living in cities could be especially vulnerable due to the impact of the heat island effect. However, given their greater access to emergency, health, social, and financial resources, they might also have the greatest adaptive capacity9. The health consequences of climate change have the potential to be more severe in far northern regions. Populations in Canada's north including aboriginals have already begun to see differences in their hunting practices as a result of changing ice patterns10, and the melting of permanent snowpacks11. Changes in ice patterns have also led to increased injuries12. In some places in the North, climate changes have led to greater risks from avalanches, landslides and other hazards13. Further problems are related to the infrastructure in Northern Canada, with some communities already noticing degradation of structures due to the thawing of the permafrost14. Given that much of the Northern infrastructure is already in disrepair, this represents a considerable problem. Geographic isolation, and a lack of resources may further exacerbate the situation15. What CMA has done? Physicians have a critical role to play in advancing public understanding of the potential impact of climate change on health and promoting health protecting responses. The CMA has been working on the issue of climate change and human health for a number of years. CMA was supportive of Canada's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, and urged the Government of Canada to commit to choosing a climate change strategy that satisfied Canada's international commitments while also maximizing the clean air co-benefits and smog-reduction potential of any greenhouse gas reduction initiatives. In 2007, a number of resolutions were passed at General Council calling on government to properly plan for the health impacts of climate change and put in place measures to mitigate the impact of climate change on vulnerable populations in Canada's north. In that same year, CMA and the Canadian Nurses Association updated a joint position statement first entered into in 1994 calling for environmentally responsible activity in the health-care sector. Most recently, the CMA has been an integral part of the drafting of the World Medical Association (WMA) policies on health and climate change. The WMA Declaration of Delhi on Health and Climate Change was adopted at its annual General Assembly in New Delhi, India in October 2009, The declaration calls for action in five main areas; advocacy to combat global warming; leadership-help people be healthy enough to adapt to climate change; education and capacity building; surveillance and research; and collaboration to prepare for climate emergencies. This policy is written to complement the WMA declaration. What needs to be done? Climate change may lead to significant impacts on human health. While it is unlikely that these outcomes can be avoided, there are some strategies that can be employed to help limit the negative consequences. Education and Capacity Building There is a need for greater public and health professional awareness and education about climate change in order to gain understanding of the health consequences and support for strategies to reduce green house gases and mitigate climate change effects. CMA recommends: 1. A national public awareness program on the importance of the environment and global climate change to personal health; 2. Encouraging health sciences schools to enhance their provision of educational programs on environmental health; and fostering the development of continuing education modules on environmental health and environmental health practices. Surveillance and Research There are important gaps in our knowledge on the health impacts of climate change as well as the effectiveness of various mitigation and adaptation strategies. Surveillance and reporting functions need to be strengthened to allow for greater accuracy in modeling of future impacts. CMA recommends: 3. That the federal government must address the gaps in research regarding climate change and health by undertaking studies to - quantify and model the burden of disease that will be caused by global climate change - identify the most vulnerable populations, the particular health impacts of climate change on vulnerable populations, and possible new protections for such populations; - increase the collection and accuracy of health data, particularly for vulnerable and underserved populations; - report diseases that emerge in conjunction with global climate change, and participate in field investigations, as with outbreaks of infectious diseases; and - develop and expand surveillance systems to include diseases caused by global climate change. Reducing the Burden of Disease to Mitigate Climate Change Impacts How susceptible a population is to the effects of climate change is dependent on their existing vulnerabilities. Therefore, work needs to be done to reduce the burden of diseases and improve upon the social determinants of health for vulnerable populations in Canada and globally. CMA recommends: 4. That the federal and provincial/territorial governments work together to improve the ability of the public to adapt to climate change and catastrophic weather events by - Encouraging behaviours that improve overall health, - Creating targeted programs designed to address specific exposures, - Providing health promotion information and education on self-management of the symptoms of climate-associated illness, - Ensuring physical infrastructure that allows for adaptation; 5. That the federal government develop concrete actions to reduce the health impact of climate-related emissions, in particular those initiatives which will also improve the general health of the population; 6. That the federal government support the Millennium Development Goals and support the principles outlined in the WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health report; and Preparing for Climate Emergencies To deal with the future burden of climate change related health issues there is a need to ensure adequate health capacity and infrastructure. Rebuilding of public health capacity globally is seen as the most important, cost-effective, and urgently needed response to climate change16. Domestically, there is a need to ensure adequate surge capacity within the health care system to be prepared for an increase in illness related to climate change effects. There is also a need to strengthen not only the health systems, but the infrastructure (i.e. housing) for vulnerable populations including Aboriginals and those in the North. CMA recommends that the federal and provincial /territorial governments work together to: 7. Strengthen the public health system both domestically and internationally in order to improve the capacity of communities to adapt to climate change; 8. Ensure adequate surge capacity within Canada's health system to handle the increase in climate change related illness; 9. Ensure the health of vulnerable populations is adequate to handle climate change related situations; 10. Develop knowledge about the best ways to adapt to and mitigate the health effects of climate change; 11. Integrate health professionals into the emergency preparedness plans of government and public health authorities so that front-line providers are adequately informed and prepared to properly manage any health emergencies. Advocacy to Combat Climate Change Finally, there is a need to take action to reduce the damaging effects of climate change. The global community needs to come together to reduce the levels of green house gases being released in the atmosphere, and focus on safer more environmentally friendly energy sources. Investments in cuts to greenhouse gas emissions would greatly outweigh their costs, and could help to reduce the future burden of climate change related illness17. CMA recommends: 12. That the government of Canada become a global leader in promoting equitable, carbon neutral economic, industrial, and social policies, and practices that fight global warming and adopt specific green house gas reduction targets as determined by the evolving science of climate change. 13. That health care professionals act within their professional settings to reduce the environmental impact of medical activities and to develop environmentally sustainable professional settings; 14. That all Canadians act to minimize individual impacts on the environment, and encourage others to do so, as well. Conclusions The CMA believes that Canada must prepare now for the potential health threat that climate change poses to its population. While many of these effects will take decades to materialize, certain populations, such as those in Canada's north, or those in low lying coastal areas, are already starting to experience the impact of climate change. A focus on education and health promotion, as well as advocacy for improved public policy and primary health care resources will be a good start in dealing with this issue. Additionally, further research and data collection is necessary to improve our understanding of climate change and the effectiveness of adaptation and mitigation strategies. Finally, the global community needs to act together to address the health and environmental impacts of climate change. By working together, in an international response, strategies can be implemented to mitigate any negative health effects of climate change. Canada's physicians believe that: What is good for the environment is also good for human health. It is past time for those of us in the health sector in Canada to engage fully in the debate and discussions within our own house, as well as in the broader body politic to ensure that protecting human health is the bottom line of environmental and climate change strategies. Bibliography 1 Currently a third of the world's population lives within 60 miles of the shoreline and 13 of 20 biggest world cities located on the coast- more than a billion people could be displaced (Costello et.al., 2009) 1 Costello, Anthony et.al. "Managing the health effects of climate change.' The Lancet Volume 373 May 16, 2009. pp.1693-1733. 2 World Health Organization, World Meteorological Organization & United Nations Environment Programme (2003) Climate Change and Human Health- Risks and Responses, Summary. Available at: http://www.who.int/globalchange/climate/en/ccSCREEN.pdf 3 Confalonieri et.al., (2007) Human Health. Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Available at: http://www1.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg2/ar4-wg2-chapter8.pdf ; Epstein, Paul R. "Climate Change and Human Health." The New England Journal of Medicine 353 (14) October 6, 2005.; Friel, Sharon; Marmot, Michael; McMichael, Anthony J.; Kjellstrom, Tord & Denny Vagero. "Global health equity and climate stabilization: a common agenda." The Lancet Volume 372 November 8, 2008. pp.1677-1683. 4Confalonieri et.al., (2007) Human Health. Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Available at: http://www1.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg2/ar4-wg2-chapter8.pdf; World Health Organization (2009) Protecting Health From Climate Change: Global research priorities. Available at: http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2009/9789241598187_eng.pdf 5 Health Canada (2001) Climate Change and Health & Well-being: A Policy Primer Available at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/pubs/climat/policy_primer-abecedaire_en_matiere/index-eng.php 6 Campbell-Lendrum, Diarmid; Corvalan, Carlos & Maria Neira "Global climate change: implications for international public health policy." Bulletin of the World Health Organization. March 2007, 85 (3) pp.235-237 7 Seguin, Jacinthe & Peter Berry (2008) "Human Health in a Changing Climate: A Canadian Assessment of Vulnerabilities and Adaptive Capacity, Synthesis Report." Health Canada Available at: http://www.nbhub.org/hubfiles/pdf/HealthinChangingClimate_Synthesis_english_low.pdf 8 Health Canada (2002) Climate Change And Health & Well-Being: A Policy Primer for Canada's North. Available at: http://dsp-psd.pwgsc.gc.ca/Collection/H46-2-02-290E.pdf 9 Seguin, Jacinthe & Peter Berry (2008) "Human Health in a Changing Climate: A Canadian Assessment of Vulnerabilities and Adaptive Capacity, Synthesis Report." Health Canada Available at: http://www.nbhub.org/hubfiles/pdf/HealthinChangingClimate_Synthesis_english_low.pdf 10 Ibid 11 Health Canada (2002) Climate Change And Health & Well-Being: A Policy Primer for Canada's North. Available at: http://dsp-psd.pwgsc.gc.ca/Collection/H46-2-02-290E.pdf 12 Epstein, Paul R. "Climate Change and Human Health." The New England Journal of Medicine 353 (14) October 6, 2005. 13 Seguin, Jacinthe & Peter Berry (2008) "Human Health in a Changing Climate: A Canadian Assessment of Vulnerabilities and Adaptive Capacity, Synthesis Report." Health Canada Available at: http://www.nbhub.org/hubfiles/pdf/HealthinChangingClimate_Synthesis_english_low.pdf 14 Field, Christopher B. et.al. (2007) North America. Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Available at: http://www1.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg2/ar4-wg2-chapter14.pdf 15 Health Canada (2002) Climate Change And Health & Well-Being: A Policy Primer for Canada's North. Available at: http://dsp-psd.pwgsc.gc.ca/Collection/H46-2-02-290E.pdf 16 World Health Organization, World Meteorological Organization & United Nations Environment Programme (2003) Climate Change and Human Health- Risks and Responses, Summary. Available at: http://www.who.int/globalchange/climate/en/ccSCREEN.pdf 17 Campbell-Lendrum, Diarmid; Corvalan, Carlos & Maria Neira "Global climate change: implications for international public health policy." Bulletin of the World Health Organization. March 2007, 85 (3) pp.235-237
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Lessons from the frontlines: A collaborative report on Pandemic H1N1

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9840
Last Reviewed
2018-03-03
Date
2010-08-26
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Last Reviewed
2018-03-03
Date
2010-08-26
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
Lessons from the frontlines: A report on Pandemic H1N1 from Canadian Medical Association, The College of Family Physicians of Canada, National Specialty Society for Community Medicine One year ago, a novel influenza virus claimed its first victim in Mexico, and soon the world was plunged into its first influenza pandemic in 40 years. Although pandemic H1N1 (pH1N1) swept across the globe, we were fortunate this time as the virus was far less virulent than first feared. Now that pH1N1 has peaked and faded, it is time to look at what we learned and how it will help us plan for the next national public health emergency. The College of Family Physicians of Canada, the National Specialty Society for Community Medicine and the Canadian Medical Association have joined together to present a picture of lessons learned from the front lines of the pandemic. Together we represent over 80,000 physicians, of whom almost 50,000 are family physicians, engaged in all aspects of Canada's health care and public health systems. Canada's experience with SARS in 2003 was a "wake-up call"; much changed in its aftermath. The creation of the Public Health Agency of Canada led by a chief public health officer and the Pan-Canadian Public Health Network increased Canada's ability to respond to a public health emergency like pH1N1. The Canadian Pandemic Influenza Plan for the Health Sector, as well as complementary provincial and territorial plans, provides a framework and approach to responding to a pandemic. In many ways, this planning paid off. Canada mobilized quickly in response to the pH1N1 threat. Morbidity and mortality were lower than feared, and 45% of the population was vaccinated. But this response can also be seen as a "dress rehearsal" for a more severe influenza pandemic or some other national public health emergency: a test of our plans and an opportunity to learn from experience, with the time to incorporate these lessons into our strategic planning. Those on the front lines of response understand how health emergencies test our entire system - public health, acute and primary care and the community-based family physician. The success of our response depends on planning and practice, the effectiveness of public health and clinical countermeasures, our health human resources, the surge capacity within our health care and public health systems and our ability to reach the public. One of our greatest challenges in Canada is also to establish a coherent national and provincial/territorial strategy that can be implemented at a local level. Although we believe that Canada's overall response to pH1N1 produced many success stories, there were circumstances that challenged us as health professionals. Both health care and public health need further strengthening, and their separate infrastructures and the interdependence between these structures need attention and bolstering. The following comments focus on two overarching areas that influenced our ability to respond to the pandemic: communications and health system integration. Communications Communication was a consistent source of concern. Channels of communication among the various levels of public health providers were stronger than those for primary care providers, especially family physicians. On 9 Aug. 2009, following the first wave of pH1N1, our leaders wrote to chief public health officer of Canada Dr. David Butler-Jones on behalf of our members to share their thoughts and recommendations on how to improve communications with physicians. Family physicians in particular, but also other front-line health care providers, needed communication that was tailored to the practice setting, resources that were easy to access, and clear messages written in a manner that allowed rapid implementation into clinical practice during health emergencies because the timing of clinical response was critical. We recommended that front-line clinical practitioners be involved in the development of guidelines and the strategies for their dissemination, so that the content could be linked directly to the clinical setting. Family physicians are part of our first line of defence during infectious disease outbreaks. To ensure optimum patient care, they need clinical guidance quickly. Many physicians felt that the urgent need to provide consistent, clinically relevant information was not well recognized by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the Public Health Network and, in some cases, provincial, territorial, regional or local levels. It took three months after recognition of the emerging pandemic to publish Interim Guidance for Ambulatory Care of Influenza-like Illness in the Context of H1N1. The current Public Health Network process of federal/provincial/territorial (FPT) consultation and consensus building seemed ill-suited to the acute national need for clinical information on issues such as the use and prescription of anti-viral medications. As provincial authorities and professional medical organizations moved to fill the void, different approaches and recommendations arose independent from one another. Better integration of primary care response by a national organization such as PHAC and the provincial/territorial health ministries could address the needs of clinical practitioners in concert with public health responses. This would also ensure that care directives are translated into user-friendly formats appropriate to clinical settings. We were pleased to be able to work with PHAC in fall 2009 to produce Pandemic H1N1: Fast Facts for Front-line Clinicians. This resource was highly valued by many of our members, and the collaboration demonstrated how health organizations can work effectively with government to contribute their expertise to the development and distribution of appropriate, clinically relevant information. Nevertheless, our critics declared that it was too little, too late. In situations where scientific evidence is rapidly changing, the processes used to distribute information to both front-line public health and clinical professionals must be designed to avoid confusion. Coordinated, unified communication strategies are needed at the national, provincial/territorial and local levels. Regardless of the official source, the information must be consistent. During the pandemic, many physicians and public health workers complained that multiple levels of government provided similar, but not the same advice. The differences led to skepticism, and the inundation of messages led to overload. The bottom line is that clinically relevant and trustworthy information should be provided on a timely basis, even if levels of certainty are fluctuating. Jurisdictions with effective communication to the primary care sector were characterized by cooperation and consultation between the medical community and the provincial, territorial and regional health authorities, both before and during the crisis. We recommend: 1. That the Public Health Agency of Canada, with the provinces and territories, evaluate the effectiveness of pH1N1 communications between public health and physicians and other front-line primary health care providers, and use the finding of this evaluation to research options for future response to a public health crisis. 2. That federal, provincial/territorial public health authorities and health care professionals and their associations work together in the inter-pandemic period to develop a pan-Canadian communication strategy to be used during health emergencies. 3. The establishment of a pan-Canadian centre within the Public Health Agency of Canada - similar to the Centre for Effective Practice - to undertake timely knowledge translation of clinical management guidelines for clinicians during public health crises. Surveillance and electronic communications The national response to infectious disease would have been greatly facilitated if system-wide communicable disease surveillance had been in place to support the sharing of data between public health and the rest of the health care system, particularly at the regional and local levels of pandemic response. Clinicians' practices are highly influenced by illness patterns that develop regionally and locally within their practice populations; thus, surveillance data are useful in determining appropriate treatment. Real-time data were not available to most physicians and when data did become available, they were already several weeks old. Delayed clinical guidelines were not a suitable substitute for timely surveillance information. Expansion of the use of electronic medical records (EMRs) in primary care, with bi-directional links to public health electronic health records (EHRs), could have facilitated surveillance and communications. Family practice clinics with EMRs were able to quickly identify high-risk patients, communicate with them to schedule vaccination appointments and collect the required data for public health. The varied levels of success of public pH1N1 vaccination clinics were further proof of the need to move to standard use of EMRs and EHRs in the health system. Communications can be enhanced through the sharing of data between the public health and primary care systems. EMRs may help resolve the challenge of collecting data from primary care sites. Collaboration among the PHAC, the Canadian Medical Association and the Information Technology Association of Canada's Health Division led to development of a pilot project to demonstrate the use of primary care EMRs as real-time sentinel surveillance tools for public health action to supplement existing surveillance mechanisms. In addition, after a successful two-year pilot project, the College of Family Physicians of Canada is working with the PHAC, in association with the Canadian Institute for Health Information, to conduct surveillance for five chronic diseases using EMRs, local networks across Canada and a national central repository for standardized data. These studies represent the increasingly important role of electronic information in surveillance and the value of collaboration between public health and primary care. We recommend: 4. That the federal and provincial/territorial governments provide EMR funding to enable clinical care and public health authorities to build interconnectedness and allow real-time information collection and analysis. System issues FPT responsibilities The division of responsibility between federal and provincial/territorial authorities for health care and emergency response influences how we respond to public health emergencies. Provincial/territorial governments have a primary role to play in regulating health matters within their boundaries. At the same time, the federal government has responsibilities related to national public safety and health protection. There can be no disputing the legitimacy of federal involvement in public health matters of an interprovincial/territorial nature. Under International Health Regulations, the federal government also has a responsibility to report and monitor public health emergencies of potential harm to other countries. Since Canada's SARS experience, there has been much progress in building FPT cooperation and increasing consultation on public health matters. However, the division of responsibility has led us to a situation where public health and clinical guidance in each province and territory was similar, yet different. Although the Pandemic Influenza Committee and the Special FPT Advisory Committee on H1N1 Influenza strove for consensus at the national level, individual provinces and territories were under no obligation to implement the guidance agreed to at the FPT level. Consultative and collaborative processes at the FPT level created delays in decision-making and directly interfered with the capacity of front-line professionals to respond to the urgent health needs of their patients. This led to a sense of confusion in the media and a loss of trust among the public and health professionals regarding Canada's capacity to respond to pH1N1. System capacity Canada's health system lacks surge capacity and can be sorely tested during a public health emergency, such as the recent experience with pH1N1. The underdeveloped public health infrastructure also means that it is a challenge to handle more than one national crisis at a time. To mount a response to pH1N1, public health units pulled human resources from other programs and many critical ones were delayed, suspended or cancelled altogether. During the first wave of pH1N1, Manitoba experienced a severe outbreak that stretched the resources of its critical care infrastructure to its limits. Front-line health care providers were inundated with telephone calls from the worried well and an increase in visits from those with flu symptoms. If pH1N1 had been the severe pandemic that was expected and for which Canada had been preparing, our health system would have been brought to its knees. In 2008, the Canadian Coalition for Public Health in the 21st Century noted that Canada remains vulnerable to the risks presented by epidemics and pandemics. This vulnerability remains today, and a long-range plan to build our public health capacity and workforce and to address the lack of surge capacity in our health system must become a priority if we are to be prepared for the next emergency. We recommend: 5. That the federal government increase infrastructure funding to provinces/territories to assist local health emergency preparedness planning and response, to reduce variation across the country and to integrate clinical care structures into public health structures at the local level. 6. That the Public Health Agency of Canada review the recommendations of the 2003 report of the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health (Naylor report) in light of the pH1N1 experience and develop a national action plan to address the persistent gaps. Public health/primary care partnership Family physicians, in particular, understand that primary health care happens at the local level. In fact, so does all public health. During times of public health crisis, it is crucial for public health and primary care to work together, each respecting, supporting and bolstering the efforts of the other. Strengthening local public health and primary care structures and the interface between them would have resulted in improved, shared understanding of each sector's roles and responsibilities during the pH1N1 epidemic, better communications, improved data sharing and, most important, better served populations. Public health measures are directed toward the mitigation of disease through surveillance, research and outbreak management activities, while physicians provide information, education and clinical treatment to their patients. A commitment from both sectors at the local and provincial levels - and the professionals within each sector - to work together in the inter-pandemic period to build on processes that allow sharing of perspectives and information is essential. It is crucial that local public health authorities receive financial resources to increase their ability to collaborate effectively with family physicians, specialist physicians and other front-line providers. A number of the challenges faced by front-line public health workers and front-line physicians during the pH1N1 outbreak could have been lessened if there had been stronger links within the health system. We recommend: 7. That the Public Health Agency of Canada develop a focus on improving the interrelationship between primary care and public health to support collaboration during public health crises. Vaccination A key measure to combat pandemic influenza is mass vaccination. On the whole, Canada mounted an effective campaign: 45% of Canadians were vaccinated, and the proportion was even higher in First Nations communities - a first in Canadian history. Canada was one of the first countries with sufficient vaccine for the population and, with one domestic vaccine supplier, Canada avoided the confusion of multiple formulations as seen in the United States. The outcome was positive, but many public health units were stretched as expectations exceeded the pre-existing constrained resources. Although we recognize that the provinces and territories have quite different approaches to the delivery of their routine immunization programs, there is agreement that the pandemic immunization process did not adequately engage physicians in planning and delivery. A number of difficulties, such as the impact of bulk packaging, manufacturing delays that affected the agreed "sequencing" of patients and the logistics of inventory management, led to friction between front-line public health practitioners and family physicians. These could have been avoided with strengthened interdependence and mutual understanding before this crisis. The great variation in mass vaccination programs between provinces/territories, and even between local public health units, led to public confusion. Recognition of the diversity of primary care settings in which physicians work and bilateral planning in advance of the event is essential, because it is simply not feasible to tailor responses to myriad settings in the heat of the moment. Television broadcasts of long lines of people waiting to be vaccinated contributed to a loss of confidence in the system at a time when public confidence was sorely needed to encourage vaccination. Nationally promulgated clinical practice guidelines had great potential to create consistent clinical responses across the country. Instead, the variation and lack of coordination in providing important clinical information during this crisis eroded the public's confidence in the federal, provincial and territorial response. Ensuring future consistency in clinical approaches will require examination of ethical principles for the allocation of resources, such as anti-virals, vaccines and hospital treatment. Public engagement in the discussion of ethical principles is essential and, as much as possible, the consultative process should be transparent and undertaken in advance. We recommend: 8. That the Public Health Network seek advanced pan-Canadian commitment to a harmonized and singular national response to clinical practice guidelines, including mass vaccination programs, during times of potential public health crisis. Conclusion In 2003, in its submission to the National Advisory Committee on SARS, the Canadian Medical Association noted that the uptake of new information is influenced by many qualitative factors, and that research is needed to determine how best to communicate with individual physicians and other health care providers in emergency situations. Communication processes should be based on sound research and build on existing communication networks and relationships. The College of Family Physicians of Canada has recommended that information networks be strengthened to promote the sharing of the most relevant information among family physicians, other primary care providers and public health at the local level. We believe that PHAC is well positioned to undertake research on how health professionals can best receive information and to catalogue existing communication networks to build them into a well-coordinated national emergency response communication system. We must work together to translate pandemic information into practical messages relevant to front-line providers and employ trusted channels to deliver key messages to our patients and the public. Broad consensus is developing that our experience with the pH1N1 outbreak has shown that one of our greatest needs in preparing for the next public health emergency is for a national communications strategy that involves all levels of government, targets all sectors of our health system and uses the channels with which these targets are most familiar. An effective response to infectious disease outbreaks depends on effective surveillance, data collection and sharing and tracking of clinical interventions. The absence of a national communicable disease/immunization monitoring system is an ongoing problem. In 2003, the report of the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health recommended that "the [Public Health] Agency [of Canada] should facilitate the long term development of a comprehensive and national public health surveillance system that will collect, analyze, and disseminate laboratory and health care facility data on infectious diseases... to relevant stakeholders." In 2010, Canada still does not have a comprehensive national surveillance and epidemiological system. A pan-Canadian electronic health information system is urgently needed and must become a priority during the inter-pandemic phase, with adequate federal funding and provincial/territorial collaboration. Greater adoption of the EMR in primary care and better public health EHRs with the ability to link systems will augment existing surveillance capacity and should be considered essential to a pan-Canadian system. Many of the challenges front-line health practitioners faced during the pH1N1 were also challenges during the SARS outbreak in 2003. The Naylor report proposed a number of measures to improve Canada's readiness and strengthen public health. Although a great deal of work and effort has gone into building links with and between provinces/territories and the federal government within the public health and the health emergency management system, little has trickled down to the front lines. This is not to devalue the much-improved spirit of FPT cooperation and the important achievements that have been made. Rather it is to suggest that, as the roof is no longer leaking, it is time to focus attention on the foundation - the response at the local level. Embedding primary care expertise in public health planning within the PHAC and at provincial/territorial and local levels will help circumvent problems and improve the effectiveness of our health system to respond to public health emergencies. A dialogue between primary care and the emergency management structures will help the response team understand and value the capabilities within primary care and build them into their planning and response systems. At the end of the day, we need to nurture collaborative relations between public health and primary care. Our shared objective is protecting the health of Canadians, recognizing that, in reality, neither system can be successful in isolation. It is essential that we trust each other's professionalism and expertise and work together to ensure that a strong foundation is in place to protect Canadians from future health threats. We have the will and expertise. We need the resources and a firm commitment to move forward. We have had two "wake-up calls" - SARS and pH1N1. Let's not wait for a third to find that we are not yet prepared. Recommendations 1. That the Public Health Agency of Canada, with the provinces and territories, evaluate the effectiveness of pH1N1 communications between public health and physicians and other front-line primary health care providers, and use the finding of this evaluation to research options for future response to a public health crisis. 2. That federal, provincial/territorial public health authorities and health care professionals and their associations work together in the inter-pandemic period to develop a pan-Canadian communication strategy to be used during health emergencies. 3. The establishment of a pan-Canadian centre within the Public Health Agency of Canada - similar to the Centre for Effective Practice - to undertake timely knowledge translation of clinical management guidelines for clinicians during public health crises. 4. That the federal and provincial/territorial governments provide EMR funding to enable clinical care and public health authorities to build interconnectedness and allow real-time information collection and analysis. 5. That the federal government increase infrastructure funding to provinces/territories to assist local health emergency preparedness planning and response, to reduce variation across the country and to integrate clinical care structures into public health structures at the local level. 6. That the Public Health Agency of Canada review the recommendations of the 2003 report of the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health (Naylor report) in light of the pH1N1 experience and develop a national action plan to address the persistent gaps. 7. That the Public Health Agency of Canada develop a focus on improving the interrelationship between primary care and public health to support collaboration during public health crises. 8. That the Public Health Network seek advanced pan-Canadian commitment to a harmonized and singular national response to clinical practice guidelines, including mass vaccination programs, during times of potential public health crisis.
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