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Friday, 29 June 2012

US supreme court decisions favours Obama health care reforms

The historic and far reaching US supreme court decision supporting President Obama's health care reforms "largely unscathed" by the court decision is a significant victory for US public health professionals.   There will be innumerable analyses of the decision, but a relatively concise and well written one is found in the Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/supreme-court-to-rule-thursday-on-health-care-law/2012/06/28/gJQAarRm8V_story.html  .

Hidden in the final decision is that the 9 judges were split predominately on ideological lines, with four dissenting conservatives issuing a scathing minority report that questions numerous points of legality.   Four liberal judges backing the formal court final decision.  And a moderate single voice predominately leaning in favour of the decision.   Such a fine line between passing and falling, based not so much on legalities but on ideology of the courts members.

And while a major political victory for Obama during an election year, the comment of his rival Romney was that the first thing he would do if elected would be to repel the reforms.   The debate is not over, and may in essence come down to the single and solitary issue on which the November US election is run.   Regrettably, the often dominate libertarian lifestyle may surpass the collective utilitarian good.   Stay tuned.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Public Health in the News: People, Quebec Tobacco law suit, Gambling advertising, Cosmetic pesticides

Today is one of those historic public health days.  The US Supreme Court will determine the constitutionality of providing health care to all Americans.   Put differently, it gets to decide whether it is legal to let some 20% of our southern neighbours die prematurely because of their personal financial barriers to health services, or if there is anything to be said about the “We” in “We the people….  ”.   More on the decision in a future blog.

It was with concern and dismay that the February stroke of Canada’s first and only Chief Public Health Officer was announced several months after the event.  Fortunately his quick mind, biting wit and perseverance for Canada’s public health was not affected, the stroke limited to motor functions in one of the lower limbs, or so the media reports say.  May all of public Health wish David Butler-Jones a full and fulfilling recovery. 

For those following the movement of key public health folks will note that Andrea Corriveau has returned as the CMHO for the Northwest Territories after a three year stint in a similar position in Alberta.  James Talbot has moved from deputy to CMHO for the province in a deserving career step that has had its share of Albertan propensity to see public health folks move in and out of favour. 

Manitoba remains under the leadership of Margaret Fast since the untimely departure of one of Canada’s solid public health leaders in Joel Kettner.  No doubt there are other recent movements as well of lifelong public health contributors to be celebrated.

Quebec has joined with most of the other provinces in suing tobacco firms for unnecessary and preventable health care costs associated with misrepresentation of the tobacco product. In this case $60B.   The story in French at Lapresse on Quebec tobacco law suit 

Have you noticed the surge in advertising related to gambling?   No doubt one of the next logical targets for public health advocates is to begin to constrain this addiction, and government addiction to the revenue carried on the backs of their citizens.   The story from Ontario about advertising that suggests that to get away from family you should go to the casino hit a few raw nerves Forget your family - The Star.    

The Ontario College of Family Physicians released an updated literature review on the impacts of pesticides in the ongoing efforts to limit toxic effects OCFP and pesticides.  This group has been one of the leading driver of pesticide reduction efforts in the country and clearly has been effective in Ontario.   There efforts did not however sway the BC government committee that dismissed certain scientists and used anecdotal evidence on the failure of weed management strategies  in a couple of situations as sufficient rationale to recommend against a cosmetic pesticide regulation for the province BC cosmetic pesticide committee report.   The truth likely lies somewhere between this extreme positions.   The Scandanavian “substitution” principle adopted in Europe nicely handles the debate more than the much debated “precautionary” principle.  Substitution principle 

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Something to deaden the sweet tooth

A few years back we received a listing of the top 20 calorific drinks.  A condensed version of the list can be found at 20 most calorific drinks, the original supposedly in Men’s Health May 2010.  Starbuck’s was rightly roasted with 3 servings of their Vanilla Frappucinno (290 cal) , Peppermint While Chocolate Mocha with whipped cream (660 calories) and White Hot Chocolate with whipped cream (520 calories).  A Dairy Queen MooLattee coming in at 870 calories, Baskin and Robbins ice cream soda at 960 calories, McDonald’s triple thick chocolate shake at 1160 calories and the cream of the crop was Cold Stone PB&C at an amazing 2010 calories.

This past week, a listing of ten top calorific deserts Top 10 desserts top ten calorific deserts.    Promoted by the current North American bacon bit fad that has worked its way into a Burger King sundae and tops the scales at a mere 510 calories per sundae.  Dairy Queen blizzards (size not listed) topping just over 1000 calories.  Our favourite for sharing amongst a whole table of friends is the Cheesecake Factory Chocolate Tower Truffle Cake at 1679 calories, or about 40 calories a forkful by our calculations.   Its the amazing Keg offering of a Carrot Cake a la mode that tops in at 2344 calories to definitely take caution of. 

If your stomach is not already tumbling and heaving, how about taking a quick look just at volume and what has happened over the years in terms of normalizing soft drinks sizes.   Megasizing soft drinks  can be put in perspective by thinking 10-15 calories per 30 ml (ounce).  so going from 200 ml - or about 75 calories, up to nearly a 4 litre cup (128 ounces) containing some 1500 calories - gives some sense of how marketing impacts individual choice.

There are very few naturally occurring drinks other than milk and water that humans are used to. Tea and coffee without any sugar or milk also make the list if you needed something more.   In a day and age where we are all struggling to keep a bit thinner, cut the calories from what you drink, and steer clear of the deserts. 

If nothing else, take a look at the links to do a bit of behavioural desensitizing.  

Monday, 25 June 2012

Drowning in data – Making sense of health indicators.

Alice slipped down the rabbit hole and subsequently through the looking glass into a world fantasized by a mathematician, filled with symmetry and logic – and designed to please the literary masses.  Her enduring stories have captured the imagination of children and adults alike, and been the subject to innumerable academic analyses.   Her creator is the envy of many scientists having mastered the ability to utilize storytelling to convey logic and information.  Although his stories were predominately for entertainment, we are faced with similar challenges in trying to convey stories told by reams of data that bombard the wires.

This past week saw the start of the release of the most recent round of the Canada Community Health Survey.  Buried in the home site are links to community or region specific information in addition to provincial data.   CCHS 2011 release  No doubt you as a reader can dig deep and develop your own story about trying to access information.   Humourously, Stats Can must have a bug in their program for dating webpages, with posting years in the future being commonplace.  It is the sort of oversight that undermines the importance of the data that was released.

There are some interesting stories to be told:
Good news
·         Tobacco use continues to trend downwards in both genders and all age groups. 
·         Physical activity continues to trend upwards in most age-sex categories. 
Not so good news
·         Heavy alcohol consumption continues to trend upwards in particular in middle aged persons.
·         Overweightness continues to trend upwards although some suggestion that stabilizing and optimists might think there was some reduction in the past couple of years.  
·         The proportion of the population adhering to 5 fruits or vegetables daily is not trending in the right direction.

For those that wish to put Canada in the context of our global neighbours, check out the WHO 2012 world health statistics report.  WHO 2012 report   This is a data dense and unwieldy 178 page document that describes regions and countries by over 100 indicators.   A rich source of information, lacking in the literary prose of Lewis Carroll, but certainly making one feel like they have slid down into a world of numeracy where graphs and numbers abound.  Enjoy the ride, or perhaps better advise would be to assume the rabbit hole is filled with water and practice treading water to stay afloat.   

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The case for, and the effectiveness of, action on determinants of health

Happy National Aboriginal Day - celebrate our heritage

Since bouncing onto the Canadian public health stage in 1994, the determinants of health (DofH) have been battered about as a new technology – more often as a descriptor of problems than a technology to be applied to the problem with measurable success. DrPHealth on determinants of health  

The past year has seen the world congress in Rio with the declaration that Canada has yet to pronounce upon DrPHealth on world congress , the WHO Commission report was released in 2009 and readers are encouraged to follow the Commissions work and activity Commission final report  

This past few weeks, four new items for those that have the DofH in their toolboxes

From Australian is a monograph on the cost of inaction.  Australian monograph on cost of inaction   While this is another descriptive study looking at health inequalities, it attempts to put some monetary value to the cost of disparity.   It also is a good insight to how another country grapples with determinants.  While Australia has its own set of governmental challenges, public health is much more closely held at the national level.

From the National Collaborating Centre on Determinants of Health http://www.nccdh.ca/   as review on intersectoral action in addressing determinants.   Intersectoral collaboration from NCCDH  As has become an increasing trend in systematic reviews, there is as much on why no conclusions can be drawn because of poor methodology in most studies, as there are gems to be found in the handful of studies that met the muster criteria for inclusion.

Fear not, at least groups like Ontario Health Promotion have issued an E-Bulletin on planning to action Ontario Health promotion e-bulletin  which lays out a generic framework for action on determinants without worrying too much on the lack of scientific foundation, and encouraged collection of information on effectiveness as the process proceeds.

For the real keeners, there is an international forum from the WHO for persons working on Determinants of Health http://www.actionsdh.org/ .   It is only through collaboration and sharing of experiences that the technology will be applied effectively and efficiently.

Dive in and take a shot at your favourite determinant. 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Inequity - Communicating the message.

A piece from the Winnipeg Free Press is the latest item where the media are supporting and driving the public health agenda of reducing disparities.   Winnipeg Free Press June 18, 2012  Masters of storytelling, such heartfelt pleas echo the public displays of discontent in the Montreal student strike, the Occupy movement and even the efforts of doctors for fair taxation Equity and taxation – the status quo is being whittled away.  

Yet, despite the crashing Greek economy with unemployment approaching 25%, the conservative leaning incumbents were returned with the plurality and asked to form a coalition government. This contrasts with the election of the left leaning French Socialist party presidential candidate.

As powerful as the media can be in expressing the message – it is further enlightening to read the personal reactions to the Winnipeg piece.  No wonder there is such resistance to addressing the increasing disparity in the country.  Clashing values of personal happiness against societal altruism are played out in the words of individuals responding to the article.

Just as the G20 countries prepare to meet in Mexico to further discuss the current global financial crisis that has banks and businesses suffering such that public tax dollars are being poured by the billions in corporate welfare while personal welfare programs are cut to balance budgets.  Buried deep in the throes of the bureaucracy is this December 2011 OECD report Divided we fall:  an overview of growing income inequalities   an economic analysis of inequality globally.  A Canada specific summary is available at Canada report, US at US report  

Note Figures 9 and 11 – which display Canada’s inequality in respect to other developed countries.  Figure 11 (pasted below) adjusts for the impact of universal health care and makes Canada look as good as any of measures. Using any of the three Gini coefficient measures in the document, Canada remains higher than the OECD mean – and higher means more inequality.  (for more on Gini coefficient  Gini coefficient September 14, 2011 ). Figure 12 also below,  is most disconcerting for North Americans as it shows the increasing proportion of wealth held by the top 1% of income earners, with the US in the not so enviable position of number 1 and Canada number 3.

Figure 11

Figure 12

Why, in the midst of such forces as left wing leaning social and health professionals and right wing leaning economists – both of whom have been signalling warning signs of the dangers of propagating the long term trend of increasing disparity, do we continue to have political decisions which fly in the face of facts?  Truthfully, the OECD report is dry, unexciting, lacks story and personification – reminiscent of many public health reports.  While the number crunchers may get thrills from reading the report, it likely had little impact on policy decisions in any OECD country.

Good governance is the ability to provide leadership amidst conflicting value structures with an aim for the greatest benefit.  While the media may be the new modality messaging inequality, the media have also been the drivers of populism as the goal of governance rather than leadership.   There was a notable subpiece to the Montreal student demonstrations on the success of the new generation to win the use of new communications media http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Canada/20120618/social-media-quebec-student-protests-120618/ .  The press have long influenced public opinion and have been the puppeteers of political winners and downfall of political losers.  We in public health have a lot to learn about moving from number crunching to pulling at heart strings.  

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Father's (and Mother's) Day celebrations - Demographic changes as presented by Dr. Hans Rosling

June 17th is Father’s Day, and the second of the parental celebrations. 

Please take this as a chance to celebrate both Mother and Father's Days and to discuss the changing dynamics of family structure in Canada and globally.   Statistics Canada has special releases on the changing role of mothers Stats Can and Mother's Day  and fathers Stats Can and Father's Day.   Note the very significant increases in dual income families and single income families led by mothers over time. 

For those that have followed the great discussions over the decades on family planning and control of global population growth along with the Malthusian predictions of overpopulation and nonsustainability will welcome recent demographic information. Considerable progress has been made in many countries, with the global fertility rate now resting close to global replacement levels.  

Take 15 minutes and watch the international public health expert Hans Rosling from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute discuss what is happening with population growth, in the latest instalment as it relates to the impact of religion (and income) on fertility rates.   Hans Rosling on religion and babies .  You will need audio to appreciate the presentation.

If you have more time, learn more about Hans Rosling and listen to his presentations, some of which are listed below.  Most notably is the ability to use time trending to display how quickly change is happening globally with demographic predictions for the future.  

200 years and 200 countries   just 5 minutes and absolutely amazing.

Dataset and mindsets – 20 minutes   

His skills as an educator are phenomenal and a learning experience in of itself. 

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Good news and bad news on what youth are smoking and drinking

Our friends to the south are very more diligent in collecting information on the health and wellbeing of their population.   Canada has much to learn and emulate.   A report released last week is based on an ongoing youth risk behaviour surveillance study.  The study comprises work from the national surveillance program, 43 state surveys and 21 large urban school area surveys  US behaviour youth survey.  Are you envious yet?   The down side, is the report rarely puts data into a temporal context.   Just like with patients, it is measuring changes that are critical to management of the population’s health.

The study and the Canadian comparators are rich information and worth using as a benchmark for surveys in provinces and regions. 

Work in both countries confirms something most would have suspected.  Regular tobacco use behaviour in US youth has reached a relative low at 10.2% daily use in the last 30 days with any tobacco smoking use at 18.1%.  This is good news.  On the other hand, marijuana use in the last 30 days was at 23.1%.   Officially, marijuana use has become more prevalent than tobacco. 

Lest we forget the third of the major psychoactive substances, alcohol.   Consumption being illegal for youth under 21 in the US with provinces at either 18 or 19 years of age. US youth use of alcohol in the previous 30 days was the highest of the three substances at 38.7%. Alcohol consumption by youth seems to be decreasing amongst this US population .

Within Canada we have the Youth smoking survey 2010-2011 Youth smoking survey 2010-2011 which shows tobacco use at  10% use in past 30.  This survey also asks about alcohol and drug use with rates reported at 45% use of alcohol in the last year, and this is also appears to be decreasing.  Past year cannabis use reported at 21% and also supposedly decreasing.   Note that question format and time frames make comparison to the US survey difficult but suggestive that youth in both countries have similar risk profiles.

The Canadian drug and Alcohol Use Monitoring Survey provides some information on youth (ages 15-24) CDAUMS  but does not provide directly comparable statistics to the US youth behavioural survey .   Cannabis consumption in the past year – 25.1%.   Alcohol consumption in past 30 days – 52.3%.   Noting that these numbers would at least appear consistent with the youth survey data given a slightly different age group.

Here rests the public health dilemma.   We have different approaches to efforts to control and regulate tobacco, alcohol and marijuana, the former being legal, the later still considered a criminal offense to have possession of. Alcohol supposed not legal for consumption for youth.    Relative success has occurring through concerted efforts to reduce tobacco and alcohol, yet efforts to control marijuana use are limited by lack of information, lack of legitimacy and significant illicit profit compared to regulated substances like tobacco and alcohol.  

While marijuana may not have the same health risks associated with its use, it is not something to be promoted or encouraged – but controlled.  

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Dietary modification to improve the public's health. New news to chew on.

Mayor Bloomberg’s pronouncement that he hopes to ban large sized soft drinks has caused a flurry of diet related activity. No reference here to the mayor’s comments as the blogosphere is filled with opinions on the relative value, morals and expected impacts of such a ban.  Our only comment is it was NYC’s 2006 ban on unsaturated fats that led the wave across the country and resulted in considerable benefit in reduced unhealthy fat consumption.

Let us begin by reiterating that there is no clearly demonstrated effective long term cure for overweight and obesity.   The consistently most effective intervention is bariatric surgical intervention which is unlikely to be widely endorsed for other than the morbidly obese. 

So the issue of obesity gives great fodder to fill lay magazines, morning talk shows and fuel for weight loss schemes – all of which are thriving.   This blog is no less guilty than others of trying to weigh into the fray.  healthy environments and obesitylosing weight  low sodium diets,  Motivational interviewing for obesity,   obesity and political ramifications

Three more items to expand the discussion.  To reinforce what we all know is a study demonstrating that Americans know it as well.  Losing weight is tough, and tougher than completing their taxes.  The original article at Science daily on losing weight.  The executive original work can be found at food information council survey and with the encouragement that primary review of such reports is good practice.  Lost in the press release headlines about how difficult it is to lose weight, are some good tidbits of information on the current state of American health on food intake, obesity and physical activity. It is challenging on the site to actually determine the methodology other than an on-line survey which may contribute to certain biases.

A review that confirms that there is up to a 14% benefit in cardiovascular events in men only in modifying dietary fat that resulted in lower triglycerides and LDL.   There was no benefit noted in all cause or cardiovascular mortality.   The full review (a 2011 update of the 2001 review) is available within the Cochrane database – the abstract at Dietary modification for cardiovascular events.

Lastly is a piece on the reduced risk of childhood obesity amongst infants born vaginally compared to Caesarean  section.   Biologically this is being promoted by changes in GI tract flora.  An interesting avenue for additional research.   Is anyone aware of a good retrospective study looking at adult weights at birth type?   C-section and childhood obesity.

Diabetes and endocrine disorders continue to be some of the few causes of death and disability that are increasing, and obesity is a significant risk factor to the development of these conditions.  The solution is prevention, but in working towards prevention, we need also grapple with early intervention and in intervention when manifest problems are developing.  

Monday, 11 June 2012

Harm Reduction and the politics of language.

Anyone who interfaces with the federal government will have noted its pathological phobia with the term “harm reduction”.  That generic set of two words that inferences that as humans we sometimes chose to engage in activities that have a higher risk for hurting or potentially even killing ourselves, and that we can reduce the likelihood of harm by invoking any variety of activities.  Helmets for cyclists and boarders, barrier and contraceptive protection for sexual intimacy, seat belts in cars, wearing sunscreen, donning a parka during the winter – the list can go on and something each of us engages in constantly in our lives without a second thought.

The more specific definition that has caused angst suggests harm reduction is an activity limited to persons who suffer from addictions, often but not exclusively associated with illicit drugs. This blog has spoken to many types such as supervised injection sites, cannabis decriminalization, needle exchange/distribution, methadone distribution programs, safer alcohol consumption guidelines, alcohol distribution in some homeless housing initiatives.   Some of these you may be comfortable with, others might cause some to raise their shackles as a stretch of their moral frameworks.

Health is a science and should be driven by evidence.  From a health perspective, many of the listed harm reduction for addictions result in a demonstrable benefit for individual and societal health.  Most have a net cost reduction to the taxpayer through deferred health and social services.  So they should be an easy sell. Differing perceptions of morality, religion and politics are often barriers to doing the right thing.   So how has the current government influenced the discussion on harm reduction.

So lets do an experiment and obtain some evidence.   Go to a government home page – we tried Health Canada and PHAC.  Take a search on the term “harm reduction.   Respectively the searchers returned 668 and 340 document references. Now try to learn about where public government documents reference harm reduction.  Most of the material is related to pesticide and product regulation so finding relevant materials is not as straightforward.   If you expand the search by collection on the right hand menu and pick “health concerns”, most of the addictions materials are listed, some 177 documents.   The PHAC site is more generic and most of the material returned is related to addiction concerns. Presented as a linear time trend as below:

As a reminder,  Harper was elected in 2006, reelected in 2008 and obtained a majority government in 2011. Minister Aglukkaq was first elected in 2008 and immediately began her long standing term as Minister of Health.   PHAC supposedly operates at arms length from the government, but is somewhat handcuffed by federal political structures.  

So, in a world where governments have long used manipulation of language and words to meet their own purposes – here is clear evidence of political ideology affecting the science of health and the operations of Health Canada.  And clear evidence of the social impact that governments can have by imposing views and curtailing dialogue – reminiscent of dictatorial regimes.  

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Coffee, Tea or ??

Products that are widely consumed are excellent targets for health claims, but the very nature of consumption patterns make epidemiological investigation challenging, and if absolute associations are weak, then identification of potential benefit or risks can be a lifelong career.  The identification of the health effects of tea and coffee are prime examples.  

Since the mid-1970’s numerous publications have sought the definitive relationship, and many of these studies were published in no less an esteemed journal as the New England Journal of Medicine.  The wonderful series of publications makes an excellent course in critical appraisal of health publications as conflicting results appear to arise from similarly executed investigations. The major challenge being the association between stimulate consumption and certain other behaviours such as smoking, caloric intake, alcohol consumption and socioeconomic status. 

The latest in the series of hundreds of North American and European coffee studies is also published in this esteemed journal and looks at some 5 million person-years of follow-up and death events in 33,000 men and 19,000 women.   NEJM study on coffee and mortality

Tea drinkers fear not, the literature is just as rife with more interest from predominately tea drinking countries.  The subject received a rigorous review that explored some 40 studies also covering a few million person-years of exposure and a variety of epidemiological study methods.  The analysis was more specifically focused on cardiovascular disease and diabetes outcomes  tea and health outcomes review article.  

So the results, or at least what is available and comparable.

Coffee - male
Coffee - female
Tea (black)
Unadjusted relationship
>3 cups associated with up to 60% increase in mortality
Similar to males with up to 50% increase in high consumption

Adjustment for identified associated variables (confounders)
Up to a 10% reduction in mortality noted at 2 or more cups per day
More benefit up to 16% and also in groups of >2 cups/day

Cancer adjusted for confounders
Slight increase of 4 and 8% respectively for 4-5 cups and >6 cups
Non-statistical differences.

Heart disease
Reduction of 7-14% with greatest benefit at 2-3 cups per day
Greater benefit of up to 28%
Several studies showing up to 40% reductions in cardiovascular death.  Benefit to women also seems slightly greater
Respiratory disease
Dose response relationship with up to 19% reduction at >6 cups
Similar positive benefit of up to 35%

A notable reduction of up to 30% in all consumption ranges except for unadjusted >6 cups per day
Benefit only noted at >2 cups per day
Numerous studies reporting benefit of up to 40% reduction with greater benefit for women
An apparent benefit for all consumption groups, adjusted and unadjusted
Similar broad benefits of up to 43% noted
Benefits in the range of up to 40% noted.  

Perhaps even more reflective of the great debate globally, no study mentions adjusting for consumption the other common beverage.  The assumption that both coffee and tea drinkers are exclusive in their habits is reflective of the biases within the literature.  Also notable is the extensive discussion of what constituents of tea are perceived as beneficial, with the absence of such debate in the coffee literature. 

Such investigations will continue to populate the medical literature for decades to come until someone convinces a naive group of youth to be randomly allocated to cohorts of coffee, tea or neither and subject them to decades without allowing for their choice of stimulant.  Stated otherwise, the question and the subject will continue to percolate and simmer. 

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Public health in the June news: Overdiagnositis, poverty, tobacco, health system, UV and Hep B

It is only through your readership that this blog can continue.  The diversity of readers has shifted with less than half being the target from Canada for which the blog is written.  Please provide feedback at drphealth@gmail.com follow on twitter @drphealth.  You can also follow by email by linking at the lower left hand corner however statistics are not collected and may skew away from actual readership.  Better, join the followers on the link at the lower right hand corner.   Comments are encouraged and feedback very welcomed.

The monthly popular review of what’s hot in public health.  

Overdiagnositis   DrPHealth was one of numerous commenters on the risks of overscreening DrPHealth May 14 in relation to the release of prostate cancer screening recommendations that clearly identified unintended risks as a point of concern.   BMJ continued the barrage and expanded the conversation to the whole issue of overdiagnosis.  The well written commentary clearly puts the risks of the health care system as a significant cause of avoidable mortality and morbidity.  BMJ overdiagnosis    You are referenced specifically to the estimated overdiagnosis rates noted in Table 1.  Follow this debate over the next few years.  Those who work in the system are likely very familiar with both the problem, and the avoidance behaviour demonstrated by professionals who see errors of omission as more problematic than errors of the system. “Better to have tried and failed than to not have tried at all” (often paraphrased from Tennyson)

Poverty report card  From Ontario is a report card on progress towards implementing the provincial poverty reduction action plan.  Long on baseline data and short on evidence of progress – the report card at least is an attempt to keep the issues alive and on the public agenda.   Timing is everything as the baseline data are prerecession, and the evidence shows as much the impact of the recession as efforts to ameliorate poverty.  Keep it up. Ontario poverty report card

Tobacco control report card   Out of BC and with a regional bias, hidden in the report card are some great provincial comparisons.  Jump to the appendices and see how provinces and territories stack up.  While BC is the basis, it is very useful information on performance against best practices.   The relative arbitrary grading detracts from the value of the report card as the gradings are based on rank ordering rather than progress towards the best practices. Tobacco control report card

Health Council of Canada 2012 report card: This is only included here as an example of how what gets measured gets managed.  The HCC has failed to record the unintended consequences of focusing on a limited number of doable actions - one of which has been the erosion of public health in order to shift resources to the fields flagged in by the Council.  The document is filled with political platitudes and lacks depth amongst the verbosity (including the jurisdiction analysis which do not provide for comparability between provinces.  Time to step to the plate and provide a true report card on the state of health in Canada.  Health Council of Canada 2012 report 

Effectiveness of UV index  Canadian weather risk communication was the subject of a disappointingly underread series in DrPHealth in January  Weather that kills  and Community health and weather risks.  Disappointing as these are likely definitive synthesis of the subjects that are not available anywhere else.   Many tools for communicating weather risks are substantially Canadian or Canada has played a major role including Wind chill factor, Humidex index, the Air Quality Health Index and the Ultraviolet Index.  A substantive question is on the relative benefit of such tools which are the mainstay of weather forecasters and TV weatherpeople.  The entry is a review out of Germany of the known effectiveness of the UV index and suggesting relatively low awareness and behaviour change impact.  Not surprising as what other indices show is that they don’t seem to affect decisions today, but the cumulative messaging can result in substantive behaviour changes and long term risk reduction – clearly an area for lots of study.  Review of UV Index

Prevention of perinatal Hepatitis B transmission:  Just to slip in something is a potential practice change.  The traditional approach to babies born to mothers known to be Hepatitis B antigen positive has been the provision of Hepatitis B Immunoglobulin.  A proposed alternative approach is the provision of lamuvidine (antiviral) during late pregnancy and showing good results, comparable or better than HBIG provision. Warning the review article is not the easiest to read  Lamuvidine vs HBIG for perinatal Hep B transmission

Monday, 4 June 2012

CPHA – Time to support our organization.

With the CPHA meeting just a week away, a reminder to all Canadian public health workers of the need to support the organization.   At a 102 years of age, its longevity exceeds most of the other health organizations in the country.  CPHA is feeling the pressure of both federal cuts and a long standing dependency on coordination of international projects which began to be eroded over a decade ago, and as with many organizations was slow to respond to the impending fiscal reality.  It is however still the preeminent public health organization in the country and all public health workers should consider actively being involved.  To this should be added the benefits to align the professional specific organizations under the umbrella – the Public Health Physicians of Canada have attempted to do this for the past 4-5 years with some success, it is time for groups like CIPHI (Public health inspectors) and CHNAC (public health nurses) to lay down professional jealousies and come together in defence of the organization from which they were originally conceived. 

For our international colleagues, while this post relates to a short term domestic issue, CPHA has been a major driver behind the World Federation of Public Health Associations whose current president Jim Chauvin is a long standing director of policy with the CPHA head office. He is not the first Canadian to chair this relatively young group either.   WFPHA home page 

Some of the great work that Canadian public health workers depend upon that requires our support, more of which can be found just by suffering the CPHA website at CPHA home page

Canadian Coalition for Public Health in the 21st Century – a network of 35 health organizations that stand together in advocating for health in Canada.  The organization has been in place for 9 years

Canadian Coalition for Immunization Awareness and Promotion – headed from the CPHA offices, this is the group that keeps promoting immunization awareness and providing the great resources that most public health workers depend on daily.

CPHA used to house the Canadian Aids/HIV clearinghouse until funding was eliminated a couple of years back – it still maintains a portal to many on-line resources.

Canadian Journal of Public Health – a foundational document that remains one of the few resources for public health professionals focused predominately on Canadian public health practice.

Annual conference – an enjoyable location where academics, policy makers, senior officials, front line staff can come together as equals and discuss the issues of public health in Canada.

And many more, including numerous portals, services, sales and advocacy activities.  

CEO Deb Lynkowski has done a marvellous job over the past few years in opening transparency of the organization and attempting to bring an approach to fiscal sustainability in a resource compromised environment.  The retirement of assistant CEO Janet McLaren who quietly in the background made things happen within the organization was a significant loss but with well wishes for her retirement.  Other key office staff who have weathered the years and remain dedicated to the mission of CPHA include the directors Greg Penny (knowledge), Ian Culbert (communications) and Karen Craven (CJPH assistant editor). These are the unsung heroes of the Canadian public health system.

If you are a member – thank you.  If not, it is not a huge financial commitment but one that reaps benefits for all Canadian public health workers and through them, to all Canadians.  Not in Canada – support your national public health association, it is the backbone for public health work globally. 

Sunday, 3 June 2012

DrPHealth blog evaluation

As the site passes approaches 7500 views, some statistics for dedicated readers.

Month of May
All-time (11 months)
624 (20.1 views per day)
7416 (22.1 views per day)
Canadian viewer proportion
Other top viewing countries
US – 33.0%
Russia – 11.5%
Other European – 6%
Other - ~21%
US – 17.5%
Russia – 7%
Other European – 5%
Other ~ 8%
Top Posts viewed
Health and Built Environment 3 Health social services May 3  – 41 views
Telehealth (Apr 3) – 32 views in May
Bill C-31 May 7 – 32 views
Opposition to Bill C-31 May 16 -22 views
Cost of poverty Jan12 – 121 views
Telehealth Apr 3 – 106 views
Smart meters Feb 3 -  69 views
Social injustice Dec 5 – 56 views
Determinants Jan 9  – 51 views
Referring sites
Google – 66
Facebook - 3
Google – 189
Twitter – 106
Domar – 70
Linked In – 56
CHNet – 34
Facebook - 32

What conclusions can you draw?  Here are ours:

Canadian readership has either dropped or moved to direct email for which no tracking is available
Issues of social justice seem to have the greatest popularity
Niche topics can be either very successful (Telehealth and healthy built environment), or very disappointing (weather and health series).  (Posting specific information is available for total views)
Canadian specific content which is the focus of the blog is not attracting the attention that was the messaging intent
Twitter and Link-in posting are not nearly as effective as they were
A small handful of 4 or 5 dedicated viewers have provided most of the 26 published comments and dialogue on the drphealth@gmail.com site. 

Your comments, thoughts and suggestions are welcome by posting a comment or sending privately to drphealth@gmail.com

Thank you for your continued readership.