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Vaccination and Vaccine Hesitancy in Canada

Vaccination is the introduction of a vaccine into the body to produce immunity to a disease. Vaccine hesitancy is the refusal or delayed acceptance of vaccination due to fears or anxiety about vaccines. It includes a range of concerns such as uncertainty about vaccines’ contents and their safety and the belief that vaccines are responsible for causing other medical conditions (e.g., autism). Other factors include opposition to state control and infringement on individual liberty, suspicions about the pharmaceutical industry and a declining faith in science and medicine. In Canada, as in other wealthy countries, vaccine hesitancy has increased in recent years.

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SARS in Canada

Canada experienced an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003. Most of the infections originated in Toronto hospitals. The outbreak led to the quarantine of thousands, killed 44 people and took an economic toll on Toronto. It also exposed the country’s ill-prepared health-care system. Confusion around SARS fuelled an uptick in anti-Asian and anti-immigrant sentiment.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

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Antibiotic Resistance in Canada

Antibiotic (or antimicrobial) resistance developed with the wide distribution of antibiotic medications in the 20th century. Resistance occurs when the medication is no longer capable of killing or preventing the reproduction of bacteria. A major global health challenge, antibiotic resistance makes treating diseases more difficult and expensive, and it results in fewer antibiotics that are effective in managing infectious diseases. Rates of antibiotic-resistant infections are rising in Canada. In hospital settings, infections that resist multiple drugs are also becoming more common. In 2019, an expert panel of the Council of Canadian Academies estimated that resistant infections contributed to more than 14,000 deaths in Canada the previous year. Canadian health agencies, medical professionals and industries are active in multiple efforts to combat this problem. 

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Canada's Opioid Crisis

Overdoses from a class of painkiller drugs called opioids are claiming the lives of thousands of Canadians from all walks of life. The death count is the result of an escalating public health crisis: an epidemic of opioid addiction. The crisis is made deadlier by an influx of illicit fentanyl and chemically similar drugs, but it can be traced to the medical over-prescribing of opioids, including oxycodone, fentanyl and morphine.

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Food Insecurity in Canada

Household food insecurity— the inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints — is a serious public health problem in Canada. In 2017–18, 1 in 8 households were food insecure. This amounted to over 4.4 million Canadians. Of that number, 1.2 million were children under 18 years. While food banks are a well-known public response to food insecurity, most food insecure households do not use food banks and there is no evidence that food charity is a durable solution. There is wide consensus that governments need to act on food insecurity through income-based interventions.

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Pandemics in Canada

A pandemic is an outbreak of an infectious disease that affects a large proportion of the population in multiple countries or worldwide. Human populations have been affected by pandemics since ancient times. These include widespread outbreaks of plague, cholera, influenza and, more recently, HIV/AIDS, SARS and COVID-19. In order to slow or stop the spread of disease, governments implement public health measures that include testing, isolation and quarantine. In Canada, public health agencies at the federal, provincial and municipal levels play an important role in monitoring disease, advising governments and communicating to the public.

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Suicide among Indigenous Peoples in Canada

First Nations in Canada have suicide rates double that of the national average, and Inuit communities tend to have even higher rates. Suicide in these cases has multiple social and individual causes. To date, there are a number of emerging programs in suicide prevention by Indigenous organizations that attempt to integrate Indigenous knowledge with evidence-informed prevention approaches.

This article contains sensitive material that may not be suitable for all audiences.

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Health of Indigenous Peoples in Canada

Prior to colonization, Indigenous peoples possessed rich and diverse healing systems. Settlers’ introduction of new and contagious diseases placed these healing systems under considerable strain. Europeans also brought profound social, economic and political changes to the well-being of Indigenous communities. These changes continue to affect the health of Indigenous peoples in Canada today. (See also Social Conditions of Indigenous Peoples in Canada and Economic Conditions of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)

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The Discovery of Insulin

For many years scientists believed that some kind of internal secretion of the pancreas was the key to preventing diabetes and controlling normal metabolism. No one could find it, until in the summer of 1921 a team at the University of Toronto began trying a new experimental approach suggested by Dr. Frederick Banting.

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H1N1 Flu of 2009 in Canada

From April to December 2009, Canada experienced an outbreak of influenza A (H1N1). The virus began in North America and spread to many other countries in a global pandemic. This new type of flu differed from the typical seasonal flu, and its effects were more severe. Worldwide, more than 18,000 people are confirmed to have died of H1N1, including 428 Canadians. Estimates based on statistical models have put global deaths much higher. Totals may have been in the hundreds of thousands. The H1N1 pandemic tested Canada’s improvements to its public health system after the SARS outbreak of 2003. On the whole, it revealed a more efficient, coordinated response.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

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Quarantine Act

Canada adopted quarantine legislation in 1872, five years after Confederation. It was replaced by the current Quarantine Act, which was passed by the Parliament of Canada and received royal assent in 2005. The act gives sweeping powers to the federal health minister to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases. These powers can include health screenings, the creation of quarantine facilities and mandatory isolation orders. The Quarantine Act was introduced in the wake of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) crisis of 2003. It was invoked in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Article

Jordan's Principle

Jordan’s Principle is a child-first principle that ensures First Nations children can access the same public services as other children in Canada. Jordan’s Principle is named for Jordan River Anderson, a young Cree boy who died at the age of five after waiting for home-based care that was approved when he was two but never arrived because of a financial dispute between the federal and provincial governments. Jordan’s Principle was put in place to ensure a tragedy like this never happens again.

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Psychedelic Research in 1950s Saskatchewan

In the 1950s, Saskatchewan was home to some of the most important psychedelic research in the world. Saskatchewan-based psychiatrist Humphry Osmond coined the word psychedelic in 1957. In the mental health field, therapies based on guided LSD and mescaline trips offered an alternative to long-stay care in asylums. They gave clinicians a deeper understanding of psychotic disorders and an effective tool for mental health and addictions research. Treating patients with a single dose of psychedelic was seen as an attractive, cost-effective approach. It fit with the goals of a new, publicly funded health-care system aimed at restoring health and autonomy to patients who had long been confined to asylums.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

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Abortion in Canada

Abortion is the premature ending of a pregnancy. Inducing an abortion was a crime in Canada until 1988, when the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the abortion law as unconstitutional. Since then, abortion has been legal at any stage in a woman's pregnancy, and is publicly funded as a medical procedure under the Canada Health Act. However, access to abortion services differs across the country, and abortion remains one of the most divisive political issues of our time.

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Intergenerational Trauma and Residential Schools

Historical trauma occurs when trauma caused by historical oppression is passed down through generations. For more than 100 years, the Canadian government supported residential school programs that isolated Indigenous children from their families and communities (see Residential Schools in Canada). Under the guise of educating and preparing Indigenous children for their participation in Canadian society, the federal government and other administrators of the residential school system committed what has since been described as an act of cultural genocide. As generations of students left these institutions, they returned to their home communities without the knowledge, skills or tools to cope in either world. The impacts of their institutionalization in residential school continue to be felt by subsequent generations. This is called intergenerational trauma.