Search for "public health"

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Health Canada Warns of Dangers Linked to E-Cigarettes

Health Canada issued a second warning about the potential dangers of vaping e-cigarettes after two people died in the United States. Hundreds of others have contracted lung disorders. Dr. Nicholas Chadi, a spokesperson for the Canadian Paediatrics Society, said “We’re getting a strong message from the US that we need to be careful about vaping devices and aerosols that come from those devices. We’re still looking for answers, we don’t really know what might be causing these people to get ill, but we do know there are known harms associated with using electronic cigarettes.”

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Study Finds Dangerous Lead Levels in Canadian Drinking Water

A year-long investigation conducted by 120 journalists representing nine universities and 10 media outlets, including the Toronto Star and the Institute for Investigative Journalism, found that one-third of 12,000 tests in 11 Canadian cities since 2014 registered lead levels in excess of the national safety guideline of five parts per billion. Voluntary tests were also conducted by homeowners in 32 towns and cities across Canada, with similar results.

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Study Warns of Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs

A study conducted by the Council of Canadian Academies concluded that the number of bacterial infections that are resistant to treatment will likely grow from 26 per cent in 2018 to 40 percent by 2050. The report estimates that, over the next 30 years, around 400,000 people will die from these superbugs at a cost to the economy of about $400 billion. The chair of the panel that produced the report, UBC microbiology professor Brett Finlay, said, “This is almost as big, if not bigger, than climate change in a sense because this is directly impacting people. The numbers are just staggering. It’s time to do something now.”

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15 Cases Reported in Vancouver Measles Outbreak

Two more measles cases were confirmed to have originated at two francophone public schools in Vancouver, bringing the total in that cluster to 12. An additional three cases were reported to have been contracted in Asia. BC Health Minister Adrian Dix said that children at public and private schools would be required to show proof of immunization against measles and other diseases beginning in September. Immunization rates at Vancouver public schools were shown to be well below the 90 per cent rate needed to ensure “herd immunity.” (See also Vaccination Rates are Plummeting.)

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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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Eric Lindros Testifies to Parliamentary Committee on Concussions

Hockey Hall of Famer Eric Lindros, whose playing career was cut short by multiple concussions, urged a Parliamentary health committee to create a national protocol for preventing and treating sports-related concussions. He recommended banning hitting in hockey until players are in their mid-teens, ensuring players have months of recovery time every year, and consolidating various protocols across different sports and regions into a unified approach. 

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BC Introduces Aggressive Vaping Regulations

British Columbia introduced Canada’s toughest regulations on vaping products. Under the new rules, the sale of flavoured vaping products will be limited to age-restrictive stores, some flavours will be banned, plain packaging and limits on advertising will be required, and the sales tax on such products will increase from seven per cent to 20 per cent as of 1 January 2020. A study published in the British Medical Journal in June 2019 found that vaping increased 74 per cent among youth in Canada between 2017 and 2018.

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First Nation Issues State of Emergency After Evacuation Request Denied

The Neskantaga First Nation, located about 450 km north of Thunder Bay, issued a state of emergency after its request for emergency evacuations was refused by Indigenous Services Canada. The request was made after the town’s water pump and backup water pump broke down, resulting in contaminated and unfiltered water. A spokesperson for Indigenous Services said that technicians would arrive within days to repair the pumps. The Neskantaga reserve has been under a boil water advisory since 1995.

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Maude Abbott

Maude Elizabeth Seymour Abbott, cardiac pathologist, physician, curator (born 18 March 1869 in St. Andrews East, QC; died 2 September 1940 in Montreal, QC). Maude Abbott is known as the author of The Atlas of Congenital Cardiac Disease (1936), a groundbreaking text in cardiac research. Though Abbott graduated in arts from McGill University (1890), she was barred from studying medicine at McGill because of her gender. Instead, she attended Bishop’s College (now Bishop’s University), earning a medical degree in 1894. As assistant curator of the McGill Medical Museum (1898), and curator (1901), she revolutionized the teaching of pathology by using the museum as an instructional tool. Abbott’s work paved the way for women in medicine and laid the foundation for modern heart surgery. (See also Women in STEM).

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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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Ottawa Releases Long-Awaited Arctic Development Policy

After extensive consultations with First Nations and territorial governments, the federal government released its policy on developing the Canadian Arctic. It had been in the works since 2017. Eight priorities were identified, with health, infrastructure and economic development leading the way. However, many criticized the policy for not including specifics on how it would be implemented. International law professor and Arctic expert Michael Byers said, “In terms of an actual plan, there’s very little here.”  

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Food Insecurity in Nunavut Worsened After Government Subsidy Program, Research Finds

A study conducted at the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto and published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that rates of food insecurity in Nunavut’s 10 largest communities have risen 13 per cent since federal subsidies designed to make food more affordable were introduced in 2011. Andrée-Anne Fafard St-Germain, the lead researcher in the study, called for an inquiry “to determine the extent to which similar initiatives adapted to the needs and realities of northern populations could affect food insecurity.”

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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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Peter Henderson Bryce

Peter Henderson Bryce, physician, public health official (born 17 August 1853 in Mount Pleasant, Canada West; died 15 January 1932 at sea). Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce was a pioneer of public health and sanitation policy in Canada. He is most remembered for his efforts to improve the health and living conditions of Indigenous people. His Report on the Indian Schools of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories exposed the unsanitary conditions of residential schools in the Prairie provinces. It also prompted national calls for residential school reform.

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James Barry

James Miranda Steuart Barry, FRS (probably born Margaret Anne Bulkley), military surgeon, physician (born c. 1789–99; died 25 July 1865 in London, England). Posted across the British Empire, Barry reformed medical standards in the British army. His final and highest-ranking position was as inspector-general of military hospitals in the Province of Canada in the 1850s. After his death, it was reported that Barry’s assigned sex at birth was female. This has sparked significant debate about his identity.

Note on pronouns: This article refers to James Barry with masculine pronouns, as this was how Barry referred to himself throughout his life.

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

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Montreal Metro

The Montreal metro opened on 14 October 1966. The second Canadian subway system after Toronto’s, which opened in 1954, the Montreal metro was the first subway in North America to run on rubber tires instead of metal wheels. Extensions to the Montreal metro were built on Montreal Island over the two decades after it opened, and then to the city of Laval, on the island of Île Jésus, during the 2000s. The system runs entirely underground, and each station has a distinct architecture and design. The Montreal metro consists of four lines running a total of 71 km and serving 68 stations. In 2018, its passengers made more than 383 million trips.

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Helen Mussallem

Helen Kathleen Mussallem, CC, nursing educator, reformer and administrator (born 7 January 1915 in Prince Rupert, BC; died 9 November 2012 in Ottawa, ON). Mussallem started her career as a nurse at Vancouver General Hospital and was deployed overseas during the Second World War. She was instrumental in reforming nursing education in Canada and around the world. In her 18 years as the executive director of the Canadian Nurses Association, she helped transform nursing into a profession and promoted its role within Canada’s health care system.