Policy Prescriptions: Health Policy in Canada – March 22, 2017

Good morning subscribers. How did you start off your Wednesday? Are you reading us on the treadmill or eating an Egg McMuffin, squeezed between commuters on the TTC? Even if your physical fitness wasn’t top of mind as you dragged yourself from bed this morning, health policy issues are all around us in Canada these days. This week, we’ll examine Toronto’s response to the opioid crisis, Canada’s regulation of natural health products, and the impact of food waste on health outcomes.

This edition of the brief was prepared by Caleb Holden and Leah Mulholland. 

 Policy Rx

  • In April 2016, the Government of British Columbia declared a public health emergency to respond to the rapid rise of opioid-related overdoses. BC quickly became the epicentre of the national opioid crisis, the province faced over 900 overdose deaths in 2016, and policymakers across Ontario are now also working to prepare for an expected increase in overdoses. For Toronto, this may finally mean action on a comprehensive harm reduction strategy, and the opening of three supervised injection facilities, a first for central Canada.[Hazlett / PPGR]
  • For those who want an update on the PPGR piece above, the City of Toronto has just approved an Overdose Action Plan containing 25 recommendations. Included on this list is a call for the free distribution of naloxone, an opioid antidote; the approval of diacetylmorphine (a methadone alternative); and the online publication of overdose data for public health research. As the article points out, these changes cannot come soon enough for those currently working on harm reduction in the city. [Rieti / CBC]
  • The Government of Canada is currently reviewing its regulations regarding natural health products (NHPs), and while Health Canadaspokesperson Gary Holub has maintained that NHPs pose a lower risk to Canadians than do prescription drugs, he has also stated that “low risk does not mean no risk.” In his latest article, PPGR Staff Writer Marvin J.S. Ferrer outlines the motivation behind these proposed changes and the accompanying challenges Health Canada should be ready to face. [Ferrer / PPGR]
  • With $31 billion lost each year in Canadian food waste, there is an obvious need for policy makers to determine how to establish a more food-secure future. Although many identify food shortages as the central problem, evidence suggests that improving the modes of food distribution and cutting down on waste will create a more effective food value chain. Food is integral to our lives, and if we want to improve the health outcomes of all Canadians all levels of government will need to work collaboratively. [Mak / PPGR]
  • The Regulated Health Professions Act, which was created to improve regulatory oversight of health professionals, identifies homeopathy and naturopathy as two regulated health professions. However, some believe that these practices lack scientific credibility and are not evidence-based practices. Are Health Canada’s standards too easy on these fields? [Ferrer / PPGR]
We hope you enjoyed this week’s edition – Remember, a PPGR article a day keeps the doctor away! The final edition of this year’s Brief will make its way into your inboxes on March 29th.