Opiate Addiction TreatmentOpioid addiction is an emerging epidemic. Traditionally, the most commonly abused opiate drugs were morphine and heroin. Today, the problem is complicated by the rising use of opiate painkillers, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.

While opiate pills are incredibly effective at managing pain in the short-term, usually after surgery or injury, they pose a serious risk of long-term dependence, abuse and overdose. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 15 million people worldwide are addicted to opiates and 69,000 die from overdose every year.

Because they affect the part of the brain responsible for respiratory regulation, a high dose of opiates can cause a person’s heart to stop beating. Even in the case of a non-fatal overdose, a prolonged lack of oxygen can still cause irreversible brain damage.

There are growing concerns within the global health community over the strong link between opiate painkillers and heroin use. In the 1960s, more than 80% of people following an opiate addiction treatment reported starting with heroin. Newer research from the early 2000s reveals that 75% of people receiving opiate addiction treatment reported starting with prescription opiate painkillers.

Naloxone, a powerful emergency drug that reverses the effects of overdose, is used worldwide to prevent death once an overdose occurs. In most countries, naloxone is only available to health professionals and emergency responders.

This means a person must receive immediate medical attention at the onset of overdose symptoms. However, the people most likely to witness overdose include friends and family members. WHO recommends that naloxone be made available to friends and family members as well as health care workers in order to increase people’s chances of surviving an overdose.

It’s important to note that preventing overdose does not in itself control opiate abuse. People also need to stabilize their health in order to control their addiction in the long run. Canada recently pioneered an experimental health policy with that intention. September’s amendment to the nation’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act will allow doctors to prescribe controlled amounts of heroin to addicts in order to stabilize their dependence.

The policy aims to achieve two main goals. First, by administering addicts a controlled amount of heroin under professional supervision, doctors hope to avoid the type of overdose wherein someone takes a lethal amount of an opiate substance at one time. Second, they hope that the provision of medically “clean” heroin will prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases through intravenous needle sharing.

Canada’s new policy reflects a global movement to rethink opiate addiction treatment. Whereas the traditional view on drug policy has been to incarcerate drug users, some countries are implementing legally-sanctioned alternatives.

For instance, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, Spain, Denmark, Australia, and Canada have supervised injection centers where opiate addicts can get safe injection kits, information about addiction and overdose, treatment referrals and access to medical staff. Some centers also offer counseling and hygienic amenities, like toilets and showers.

What supervised injection centers and Canada’s new policy have in common is the belief that addiction is a disease before it is a crime, and should be treated as such. Thus, it becomes the responsibility of a country’s health care system and government to provide safe care.

But what would Canada’s new policy look like in a global context? To start, countries looking to implement a similar policy would need to have reliable health care infrastructure — that means sanitary medical facilities, trained health workers and strong security. Unfortunately, that rules out many low-income nations who don’t have the financial means to uphold such standards.

On the other hand, the United Nations predicts that drug use over the course of the next 35 years will have a disproportionately high effect on urban populations in developing nations. Finding new ways to manage addiction could help developing nations spend less money on prisons where addicts typically end up serving long sentences at the cost of the state.

Moreover, if intravenous drug use happens under medical supervision, then people in condensed urban communities would be less exposed to contaminated needles, illegal drug sales or other intoxicated people.

The amendment to Canada’s drug policy demonstrates how drug policy is changing worldwide. Opiate abuse is just one example of how trends in drug use are an important factor in policy reform.

Jessica Levitan
Photo: Flickr

Canada's Global Health InitiativesThis article details a few examples of Canada‘s global health initiatives.

Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research

Founded in 2001, the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research describes itself as a “not-for-profit organization promoting better and more equitable health worldwide through the production and use of knowledge.” The coalition started as an informal network and has since transformed into an important tool in Canada’s health research.

The coalition’s main purpose is to bring together groups of people to communicate and take action regarding global health issues. Members of the coalition include global health researchers, organizations that have an interest in funding global health research, and members of the general public who share the passion of fighting to improve health worldwide. Research challenges are then analyzed within low and middle-income countries.

University of British Columbia

Located in Vancouver, the University of British Columbia has focused on a neglected global diseases initiative. Neglected global diseases are illnesses that are disproportionately present in the world’s poorest areas, including malaria, HIV/AIDS, conditions affecting maternal and child health and various tropical diseases. These illnesses can be classified under this category because they are able to thrive in places that generally have unreliable water supplies, poor sanitation and inadequate access to healthcare facilities.

The university’s initiative is to build a network between the fields of biology, pharmacology, business, social policy, economics and law. These fields are important because together, they are able to examine the underlying causes and social climates that generate poverty and furthermore trigger neglected global diseases. With these social factors in mind, Canada’s global health initiatives and research can become more targeted and efficient. This interdisciplinary approach is highly innovative at a time when social determinants are becoming increasingly intertwined with global health.

G7 Health Commitments

This September, representatives attended the G7 Health Minister’s Meeting in Kobe, Japan. The purpose of this meeting was to bring together health leaders of G7 nations and organizations to discuss how to advance progress regarding global health, particularly regarding the subjects of combating antimicrobial resistance and achieving universal health care coverage.

Leaders were able to reiterate elements of Canada’s health research actions, namely strengthening emergency responses to health crises and addressing the challenge of antimicrobial resistance. The meeting also provided Canadian leaders with the chance to hold additional meetings with health leaders from Japan, France, Germany and the United Kingdom in order to exchange experiences and organize future collaboration in the fight against global health issues.

Overall, one can see that Canada’s health research and commitments are both diverse and robust. The nation has focused itself on working to improve established health concerns as well as creating new strategies to combat them. All of the examples above involve cooperation between different organizations and nations, which is certainly a key factor for being successful in the fight against global health concerns.

Nathaniel Siegel

Photo: Flickr

Canadian Refugee System
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), refugees are “people fleeing conflict or persecution. They are defined and protected in international law, and must not be expelled or returned to situations where their life and freedom are at risk.” Below are 10 facts about the Canadian refugee system.

  1. The Canadian Refugee system has two primary sections: the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program and the In-Canada Asylum Program.
  2. The Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program deals with claims for asylum that come from outside of Canada.
  3. The In-Canada Asylum Program works to help people making refugee protection claims from within Canada.
  4. Initial assistance for refugees coming to Canada comes from the federal Canadian government, a private sponsor (such as an organization or wealthy person), or the Province of Quebec.
  5. Income support for refugees is provided for up to one year or until the refugee/refugee’s family becomes self-sufficient, whichever comes first.
  6. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) funds language training in English and French for incoming refugees who lack the language skills necessary to function successfully in Canada.
  7. Canada has a long history of accepting refugees, stretching back to 1770 when they allowed Quakers (who were being pushed out of America due to their religious practices) to settle in southern Ontario.
  8. Canada’s Immigration Act of 1976 required the government to establish targets for immigration and consult explicitly with provinces regarding Canadian immigration (including refugee immigration).
  9. In 1986, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees awarded the people of Canada the distinguished Nansen medal for their efforts during the Indochina refugee crisis of 1979-1980, wherein Canada helped settle over sixty thousand refugees.
  10. Currently, as part of the #WelcomeRefugees initiative, Canada has been resettling Syrian refugees across the country. As of June 2016, the government resettled upwards of 28,000 Syrian refugees.

Bayley McComb

Photo: Migration Bureau Corp.

Toronto_World Partnership WalkToronto was one of the many major cities that joined the 32nd annual 2016 World Partnership Walk to increase awareness and raise money for global poverty.

Each year the Aga Khan Foundation Canada, (AKFC), an international development organization and registered charity, hosts the event. AKFC is a nonprofit international development agency helping to find solutions to alleviate global poverty. The organization focuses on improving the living conditions of those living in poverty, regardless of faith, origin or gender.

On May 29, there were over 10,000 participants in Toronto, who gathered at the Metro Hall in David Pecaut Square. Last year, more than 40,000 individuals participated in the event from Montreal, Ottawa, Regina, Vancouver and Victoria, helping to raise over $7 million.

Canadians are motivated to mobilize and donate to the event because they want to see global poverty levels reduce even further. According to the World Bank, there are 1 billion fewer people living in poverty globally than there were 25 years ago.

Many families are driven to participate in the annual event, as 100 percent of the donations go toward AKFC programs. In addition, the event offers memorable experiences through activities that inform, educate and entertain all participants from the young to the old.

Based in Canada, AKFC works to promote the discussion of global issues and works to build partnerships with Canadian institutions. The organization began operations in 1980 and kicked off its first walk in 1985 when a group of women from Vancouver raised $55,000. Now, the event is held in 10 cities each year and AKFC has raised $95 million since the first walk.

The 2016 World Partnership Walk is the largest event in Canada supporting international development in 14 countries. AKFC concentrates specifically on improving access to education and healthcare, food security, producing economic opportunities and constructing strong communities and local institutions.

Kimber Kraus

Photo: Flickr

dev without borders
A 24-hour break poverty hackathon between Kenyans and Canadians aims to develop a solution to tackle rural poverty and to improve lives of Kenyans.

Developers Without Borders, a Canadian non-profit organization, hosted the hackathon. The non-profit runs an online platform connecting software developers worldwide with international development projects.

The hackathon took place in Nairobi and Toronto over Skype and provided an opportunity for more than 200 Canadian and Kenyan software developers to work together. The hackathon trained software developers to build SMS, hardware and mobile web solutions, which will improve health, education and agriculture to the people of rural Kenya.

Danielle Thé, founder of Developers Without Borders, said, “The core of Break Poverty Hackathons are to build cross-continental relationships between software developers in different countries. By listening to others before we build, hackathon attendees at Break Poverty will create technology that aren’t just cool, but immensely life changing for people living in poverty.”

Participants in Toronto spent part of the event learning about real issues on the ground in Kenya, then coming up with ideas that could improve conditions and issues people face on a daily basis. The developers worked together to create realistic solutions to education, business and farming problems. Some of the apps created could help residents in areas such as measuring the market prices of their agriculture or monitoring maternal health.

“The number one goal is increasing access to information,” Thé said.

The winning solutions from the Break Poverty hackathon will be implemented by Free the Children in some of Kenya’s most remote areas. Free the Children is an international charity and educational partner that works to free children and their families from poverty and exploitation.

Developers Without Borders believes that solutions to international development issues will not come about if people work in isolation. The non-profit wants to continue to tackle rural poverty around the world.

Jordan Connell

Sources: Development Diaries, Disrupt Africa, Free the Children, Metro News
Photo: Devs Without Borders

There is an almost universal understanding that a lack of education is almost always a ticket to poverty. From rural India to modern Japan, when children miss out on quality education, it sets them on a difficult path to poverty.

But the United Way of Windsor-Essex in Ontario, Canada is putting their foot down, and starting up a program to make sure low-income students get started off on the right foot. Twenty kids from underprivileged backgrounds are being placed in an immersive program set to get them off through school and off the poverty track.

Each of the youths, who start high school this month, have signed five-year agreements that commit them to finishing high school and keeping their grades up.

In return for doing well in school, the students receive special mentoring, after-school tutoring and counseling options, and perhaps most uniquely – $1,000 will be set aside each year towards each student’s post-secondary education.

A recent report by United Way found that roughly a quarter of county residents under 17 lived in low-income families, and more than half of those in single-parent households are living in poverty.

The report further found that family income has a strong effect on the “child’s cognitive, behavioral, and physical outcomes, as well a lesser relationship on social development.” Children from lower-income families, according to the report, are at a significant disadvantage compared to their higher-income peers.

Poverty places many challenges on young adults, including increased mental strain, the risk of poor nutrition, and, of course, reduced educational opportunities. According to Lorraine Goddard, CEO of the local United Way, many of the students in the pilot program come from “working poor” families in which the head of household is often struggling with multiple jobs to make ends meet.

“You become discouraged, you can be ostracized — kids give up,” said Goddard. The personal and financial support, which comes from individual donors, “builds a sense of hope in these kids,” said Goddard.

Participation in the On Track to Success program offers participating students a reprieve from some of the stresses of living in a low-income home, giving them more time and energy to devote to their education.

Even just completing high school generally allows individuals to earn an average of $10,000 more than someone without a diploma. Completing college earns an average of nearly $17,000 more than just a high school diploma.

By helping these students succeed now in high school and starting them with the funds to attend college, the United Way is putting these students on the path out of poverty.

Gina Lehner

Sources: Windsor Star, We are United
Photo: tucsoncitizen

Every minute, 28 girls around the world who are under the age of 18 are forced into marriage. Child marriage is one of the most serious human rights violations of today. An average of 15 million girls are annually forced to marry before they are of legal marriageable age, and the consequences can be severe. Child brides are more likely to face domestic violence, HIV/AIDS and complications during pregnancy. Some brides are able to escape their marriage, but are then forced to return to an abusive home because they are not able to survive on their own.

Although there are laws that prohibit child marriage, these marriages still persist for many reasons, including poverty and cultural traditions. Parents who are poor tend to try to marry their children off at an earlier age in order to have one less mouth to feed. Also, some countries still practice dowry-giving (in which the bride’s family has to give a present to a groom at the time of marriage). Since dowries are lower for younger brides, many families who feel the need to give a dowry try to marry their daughters off at a young age.

Luckily, there are programs in place that work to reduce the amount of child marriages taking place throughout the world. One of the main ways to help is to increase the amount of access to education that girls receive. Girls who are able to complete their education are more likely to be able to support themselves, and therefore less likely to be forced into marriage in order to survive. Educating communities also plays a large part in decreasing the number of child marriages which occur.

Canada has been an important player in the fight against early and forced marriages. As Girls Not Brides states, in 2013, Canada and Zambia co-led a U.N. Resolution to combat child, early and forced marriages. They are working to pass a second resolution by mid-November of 2015. Canada has also give $20 million to UNICEF in order to fight child marriage in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gambia, Yemen and Zambia.

The Canadian Broadcasting Channel reports that on Wednesday, July 8, 2015, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister announced that the government would give $10 million to end child, early and forced marriages worldwide. $2.3 million of that money is to go towards promoting education and skills training for girls in the Commonwealth countries, and the rest of the money is meant for local community groups, governments and NGOs which work to end child marriages.

This increase in funding is part of the Canadian Government’s Muskoka Initiative, a $3.5 billion pledge which focuses on maternal, child and newborn health. Eleven Canadian NGOs are going to share $180 million in the next five years in order to help with projects which address nutrition, sanitation, hygiene and health worker training.
Increasing aid is an important step towards making certain foreign affairs issues a priority. By giving money to fight child marriage, Canada reinforces just how important it is to end the human rights violation of forced marriages once and for all.

Ashrita Rau

Sources: Yahoo News, Girls Not Brides 1, Girls Not Brides 2, CBC, UNICEF
Photo: Punch


Alberta Canada is enacting poverty reduction measures that have been long talked about by many experts in the field. The proposed “mincome” program guarantees a minimum income to people who need it. The program would give between $900 and $1,450 per month to households currently receiving welfare. Unlike other programs aimed at boosting household incomes, the mincome program allocates the funds without set guidelines on how to spend it, allowing the process to be streamlined—an attractive idea in comparison to multiple binding and restricting programs for different allowances. The mincome would be implemented as a “negative income tax,” working as the reverse of a regular income tax, helping to boost those below a designated amount.

In a few Canadian towns and U.S. cities, similar programs have been piloted in the past. The results suggest that although, as expected, hours worked generally decreased as a result of the stipend, there were promising social benefits. Most common benefits seen were higher levels of educational attainment and fewer hospital visits, related specifically to mental health. The findings suggest that granting the poor a regulated guaranteed income alleviates high stress and gives children who often feel the need to help support their families in times of economic turbulence enough stability to stay in school and receive an education. These results have, or course, tremendous benefits for the country in the long-run. Higher educational attainment is associated with lower crime rates and higher workforce and political participation. Among many economists, particularly left-wing anti-poverty activists, the idea of a guaranteed income for those below the poverty line has been a popular topic for many years. However, the new findings have brought the idea back into light.

Still, critics remain. Most commonly, the fear is that the program will allow those who do nor work to continue doing so, comfortably. Also, the fact that the mincome would be funded by higher taxes could bring back the very problems that the policy is trying to eliminate. Still, many experts agree that the benefits outweigh the risks. While the program is still relatively new and therefore lacks the abundant research needed for fierce backing, if implemented in Alberta, more data can be collected to be analyzed for the potential for more widespread implementation. Although the program may seem only feasible for developed countries like Canada and the United States, similar programs have been tested in countries such as India and Malawi. Tailoring the program to fit the needs of the country and of the people could allow for widespread growth and poverty reduction. The program is still experimental, but if the data continues to support the policy, more and more political leaders could be convinced of program’s benefits and broader use.

Emma Dowd

Sources: National Post, PRI, The Star
Photo: The Globe and Mail

For quite some time, Canadian health officials have conducted thorough research to trace the cause of unstable housing. Now, officials have sorted out the missing link: bad health.

A 2005 published study by researcher Liz Evans presented the connection shared between HIV-sufferers and occupied hotel residency. At the time of the research, Evans illustrated the fact that 80% of Canada’s single-rooming units in hotels (estimated at 6,000) were located in Canada’s poorest Downtown Eastside, in which rooms were frequently occupied by those suffering from HIV.

One solution was to remove the hotel units; however, Evans knew that such an approach would result in “catastrophic” consequences. The analyst went on to state that the units were not “evils,” but rather an escape for HIV-sufferers who live in fear caused by social rejection.

Years would progress with minimal updates that validated Evans’ work until 2007, when TimesArgus.com broke a story on the 2010 Vancouver Games’ organizers deliberating if low-income housing should be moved elsewhere before the event. Although the organizers initially told the public that housing rights would be “respected,” over 700 low-income residents were displaced that same year in addition to inexpensive housing being converted into tourist venues. This action ignited strong backlash from a league of protestors.

The incident served as a rubric sheet for medical analysts to test theories that have longed signified a potential connection between housing issues and the trend of bad health yielded by the likes of street-involved youth.

Unearthed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, street-involved youths typically have a background of family abuse and a violent home environment. The aftermath follows with subjection to low income, low education, and lack of support or inability to pay first/last month’s rent; all of which are triggers to unstable housing.

Once housing becomes an issue, the vulnerability of infections caused by negative coping systems, such as drug use or unprotected sex, serves as a high risk.

In studying further developments, lead researcher C. Kim went on to run tests involving Vancouver-native drug users and non-drug users. Based on the test results, Kim discovered that active drug users were hepatitis C viral-carriers and singled out unstable housing as the prime connection.

With these results, varying researchers revisited the work done by Evans, who attempted to signify a connection involving HIV-sufferers and extreme occupancy within hotel units. It was in 2014 that analysts determined that the significant increase in emergency department-styled housing was being led by HIV-sufferers.

As conducted in Evans’ work, researchers indicated that those residing in the housing feared social backlash, further contributing to poor health caused by guilt and depression. In both the study and a separate one occurring one year later, analysts conclusively noted that like street-involved youths, unstable housing holds a poor-health effect on HIV-sufferers, where potential enablement of guilt, depression and drug use patterns pose as big risks.

So what exactly is being done to aid the problem?

For street-involved youths who have endured a brutal history, several intervention programs have been established to help those in need. Other establishments like Calgary-based Infinity Project provide youths with a permanent home in a community of their choosing, equipped with support and affordable options to secure them a better life. Similarly, support centers are urged, for those suffering from HIV, to decrease health-care costs and to minimize health problems relating to depression.

As positive networks continue to decrease the rate of unstable housing, optimism for more awareness of the issue comes with wishful thinking of the conflict fading away.

– Jeff Varner

Sources: NCBI, TimesArgus.com, NCBI, Public Health Agency of Canada, NCBI
Photo: Huffington Post

Earlier this month, the Canadian government passed the Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act (ESTMA), an energy transparency law that aims to shed more light on the financial activity of energy companies in foreign countries. The law applies to nearly 2,000 energy companies that are registered in Canada or listed on Toronto’s stock exchange and will require them to publish detailed records of payments made to foreign governments.

The ESTMA came just before the G7 Summit on June 7, and is the product of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s commitment at the 2013 G8 Summit to establish stricter standards for the reporting of financial activity by Canadian extractive companies.

The stated purpose of the law is “to foster better transparency to ensure that the resource extractive industries support proper development in the countries where they operate, while at the same time making it harder to conceal illicit payments.” According to Canadian Securities Law, the Act will require affected companies to report any payments made in relation to the commercial development of oil, gas or minerals that exceed either the amount prescribed by regulation or $100,000 on a number of types of payments, including royalties, production entitlements, dividends and infrastructure improvement funding.

While a similar U.S. transparency law has existed since a 2010 amendment to the Dodd-Frank Act, no rules have been officially implemented for extractive industry activity abroad. The Securities and Exchange Commission threw out regulations written in 2013 after a lawsuit from the American Petroleum Institute – the oil industry’s principal U.S. lobbying organization – claimed the regulations were too punitive for its member companies. In the fall of 2014, Oxfam International filed its own lawsuit against the SEC for failure to implement previously mandated regulations and expects a decision “any day now” on whether or not a federal court will set a timeline for the SEC.

As of now, the majority of the world’s largest oil companies, including Exxon Mobil and Chevron, are nor required to report payments made to foreign governments.

For civilians in oil-rich countries, the detriments for allowing foreign energy corporations to extract their resources often outweigh the benefits they realize for hosting them.

“In many countries that are rich in oil, gas and other non-renewable natural resources, the communities from whose territory the resources are extracted bear the brunt of environmental and human rights impacts associated with extractive activity but see few tangible benefits,” said EarthRights International (ERI) in a statement in 2014. “We, along with our partners in Burma and elsewhere, believe that knowing what governments receive from extractive companies is an important step for communities to hold governments responsible for the use of natural resource revenues and to advocate for a fair share of the benefits.”

Since 2009 ERI has worked with Oxfam and other members of the Publish What You Pay Us (PWYP) coalition to fight for revenue transparency in the extractive industry. The stated mission of the PWYP is to “[help] citizens of resource-rich developing countries hold their governments accountable for the management of revenues from the oil, gas and mining industries.”

“Natural resource revenues are an important source of income for governments of over 50 developing countries,” states the PWYP coalition. “When properly managed these revenues should serve as a basis for poverty reduction, economic growth and development rather than exacerbating corruption, conflict and social divisiveness.”

Proponents of stricter oversight of extractive industries note that a lack of financial transparency raises doubts as to how much civilians in host countries benefit from the extraction of their resources by foreign energy companies. Detailed records published by energy companies will reveal more precisely who is benefiting from extractive industry spending and whether – and to what degree – recipient governments use that spending to benefit their own people.

– Zach VeShancey

Sources: Canadian Securities Law, Devex, Earthrights, Publish What you Pay
Photo: The Star