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Healthcare in Canada
Canada is a picturesque country famous for its maple syrup and hockey. This United States neighbor is also the second-largest country in the world, home to over 37.5 million people and 80,000 different animal species. Although tourists visiting Canada do not typically think about issues such as healthcare when visiting the country, this topic is highly controversial and important for most Canadian citizens. Here are five facts about healthcare in Canada.

5 Facts About Healthcare in Canada

  1. Canada’s universal healthcare does not cover prescription drugs. When people think about universal healthcare, they may mistakenly imagine free or very low-cost healthcare for every aspect of medicine. In reality, despite the country’s support of a universal healthcare system, only about 70% of health costs receive public funding. Canadians must cover the remaining expenses either directly or through private insurance.
  2. Chronic respiratory diseases are a significant part of many Canadian lives. As of 2012, over 1.9 million Canadians aged 35 and older —9.6% of the country’s total population — suffer Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). COPD is a condition that obstructs the airways, causing shortness of breath and inducing heavy coughing. Combined with the projected growth in the number of afflicted individuals over time, this figure indicates that many Canadians will endure COPD at some point during their lives. Doctors in Canada treat this disease with a variety of medications, including antibiotics and opioids.
  3. The majority of doctors are self-employed and not government employees. Doctors bill the government for their services since all Canadians have an entitlement to free care from a physician. However, Canadian doctors work for themselves, coordinating their hours and offices. Doctors in Canada are also personally responsible for paying for their employees and for the spaces in which they practice.
  4. Canada recognizes mental illness as a serious issue. Mental illness impacts approximately one in every five Canadians, or 6.7 million people, every year. In fact, 500,000 Canadians each week are unable to work as a result of mental illness. Given the volume of citizens struggling with mental health, Canada has developed a necessary appreciation for this issue by legally recognizing mental illness as a medical condition and requiring insurance to cover psychiatric care. This coverage is accessible to nearly all Canadian citizens, regardless of medical history or income level. Although Canada’s strong acknowledgment of mental health and coverage of mental illness often receive underappreciation, this country truly prioritizes mental well-being.
  5. Cancer is Canada’s main medical concern. A study by cancer.ca shows that cancer is the number one cause of death in Canada. The study further reveals that one in two Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime, and one in four Canadians will ultimately die from the illness. These statistics have concerning implications for the country’s citizens, as well as their friends, families and employers. Predictions determine that lung, breast and prostate cancers are will afflict the highest population of Canadians in 2020, with lung cancer yielding the highest death rate at 25.5%. Given the substantial risk throughout the country and the preventable nature of this disease, many Canadians argue that greater actions must occur to prevent citizens from dying of cancer.

While the natural beauty of Canada might mask the true complexity of the country’s healthcare structure for many tourists, citizens see value in understanding and improving this system. Although citizens receive coverage for a majority of medical expenses, governments are ultimately responsible for continuing to foster efficient, affordable and extensive health programs to guarantee the well-being of all Canadians.

– Kate Estevez
Photo: Flickr

Epsom salt
In order to bring attention to the life-threatening pregnancy condition Pre-eclampsia, many health organizations observed World Pre-eclampsia Day on May 22, which allowed PATH the perfect opportunity to share its progress with an innovation that uses Epsom salt to save lives.

The nonprofit global health organization’s new innovation aims to make preventive solutions for pre-eclampsia and eclampsia more accessible in lower-income countries.

Every day about 800 women dies from preventable pregnancy-related causes, like pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO also reported that 99 percent of these maternal deaths take place in low-income countries.

How Is Epsom Salt Used to Save Lives?

Beginning in the 20th century, doctors discovered that Epsom salt worked as a method of treating pre-eclampsia, a condition that results in high-blood pressure and damage to the liver and kidneys, among other symptoms.

Despite its name, Epsom salt is not a salt at all, but rather it is magnesium sulfate and is known to prevent and deter convulsions that are common with pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, according to a historical report published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).

For women in countries with more resources, magnesium sulfate is administered to them through an intravenous (IV) infusion before, during and after childbirth. Women in countries without access to reliable electricity cannot use IVs and must obtain the magnesium sulfate treatment via intramuscular injections which can be more painful, according to PATH.

While nearly 90 percent of the world’s population has access to electricity, stated by the World Bank data, 59 percent of healthcare facilities in low and middle-income countries lack access to reliable electricity, according to a report published on Science Direct. 

What Is PATH Doing About It?

Besides access to electricity, IV infusions can be difficult for low-income countries to access, taking into account the cost of purchasing, training and replacing parts. Knowing this, PATH began to develop a technology that would allow for a more reliable method of injecting medicine without the need for extensive training or electricity.

It took PATH innovators a few years to find the perfect technology that was simultaneously affordable, easy to use and did not need batteries or electricity. Ultimately, the group decided on using a bicycle pump, according to an article written by one of the developers, resulting in RELI Delivery System, or reusable, electricity-free, low-cost infusion delivery system.

The bicycle pump was able to have consistent delivery rates into the patient with just a few manual hand pumps. In 2016, PATH was able to produce a prototype and received two awards: the Saving Lives at Birth seed award and an honorary Peer Choice award.

The next step for the RELI Delivery System is to use the money from the awards and donations to PATH and follow the system in Rwanda and Uganda to see it work in action and gain feedback.

How Effective Is This Treatment?

A 2002 study conducted by The Magpie Trial Collaboration Group found that the use of magnesium sulfate halves the risk of eclampsia in pregnant women with pre-eclampsia. The same results were supported by a 2010 study conducted by several groups including the Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Leeds and Bradford Institute for Health Research.

In 2011, WHO recognized magnesium sulfate as a priority medicine for mothers for major causes of reproductive and sexual health mortality and morbidity.

Although the use of magnesium sulfate can ultimately save women’s lives, there are some side effects that come along with the treatment, including skin flushing (more common with intramuscular injections), nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, confusion, muscle weakness and abscesses.

While something as simple as Epsom salt being used to save lives is innovative in itself, developers, like those at PATH, are continuously working to ensure that everyone has equal access to these health benefits.

Makenna Hall
Photo: Pixabay

Emergency Medical Care in Developing NationsNearly 88 percent of injury-related deaths happen in poverty-stricken countries. There is an urgent demand for emergency care in low- to middle-income countries. One study found that, in these countries, emergency professionals see 10 times the number of cases that a primary doctor does, and the rate of death in these areas is extremely high.

Many emergency care centers in developing countries are severely underfunded and under-resourced. Some lack basic medical instruments while others have medical professionals that work without training or any sort of protocol. The burden of emergency medical care in poor nations is not only due to the lack of medical care or training, but also poor infrastructure. Together for Safer Roads outlines the difficulties presented by deteriorating roads or indirect routes that affect both transport to the emergency scene and transport to the hospital. Improving these roads reduces the likelihood of crashes and unsafe traffic routes and increase the efficiency of trauma transport.

Kenya

Another study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) has outlined a significant lack of emergency care. Only 25 percent of Kenyans are covered by health insurance, meaning that many must pay for medical care themselves. With so many bearing the financial burden of medical care, it is less likely they would seek it in an emergency.

There are barely any skilled professionals working in emergency medical clinics, resulting in a lack of specific training for emergency medical situations. However, it has recently been recognized as a specialty by both the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board and the Clinical Officers Council (COC). The other issue at hand in Kenya is the lack of resources. The nation is severely lacking in ambulances, and due to the significant cost of transport by ambulance, many patients take private means like taxis. There is also not a reliable dispatch system in Kenya, making the rapid response of an ambulance unlikely.

The study concluded that there needs to be a creation of new policies at a national level to improve access to emergency care. It also states it is crucial that Kenya recognize emergency care as a significant part of the healthcare system in order to develop authority for emergency response, improve the expensive cost of emergency care and implement a communication network for an emergency system.

Haiti

The country of Haiti has been struck by several natural disasters, making the need for an adequate emergency system crucial. One of the largest issues is the location of clinics and hospitals. The country has around 60, but they are primarily located in larger cities, leaving rural areas with little to no access to trauma care.

Basic necessities like gloves and medicine are things patients have to pay for before they can receive care. Even asthma attacks can be fatal because some cannot afford the inhaler. Also, the medical instruments patients have to pay for out-of-pocket are not necessarily the most up-to-date or high quality. Similarly to Kenya, medical professionals are rarely trained to deal with emergency situations. However, some groups have begun the effort to train professionals in Haiti to be prepared for emergency situations. Dr. Galit Sacajiu founded the Haiti Medical Education Project for this purpose after the earthquakes of 2010. Her courses not only train the nurses and doctors of Haiti but also provide them with the knowledge of what to do with the little or substandard medical instruments they have access to.

Economic Benefit of Improvement

If the amount of injury-related deaths that occur in developing nations was reduced to that of high-income countries, over 2 million lives could be saved. The same study also set out to find the economic benefit of improving emergency care. They found that, if these deaths were reduced, it could add somewhere between 42 to 59 million disability-adjusted life years averted. By using the human capital approach, they also conclude that there is an added economic benefit to the reduction in mortality of $241 to $261 billion per year.

There are several factors that contribute to the effectiveness and availability of emergency medical care in developing nations. These factors mainly concern infrastructure or quality of medical care. Although the issue of trauma care seems far from being solved, a study done by the Brookings Institution states there are indications that it may improve. By monitoring the improvements in medical care in high-income countries, they found that similar improvements were beginning to occur with emergency medical care in developing nations. As trauma care becomes increasingly recognized as an urgent need, it can improve and save thousands of lives.

– Olivia Halliburton
Photo: Wiki

Three Connections between Poverty and Chronic Disease
Chronic or long-term diseases are most common in low- and middle-income countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that poverty and chronic disease are “interconnected in a vicious cycle” in which the poorest are the most at-risk for dying. Here are three chronic diseases that affect the world’s poor in addition to suggestions from experts about how global communities can begin to address them.

High Blood Pressure

According to a recent study from Circulation journal, high blood pressure is more prevalent in low- and middle-class countries than in high-income countries. The study reports that 30% of the global population suffered from high blood pressure, or hypertension, in 2010. Health officials call high blood pressure the leading preventable cause of premature death worldwide, with 1.4 billion people at risk.

Some researchers believe that high blood pressure in low- and middle-income countries might be due to unhealthy urban diets and high-stress environments. Researchers suggest that prevention is the key to addressing high blood pressure, such as encouraging those in urban areas to intake less sodium and fewer calories. Although opinions about high blood pressure vary, these steps might help low- and middle-income countries cut down on the risks associated with high blood pressure.

Cardiovascular Diseases

Another connection between poverty and chronic disease is a group of diseases that are the number one global cause of death. About three-quarters of global deaths come from cardiovascular diseases in low- and middle-income nations. Often the poorest do not have access to health services that will detect problems with their health early on as those in high-income countries do. WHO reports the disease can even put pressure on low- or middle-income economies since they are expensive to treat.

WHO has identified that a few ways to reduce cardiovascular disease are to control tobacco use, tax foods that are high in unhealthy ingredients and provide healthy meals for school children. Other methods exist, including identifying and treating at-risk individuals as well as performing surgeries.

Bronchial Asthma

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) reports those in poverty are at higher risk of bronchial asthma due to air pollution, modernization and construction work. Expensive and inaccessible health services and medications make the problem worse. Other factors like increases in poor diets and decreases in exercise add to the rates of asthma in developing nations.

The NCBI reports that many people are uneducated about asthma and misunderstand how to use medications and inhalers. It recommends that health authorities improve health education programs in order to teach patients how to properly use medicines to treat their asthma.

Although these diseases are only a few among many, experts believe poverty and chronic disease are complexly bound together and harm many of the world’s poor. Hopefully, with increases in global education and better health services, developing communities can begin to attack the everyday diseases that make life in poverty even more difficult.

Addie Pazzynski

Photo: Flickr