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Lauren Vogel | CMAJ | November 24, 2017

  • Health Canada has known for years that oral health in First Nations and Inuit communities is much worse than in the rest of the country but has not “finalized a strategic approach to reduce those differences,” according to the auditor general of Canada. Poor oral health in these communities has been attributed to factors such as higher rates of smoking and limited access to nutritious food and dentists.
  • The number of opioid prescriptions has increased in the past five years but doctors are prescribing smaller quantities, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of prescriptions increased 6.8% (to 21.5 million) but the number of doses dispensed decreased 4.6% (to 226 million).
  • The federal government must hike tobacco taxes to meet its goal of reducing smoking to less than 5% of the population by 2035, down from the current rate of 14.2%, according to an internal report from Health Canada. The department estimates that taxes must rise to 80% of retail price.
  • Health Canada is considering whether to reclassify and regulate tramadol as an opioid in response to the rise in prescriptions of the painkiller. Prescriptions for tramadol rose 30% between 2012 and 2016, and the number of doses dispensed increased by more than 23%.
  • Quebec will increase its health budget by $630 million over six years. Funding has been earmarked for seniors’ care, mental health services and a public education campaign on the risks of cannabis use.
  • An increase in the number of doctors in British Columbia didn’t improve access to care, according to a study published in Health Affairs. Even though the primary care physician workforce increased 13% between 2005 and 2012, patient visits dropped 14% and the number of patients per practice declined by 10%.
  • Some family physicians in Nova Scotia protested a new funding scheme that would see hospitalists make more than family physicians in the community. Under the new scheme, hospitalists would earn $1300 a day and several hundred extra for working after hours, on weekends or during holidays.
  • A Toronto study examining responses to vaccination found that parents’ behavior affects children’s distress and their ability to cope with future vaccinations.  Researchers found that children experienced less pain and distress when parents avoided “stress-promoting” behaviors such as repeating reassurances or apologizing.
  • Several Nova Scotia doctors lobbied a senate committee on national finance to protect their income from proposed federal tax changes that would reduce the benefits of incorporation. The committee is touring the country to gather input on the controversial reforms.
  • The processed food industry hasn’t met voluntary sodium reduction targets. Five years ago, Ottawa asked the industry to reduce sodium by 25% in most products by the end of 2016.

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