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More protests against funding cuts in Ontario, a spike in sexually transmitted infections, and the health benefits of walkable neighborhoods in this week’s top Canadian health news.

Health News Recap

  • Health Canada will reduce the waiting period for blood donation for men who have sex with men from one year to three months. It’s an incremental step toward eliminating the waiting period as gay rights advocates have urged, according to Canadian Blood Services.
  • Youth mental health visits to emergency rooms increased by 75% across Canada from 2006–07 to 2017–18, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Mental health hospitalizations of young people increased by 65% nationwide over the same period.
  • More than 400 public health professionals, researchers, policy makers, academics and trainees signed an open letter decrying Ontario’s recent public health cuts. Doctors, nurses and lawyers also rallied at the provincial legislature in protest of legal aid cuts that they warned will endanger the health and safety of vulnerable people.
  • The chief science officer at Public Health Ontario will lead a new research centre focused on boosting immunization rates and countering anti-vaccination fears. The new Centre for Vaccine Preventable Diseases will be the first academic centre in Canada to focus on public perceptions and uptake of vaccinations.
  • Alberta Health Services warned of alarming rates of sexually transmitted infections in the province. Gonorrhea cases increased from 1900 in 2014 to more than 5000 in 2018, and syphilis cases jumped from 160 in 2014 to 1500 in 2018.
  • People who live in walkable neighborhoods have lower rates of chronic illness, which saves the health system tens of millions of dollars a year, according to new research from the University of British Columbia. Direct health care costs for diabetes were 52% lower for people living in walkable neighborhoods; costs associated with hypertension and heart disease were 47% and 31% lower, respectively.
  • Alberta paused construction of Edmonton’s “super lab” and the government is looking into the ramifications of cancelling the project. The $590-million lab, announced by the previous government in 2016, would have consolidated lab services for Edmonton under Alberta Health Services.
  • Waits for MRI procedures have dropped across all British Columbia health authorities in the past year. The Northern Health Authority reported dramatic decreases: 50th percentile wait times dropped from an average 71 days to 24, and 90th percentile waits dropped from an average 257 days to 55.
  • A poll commissioned by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority found that 38% of the city’s resident felt health services changed for the worse over the past year, up from 20% who felt that way in 2017. A dramatic overhaul of services saw the closures of an emergency room and urgent care centre in the city this year.
  • Ontario will set a firm date to cancel all remaining red-and-white health cards. For more than two decades, the province has gradually replaced the cards with more secure photo ID to prevent fraud and misuse.

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