Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ground-breaking Canadian blood pressure education program will be powerful tool in fight to reduce stroke around the world

Results from new Hypertension Management Program study revealed at American Society of Hypertension Scientific Meeting by Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario researcher Dr. Sheldon Tobe

TORONTO, May 25, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - High blood pressure - the silent killer - is taking a hit from a new, ground-breaking treatment program from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario.

Last Sunday, in New York City, Dr. Sheldon Tobe, Chair of the Canadian Hypertension Education Program (CHEP) and a long-standing Heart and Stroke Foundation researcher, unveiled a new and powerful tool in the management of hypertension at the American Society of Hypertension (ASH) Scientific Meeting - The Heart&Stroke Hypertension Management Program.

"Diagnosing high blood pressure (hypertension) and lowering it in one patient is relatively simple," says Dr. Tobe. "But keeping the pressure down in hypertensives across the entire country has proven to be a formidable challenge for patients and healthcare systems."

To test and quantify the efficacy of the Hypertension Management Program, a three-year demonstration phase was launched in 11 primary care sites (10 family health teams and one community health centre) in communities across Ontario, including Beamsville, Brighton, Deep River, Dryden, Kitchener, Mount Forest, North Bay, Shelburne, Toronto, Vermillion Bay, and Windsor.

The Hypertension Management Program consists of healthcare provider education and tools as well as patient specific tools to facilitate blood pressure management and control by providers and self-management by patients. After the initial intervention at the start of the study, the Family Health Teams continued delivering the program on their own.

"More than 3,600 patients participated in the Canadian study and blood pressure fell quickly. Remarkably after three years, patients with a diagnosis of hypertension had sustained average blood pressure reductions of 6.4/3.8 mmHg," said Dr. Tobe. The Heart&Stroke Hypertension Management Program has resulted in 41% more people in these 11 primary-care centres across Ontario keeping their high blood pressure under control.

Even modest reductions in blood pressure can dramatically decrease the incidence of cardiovascular disease.

A reduction of 5 mm Hg in systolic in blood pressure translates into:

...A 14% drop in stroke mortality
...A 9% drop in coronary heart disease and
...A 7% reduction in overall mortality

It has been shown that effective blood pressure control can reduce the incidence of stroke by up to 40%!

"This study is showing us that in hypertension, a simple inexpensive education intervention can lead to the sustained achievement of blood pressure control for at least three years," Dr. Tobe says.

Dr. Mel Cescon of the New Vision Family Health Team in Kitchener says,
"Our team was able to transfer and adapt this protocol to the diagnosis and early treatment of other chronic conditions such as diabetes."

The Canadian program will assist family physicians and healthcare providers in achieving those elusive, sustained, reductions in hypertension. Supported in large part by the Ontario government, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario collaborated with the Ontario College of Family Physicians, the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario and the Ontario Pharmacists' Association to create the program.


In 2005, cardiovascular disease cost Canada more than $21 billion a year in healthcare and lost productivity. That number is expected to climb to more than $28 billion by 2020.

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research has reported that Americans spent $29 billion for prescription cardiovascular drugs alone in 2008.

"Getting hypertension under control is one way of greatly reducing the hemorrhage of taxpayers' money," said Dr. Tobe. "For patients in the Canadian and American healthcare systems, for care-givers and administrators alike, the implementation of the Heart&Stroke Hypertension Management Program will prove beneficial financially and in terms of public health. It is imperative that we get guideline-based programs like this into everyday primary care practice right across North America."


The new protocol is guided by best practice principles.

The Heart&Stroke Hypertension Management Program demonstrates that an evidence-informed inter-professional primary healthcare provider educational intervention can successfully integrate into the practice of primary care clinicians to improve the management and control of hypertension in their patients.


According to the World Health Organization, hypertension is a major cause of disability and is the leading risk factor for premature death, causing an estimated 7.5 million deaths per year globally. More than one third of the world's population suffers from high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

The number of baby boomers headed for the high risk years for cardiovascular disease is expected to create unique stress on healthcare systems all over the world.

"These made-in-Canada results should give healthcare professionals, healthcare economists and everyone with high blood pressure cause to rejoice," said David Sculthorpe, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario.

Want to find out more about hypertension and global health? Visit:

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sinful Second Homes

from 2006 archives
by Lloyd Alter, Toronto

I admit it. I have a second home- I bought a geodesic dome many years ago, 20 foot diameter, sitting by the lake pictured to the right two and a half hours north of Toronto. Then it was quite acceptable for Bucky Fuller-loving architects to pile into VW beetles and drive off to domes surrounded by huggable trees. Now, TreeHuggers complain every time we show a cottage or cabin, saying that such a thing cannot be justified in terms of the resources and the carbon footprint. John Tierney of the New York Times ( copy here) did a disgraceful Al Gore/ Laurie David bash last week that criticized their ownership of second (and in Al's case, third) homes that we ignored at the time as being as part of a current stupid campaign to discredit him, but getting past the bashing, it is clear that the idea that second homes are sinful has resonated. I tried to do the math to see if we save enough electricity not having any air conditioners or appliances for a month to cover the fuel burned getting up there and it doesn't. Since I now have to justify it, I will try and make a case that second homes are not necessarily evil.

1) People take vacations and go somewhere. We go to our cottage, a much shorter drive than we might otherwise, and we tend to stay put. My little four-banger Miata uses 15 litres (four gallons) of anybody-but-esso each way, which we suspect is less than many people use on a daily commute to work. Occasionally I take the train.

2) second homes do not have to be big. Ours is not, it is not heated, it is not insulated, it is for summer use only. When the outdoors is your living room you do not need a lot of space.

3) where else would we learn about composting toilets?

4) Logging is dead. Farming is dead. The only jobs in the local economy are in tourism and cottage support. We buy our vegetables from the gardener down the road and our groceries from the local family owned store, and we furnished the place from the exchange at the dump- one learns to live local and support your neighbours.

5) With the internet and good phone service, we work from there almost all summer. Some in our family never leave.

6) We use a fraction of the electricity that we do in the City (nothing to run) and water (we have to pump it and deal with it, there is no sewer to throw it into)

7) We recycle like mad- we are only allowed two bags of garbage a week at the dump so nothing goes in the bag that can go into the no-limit recycling bins.

8) Out of self interest, we become obsessed with water quality, the health of our local loons, the invasive grass or mussell that we have to stop. We want to protect our environment. Everyone who has a place up here is concerned about global warming (increased forest fire risk), climate disruption (big storms= more road repairs and taxes) and habitat preservation (see cute loons above)

So I am off to the cottage for a week to do my bit to reduce the peak load on our electrical grid, to save water and live with less, and I am not going to feel guilty about it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ontario Shores Launches New Website

"Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores) is pleased to announce the launch of its new website, (Home Page pictured above). (CNW Group/Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences)".

WHITBY, Ontario, May 19, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores) is excited to announce the launch of, a new website featuring dynamic content, inspiring stories and user-friendly navigation.

The new website is informative, interactive and engaging with many new features including:

...More than 400 pages of content
...An enhanced section for patients and families
...Detailed information about Ontario Shores' programs and services
...Description of mental illnesses with signs and symptoms
...A collection of written and video stories
...Updated accessibility functions
...New sections for research and education
...An easy to use calendar that lists upcoming events
...A blog to engage neighbours in meaningful dialogue
...An online feedback form to continue advancing the site for users
...Photo and video galleries

"We conducted extensive consultations with more than 300 stakeholders and their input helped us create a website that addresses the needs of our various users," says Susan Nakhle, Director of Communications and Public Affairs. "In addition to the enriched content and improved functionality, we are excited to share the remarkable stories of our patients, their family members, staff and volunteers."

Ontario Shores would like to thank internal and external stakeholders for their input throughout the website project. Members of the community are encouraged to visit the new and provide feedback through an online survey.

About Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences:

Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores) is a leader in mental health care, providing a spectrum of specialized assessment and treatment services for people living with complex mental illness. Patients benefit from a recovery-oriented environment of care, built on compassion, inspiration and hope. Ontario Shores engages in research, education and advocacy initiatives to advance the mental health care system.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Impact of Severe Obesity Felt Far Beyond Physical - Financial Burden and Emotional Implications Also Significant

Survey finds Canadians with severe obesity motivated to lose weight, but struggle to find access to credible, long-term weight management resources

EDMONTON, May 17, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - The life-long struggle that most Canadians living with severe obesity (those with a body mass index of 35 or greater) experience as they try to lose weight, not only impacts their personal health, emotional well-being and interpersonal relationships, but it also poses a significant financial burden that can be crippling for some, a new survey from the Canadian Obesity Network-Réseau canadien en obésité (CON-RCO) finds.

The survey results, released today, suggest that while 95 per cent of severely obese Canadians want to lose weight, with over half (56 per cent) attempting weight loss between two and 20 times, only eight per cent have succeeded in attaining and maintaining weight loss. Those who spent money on weight loss methods in the past year, spent close to $900 on commercial weight loss programs; upwards of $750 on gym memberships; $600 on prescription diet pills; and close to $400 on special diets and meal replacement programs.

Nearly three-quarters (75 per cent) of these same people say they have been battling their weight for over 11 years and about one-quarter (24 per cent) say they have lost count of how many times they have tried to lose weight.

"There continues to be a misperception that obesity is simply a lifestyle issue; that obesity arises out of laziness or poor choices," says Dr. Arya M. Sharma, Scientific Director, CON-RCO. "But this survey clearly shows that patients with severe obesity want to lose weight, and that most are actively trying and have been for some time. It also highlights the frustration these individuals feel as they struggle to drop the pounds with minimal success."

Canadians Finding Motivation Through Family, Friends

In addition to the financial burden, the emotional and personal health impact of their condition weighs heavily on the minds of Canada's severely obese population. Nearly half of those surveyed say that relationships with their friends (48 per cent), family (46 per cent), children (46 per cent), and spouse or partner (44 per cent) are negatively impacted by their weight.i Just over half (55 per cent) suffer from low self-esteem, and more than one-third (37 per cent) withdraw from social situations as a result of their condition.i

Despite these setbacks, however, Canadians with severe obesity are motivated to drop the weight. The majority of respondents (84 per cent) say the main reason they want to lose weight is to improve their overall health. This is not surprising given that 75 per cent report having one or more accompanying conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, while nearly half (47 per cent) say they have two or more conditions. Other motivational factors to losing weight include: "improving self-esteem" (51 per cent), "improving mental/emotional health" (38 per cent) and inspiration from a spouse/partner (28 per cent) and children (21 per cent).i

Gillian Taggart knows first-hand the impact of living with severe obesity, experiencing both physical and emotional complications due to her condition.

"I recall having a real moment of truth one day, when I could no longer participate in everyday activities like grocery shopping or walking my children to school. At that moment, I realized how unhealthy I was, I would not live to see my children grow up," says Ms. Taggart, who has two children.

Through conversations with her physician and her own research, Ms. Taggart decided to pursue a medically-assisted procedure to help her lose weight. Since her procedure, she has lost more than 100 pounds and is now able to travel and participate in a more active lifestyle.

"Many patients come into my clinic, frustrated and depressed with their repeated failure to sustain weight loss. They feel like they've failed over and over again despite making their best efforts," says Dr. Chris Cobourn, Medical Director and Surgeon, SWLC. "It's critical that these patients understand that there is no 'one-size-fits-all' approach to weight loss. Only after understanding all the treatment options, including surgery and medically-assisted weight loss procedures, can these patients make an informed decision and start to feel empowered about living a life that goes beyond their weight."

Sixty-one per cent of Canada's severely obese population report that weight loss is an uphill battle for them as they have too much to lose and four in 10 (41 per cent) feel discouraged about trying another weight loss program for fear of failing again. In addition, 54 per cent say they feel trapped in an endless cycle of diet and exercise.

"The survey makes clear that Canadians are confused about where to go to find credible weight management resources," Dr. Sharma concludes. "Surgery wait times can be very long, the commercial weight loss industry is not regulated, so many of those products and services can be a waste of time and money, and employers are just coming around to the idea that obesity management has to move beyond simply telling people to eat less and move more. What Canadians with excess weight need most is clear guidance on how to find the help they need."

Full results on the survey are available on the CON-RCO website,

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Number of Gas Stations in Canada Continues to Decline

Annual study also reveals a continued drop in outlets affiliated with integrated refiner-marketers, lack of growth in the "big box" sector

LONDON, Ontario, May 10 /Canada NewsWire/ - The number of retail gasoline outlets in Canada continues to decline, according to a recently released annual survey of retail gasoline facilities by petroleum consultancy MJ Ervin & Associates. The annual study, entitled the National Retail Gasoline Site Census 2010, is the only comprehensive enumeration of the number of retail gasoline stations in Canada. It identified a total of 12,710 retail gas stations as of December 31, 2010; a continuation of a downward trend in the number of retail gasoline stations in Canada since 1989, when over 20,000 retail outlets existed. The 2010 outlet count represents 3.7 gas stations for every 10,000 persons in Canada.

This trend reflects an average decline of about two percent per year, over a period of time when Canada's population, has been steadily growing. "This is a consequence of a continued lack of profitability in the retailing of gasoline", states Michael Ervin, the vice president and director of consulting services for MJ Ervin & Associates (a division of The Kent Group). Despite generally healthy oil industry profits over the past several years - at least until recently - the retail sector has always been a relatively poor performer: in 2010, the wholesale "rack" to retail mark-up on a litre of regular gasoline was less than seven cents per litre at a typical urban gas station, according to pump price statistics gathered by MJ Ervin & Associates.

Ervin notes that to be profitable, retail gasoline outlets must sell high volumes of gasoline in order to compensate for the low margins. They must also be effective marketers of pop, chips, car washes, and other non-petroleum offerings that tend to have much higher margins than gasoline. "It's the stations that lack sufficient fuel sales or sufficient non-petroleum sales that are closing", Mr. Ervin adds.

The study reveals that growth in "big box" retailers of gasoline such as Safeway and Loblaws, has stalled in the past few years. This category of petroleum marketer had proliferated in western Canada over the past decade, but had only seen limited growth in eastern Canada. The study suggests that a combination of low profit potential and some regulatory constraints may be responsible for limiting big box retailers from further expansion in the future.

The percentage of retail outlets affiliated with refiners declined from 42.5 in 2008 to 41.4 in 2010, evidence of a continued strategy of refiners divesting retail assets at a faster rate than non-refiner marketers. Conversely, non-refiner marketers (sometimes referred to as "independent" marketers) were affiliated with 58.6 percent of all outlets in 2010, compared to 57.5 percent in 2008.

As to the all-important question of who controls the retail pump prices at Canada's 12,710 gas stations, the study determined that 16 percent of gasoline stations are price-controlled by one of the three "major" oil companies (Imperial Oil, Suncor, or Shell), while the majority of gasoline outlets in Canada are price-controlled by dealers or companies who are not involved in the refining of petroleum products.

The MJ Ervin & Associates report paints a picture of the diversity of gasoline brands, with over 99 different brand names under which gasoline is sold in Canada, although most of this country's gasoline originates from 15 refineries, operated by nine refining companies. There are over 71 companies involved in the retail management of these brands.

The National Retail Gasoline Site Census is a research project of MJ Ervin & Associates. A full copy of the report can be downloaded free of charge at:

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Canadian Music Hall of Famer Bruce Cockburn gets stamped

OTTAWA, May 5, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - Canada Post today announced the addition of Canadian music icon Bruce Cockburn to the Canadian Recording Artists stamp series. He joins four more outstanding Canadian singer-songwriters, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Robbie Robertson and Ginette Reno for the third installment of the very popular series. The four Canadian Recording Artists stamps will be issued on June 30, 2011.

Bruce Cockburn was born in 1945 in Ottawa. In his 1964 high school yearbook Bruce stated his desire simply: "hopes to become a musician." And the rest as they say is history.

Cockburn has recorded 31 albums including 20 gold and platinum. He has received 13 Juno awards and in recognition of his lifelong contributions to Canadian music, culture and social activism, he has been awarded seven honorary doctorates. He received the Order of Canada in 1983, and was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Canadian Broadcast Hall of Fame in 2002.

"We're proud to be able to add one more honour to Bruce Cockburn's achievements," said Jim Phillips, Director of Stamp Marketing for Canada Post. "We hope that he will continue to make music and make change for a very long time to come."

"This is very exciting," said Cockburn. "I think the design is beautiful and I'm deeply honoured that Canada Post has seen fit to include me in their Canadian Recording Artists stamp series."

Winnipeg designer Circle Design Inc. showcases an image of Cockburn on a CD-shaped booklet. The stamp features a monochromatic photo of the recording artist alongside his Order of Canada insignia. Fans will notice that many of their most well-known song lyrics appear in the background of the booklet cover.

Bruce Cockburn is currently on tour in the United States promoting his 31st album, Small Source of Comfort.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Texting Mom - Inspirational Video

Moms do so much to help their children, it’s only fitting when we get to return the favor. Celebrate Mother’s Day with this loving conversation between a mother and her son.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Veterinary Study Shows Dramatic Increase in Deadly Parasitic Disease

TORONTO, May 3, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - A 2010 study published by the Ontario Veterinary College's Department of Pathobiology at the University of Guelph, has revealed a 60 per cent increase in the number of pets in Ontario carrying the potentially fatal heartworm parasite. The last study that reported the prevalence of heartworm in Canada was conducted in 2002.

The 2010 report showed that 564 dogs tested positive for heartworm in Canada in 2010. Of those dogs, 431 were located in Ontario, a significant increase in cases compared to the last study conducted in 2002, when there were 268 reported cases in the province. Also of concern is that 80 per cent of the dogs that were diagnosed with heartworm had not been on heartworm preventive medication.

Ontario Veterinary Medical Association President, Dr. Ted Kilpatrick, believes the results of this study support the importance of preventive veterinary treatments,

"In recent years there has been some skepticism about the need for veterinary preventive treatments, ironically, this is partly because these treatments have been so successful in preventing the spread of disease… but I think this study shows that prevention only works if we stick with it. Pet owners need to believe in the importance of periodic testing and regular preventive treatments in order to control the spread of disease in our pets."

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition cause by parasitic worms that live in the heart and blood vessels that supply blood to the lungs of infected animals. These worms can grow to a length of 15 to 30 centimeters, and in severe cases, can cause severe damage to internal organs. In Ontario, heartworm season runs from June to mid-October of each year, when mosquitoes are most active. Now is the time of year when pet owners need to be thinking about which preventive treatments to give their pets. Pets contract heartworm disease from mosquitoes that are infected with heartworm parasites. If an uninfected pet is bitten by an infected mosquito, immature worms are injected into the tissue and then travel to the heart, where they mature into adults and begin to reproduce. Although heartworm disease in cats is less common and less severe, cats are also susceptible to heartworm if exposed.

Pet owners should be preparing for heartworm season now, by speaking to their veterinarian about proper testing and protection against this serious but preventable disease.

For more information about heartworm visit:

Founded in 1980, the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association represents more than 4,400 Ontario veterinarians in private practice, government, academia, industry and public service. Its mandate is to advance and promote excellence in the veterinary profession in Ontario, and contribute to the betterment of animal health and the protection of human health.