Friday, December 20, 2013

Here is another reason to improve CPP - your health

...from Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti President, Canadian Medical Association
OTTAWADecembr 20, 2013 /Canada NewsWire/ - So why would a bunch of physicians want to join the actuaries, accountants, politicians and all those others now locked in debate about the future of the Canada Pension Plan?
The reason is very simple. Poverty will make you sick.
Physicians have known for some time that social determinants such as housing, nutrition or income affect health outcome of their patients. It is worth repeating that of every five dollars we spend on health care, one can be attributed to social determinants or living conditions that affect people's wellness.
This is why an adequate and stable source of income for Canadians in their retirement years is so important for their own health as well as the health of our health care system. Your financial health affects your overall health, and both should be part of a national seniors care strategy as called for by the CMA and others.
Like most of its industrial peers, Canada has a greying demographic estimated to rise to 23% of population by 2030, about double the percentage in 1990.
We would urge federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers to think well beyond the immediate costs of an enhanced CPP and how to use this public asset to address the growing rise of poverty among the elderly.
At first glance, there may not be a compelling reason for Canadian policy makers at present to use the CPP as a weapon against poverty among seniors. After all, Canada has a fairly respectable poverty rate among its elderly at 6.7% —third best among its OECD peers.
But let's play actuary for a moment and look behind those numbers.
As the Conference Board of Canada notes, after 20 years of reductions, Canada's poverty rate for the elderly has been climbing between the mid-1990s and the late 2000s from 2.9% to 6.7%. A worrisome trend, as the Conference Board notes.
Pensions as a proportion of disposable income among Canada's seniors more than doubled between 1980 and 1996 thanks to the accumulated growth of public and private retirement income plans in the postwar years.
But now that the defined benefit pension plan is an endangered species, particularly in the private sector, and 60% of Canadians have no private pension plans, we likely won't see that kind of senior wealth for some time. Finance ministers at both levels of government should be thinking about what's ahead.
We know Canadians are thinking about it, a lot. Canadians are rightly concerned about their health care as the country's population ages. In a public opinion survey done for the CMA last summer, 83% of respondents said they were concerned about their health care in their retirement years. Just as we as a society have learned to think about environmental consequences while we grow our economy, we should also be factoring in health in every important policy decision. Policy makers should start looking at the health system beyond disease treatment and think about prevention. Prevention can pay a fiscal dividend. So can improved social and economic conditions.
The CPP was once a minimalist pension plan with a contribution rate of just 1.8% — inexpensive but inadequate and actuarially unsound. After its 1996 reorganization into one of the world's best public plans, the contribution rate was set at 6% in a series of phased increases to the current 9.9% by 2003. There were no tremors in the economy.
The time has come to make the CPP even better equipped to protect Canadians. There is no reason why Ottawa and the provinces can't come up with a non-disruptive transition over several years. All that is needed is a spirit of cooperation.
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is the national voice of Canadian physicians. Founded in 1867, the CMA is a voluntary professional organization representing more than 80,000 of Canada's physicians and comprising 12 provincial and territorial medical associations and 60 national medical organizations. CMA's mission is to serve and unite the physicians of Canada and be the national advocate, in partnership with the people of Canada, for the highest standards of health and health care.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Active Living Coalition for Older Adults (ALCOA) for Cyber-Seniors Chats

Cyber-Seniors Chats is a web-series that features people and companies that benefit seniors, boomers, youth and the community.

The Active Living Coalition for Older Adults (ALCOA) encourages older Canadians to maintain and enhance their well-being and independence through a lifestyle that embraces physical activity and active living.

Cyber-Seniors is a program that encourages teenagers to teach seniors how to use the Internet. We are expanding the program and always looking for more sponsors and partners. Cyber-Seniors is also the topic for a documentary film.

Check out our channel for more interviews as well as fantastic, senior-created content!

Visit our website, Facebook and Twitter for more information on the Cyber-Seniors Program and the documentary film!

Reuniting families and reducing backlogs in Canada's immigration system - Parent and Grandparent Program gearing up for re-launch

OTTAWA, December 18, 2013 /Canada NewsWire/ - By cutting immigration backlogs and wait times, the Government is bringing families together more quickly, Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced today.

Over the first six months of 2013, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) admitted 45,000 permanent residents to Canada in the Family Class (FC). This represents an increase of 40 percent over the first six months of 2012. This increase can be attributed almost entirely to a doubling of admissions in the Parent and Grandparent (PGP) category over that time period.

Canada has one of the most generous family reunification programs in the world, but growing backlogs in the PGP program meant families could expect to wait eight years or more to bring their loved ones from overseas. A pause on new applications, combined with high admission levels, has helped reduce the backlog. The PGP program re-opens to new applications on January 2, 2014. It will re-open with tighter admission criteria and a cap on applications, which will continue to reduce the backlog and improve wait times for families.

Chris Alexander, Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Minister says,

"Our government understands the importance of spending time with family and loved ones, especially during the holiday season. Our government is making improvements to the immigration system so that families can be reunited more quickly. Because of our changes, Canada is on track to welcome more than 50,000 parents and grandparents in 2012-2013—the highest number in nearly a decade."

Application forms, guides and information on how to apply to the new PGP program will be made available online on December 31, 2013, just ahead of the PGP program re-opening.

Quick facts:

...In 2011, under Phase I of the Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification, the Government cut backlogs and wait times for sponsored parents and grandparents. Had no action been taken, it was predicted that the backlog could increase to 250,000 persons, with wait times of 15 years by 2015.

...Of the 45,000 FC permanent residents admitted to Canada in the first six months of 2013, approximately 22,530 spouses and partners were admitted as permanent residents under the FC as well as 1,410 children, 20,700 parents, grandparents and their dependants as well as 360 other relatives and adopted children.

...The Parent and Grandparent Super Visa remains a fast and convenient option for parents and grandparents who want to spend longer periods of time with their families in Canada. To date, approximately 28,000 Super Visas have been issued with an approval rate of almost 85 percent. With more than 1,000 Super Visas being issued monthly, this has become one of CIC's most popular initiatives.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

CMA calls on federal government to create strategy against dementia dilemma

OTTAWA, December 10, 2013 /Canada NewsWire/ - Canada needs a national seniors care strategy to respond to issues such as the fast-growing dementia dilemma, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) said today.

Dr. Chris Simpson, CMA President-elect, said Canada must move now to invest in a national seniors care strategy and join the 13 countries that already have dementia strategies in place. He added such a strategy is critical to helping our overtaxed health care system cope with about three quarters of a million Canadians already living with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

He made the comment on the eve of the Dec. 11 G8 Dementia Summit in London.

Dementia currently costs the Canadian economy $33 billion a year in direct health-care costs or indirect costs of lost income of family members acting as caregivers. The Alzheimer's Society of Canada predicts that by 2031, 1.4 million Canadians will have dementia, and by 2040 the annual cost to the economy will reach $293 billion.

"We have the dubious distinction of being the only G8 country without a national dementia strategy. Meanwhile, our acute care hospitals are overflowing with patients awaiting long term care placement and our long-term care facilities are understaffed, underspaced and underequipped to care for our most vulnerable seniors. This leaves patients and their families in limbo, struggling to fill these gaps in our system,"
Dr. Simpson said.

"It's an urgent situation worldwide. That's why there is a G8 Summit in London this week."

British Prime Minister David Cameron is using Britain's 2013 presidency of the G8 to lead coordinated global action against what his government believes is  becoming one of the greatest pressures on families, caregivers and health systems around the world.

Britain, with a population of 64 million, has roughly the same number of people suffering from dementia as Canada does even though its population is just 35 million.

"While Canada is not unique in facing what the World Health Organization calls a dementia epidemic, we need to be prepared,"
Dr. Simpson said.

"That is why the CMA recommends we invest in a dementia strategy,  as part of a national seniors care strategy, to expand research, increase support for informal caregivers and ensure access to the continuum of care."

Summit organizers say there is a new diagnosis of dementia every four seconds around the world, and by 2020 there will be 70 million people on the planet living with the condition.

In its pre-budget submission (click here for link) last month, the CMA urged the federal government to invest $25 million over five years toward a dementia strategy for Canada. Some $10 million would go for research into the disease, while another $10 million would be for increased support for informal caregivers. The remaining $5 million would be for knowledge transfer, dissemination of best practices, as well as education and training.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is the national voice of Canadian physicians. Founded in 1867, the CMA is a voluntary professional organization representing more than 80,000 of Canada's physicians and comprising 12 provincial and territorial medical associations and 51 national medical organizations. CMA's mission is to serve and unite the physicians of Canada and be the national advocate, in partnership with the people of Canada, for the highest standards of health and health care.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Minister Ambrose Launches Organ and Tissue Donor Social Media Campaign

Appeals to Canadians to sign up and give the #GiftOfLife

OTTAWA, ONTARIO - December 4, 2013 - The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health, today launched a new social media campaign to help raise awareness and promote organ and tissue donation in Canada.

"Life is the most precious gift you can give," said Minister Ambrose. "With the holiday season approaching, I want to remind Canadians of the critical need for organ and tissue donations to help the more than 4,500 people waiting for organ donations in Canada today."

To mark the launch of the campaign, Minister Ambrose met with Mrs. Laureen Harper, MP Harold Albrecht and Hélène Campbell at 24 Sussex drive to kick-off the social media campaign, using the hashtag #GiftOfLife.

"Without the generosity and compassion of my donor family, I would not be here to celebrate with my friends and family this year. I urge all of you Canadians to talk about Organ and Tissue Donation with your family and friends. What a blessing for me to have been given the most precious gift, life!" said Hélène Campbell, double-lung transplant recipient and founder of Give2Live.

To assist Canadians in registering as organ and tissue donors, the Government has created a special page on the Healthy Canadians website to raise awareness of the need for Canadians to act on this important issue. The page contains information about the importance of organ and tissue donation in Canada, as well as an interactive map to help Canadians contact their relevant provincial/territorial organizations to sign up.

"During the very difficult time after my wife Betty died, I drew solace from knowing that five people received the gift of life through the organs she donated," said Harold Albrecht, Member of Parliament for Kitchener-Conestoga.  "I'm happy our family decided as we did; and I'm grateful that because Betty and I had previously discussed organ donation, we knew her wishes."

On December 5, Minister Ambrose will join Mrs. Harper and award-winning singer, songwriter and composer David Foster in touring the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto to meet some transplant recipients and talk about the importance of organ and tissue donation.

Minister Ambrose will also attend a gala in Toronto, hosted by the David Foster Foundation. The Foundation works to provide financial support for non-medical expenses of families with children in need of live-saving organ transplants. Mrs. Laureen Harper is honourary chair of this year's gala, which will include world-renowned artists such as Andrea Bocelli and the Juno Award-winning Tenors, among others.

"The launch of this social media campaign will have a huge impact,"
said David Foster, whose Foundation last year also launched Days in Wait website, which refers to the number of days donor recipients have to wait to receive a life-saving organ. 
"Every story is different. While our foundation supports families during the critical time leading up to, during and even following an organ transplant, the wait times for available organs is too long. Let's all use our online communities to spread the word about how easy it is to sign up and potentially save a life."

"Since 2008, Canadian Blood Services, on behalf of federal, provincial and territorial governments, has been providing national leadership for organ and tissue donation and transplantation," says Dr. Graham Sher, CEO, Canadian Blood Services. "Canada now has ground-breaking patient registries such as the Living Donor Paired Exchange and greater system access, accountability and transparency. By working together, Canadian Blood Services, governments, and community partners are making meaningful improvements to meet the needs of Canadian patients, no matter where in the country they live."

"I strongly urge Canadians to register as a donor and to talk to your family about your decision," said Minister Ambrose. "The few minutes it takes could save the lives of up to eight people waiting for an organ transplant and enhance the lives of many more who are in need of a tissue transplant."

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Professor Chris Hadfield calls world class University home

WATERLOO, Ontario, December 3, 2013 /Canada NewsWire/ - Keep your long-term goals in mind to make your dream a reality, Professor Chris Hadfield told members of a capacity - and captivated - crowd that came to hear his free public lecture at the University of Waterloo today.

"You don't get lost in the hassles of the short term. It helps you keep your decision-making headed in the right direction," said Professor Hadfield, who dreamed of going to space before Canada had an astronaut program. "Nothing in the future is guaranteed. But what is a guarantee is if you don't turn yourself into the person you want to be, you zero your own chances."

Professor Hadfield, who has been around the world 2,500 times, took the audience on an astronaut's trip around the Earth, from launch to re-entry. The lecture was his first appearance on campus since his appointment as adjunct professor of aviation last October.

He is cross-appointed to the Faculty of Science, Faculty of Environment and the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, and will assume some teaching and advising responsibilities in aviation and related programs at Waterloo in the fall of 2014. Waterloo's bachelor of science and bachelor of environmental studies programs both offer coursework in aviation.

"It's astonishing to think that I once introduced Chris Hadfield to a Waterloo audience as he orbited the Earth on the International Space Station," said Feridun Hamdullaphur, president and vice-chancellor of Waterloo. "I welcome him here today as a member of our faculty. This is an exciting day as he gives his first lecture as professor."

During his five months in space, Professor Hadfield participated in two ongoing research projects related to cardiovascular health with Professor Richard Hughson, of the Department of Kinesiology. One study is investigating why some astronauts are prone to fainting spells when they return to Earth. The other is looking at why arteries undergo aging-like changes during spaceflight, and whether the results have direct application to the major health problems associated with stiffer arteries as we age.

Professor Hadfield underwent the latest in a series of tests as part of Professor Hughson's research to measure the thickness of the arteries in his neck today. The experiments follow tests Hadfield last underwent on the day he landed back on earth.

Waterloo's aviation program launched in 2007. It is the first to offer a bachelor of science degree in Aviation with a specialization in physics or earth sciences or non-specialized science with geomatics. It also offers the first bachelor of environmental studies in geography with a geomatics specialization that also allows students to graduate with a commercial pilot license.

Specific details with respect to his courses, research and advising are still being reviewed, but it is anticipated that Professor Hadfield will give lectures in existing aviation courses ranging from flight management to human factors in aviation.

"This university is absolutely world class," said Professor Hadfield. "I'm really looking forward to coming back in the fall. That will be when the circle comes around and I feel that my feet are back on the ground."

Following his lecture, Professor Hamdullahpur presented Professor Hadfield with a Waterloo Warriors hockey jersey that bears his name. Then Professor Hadfield signed copies of his book, An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth, for the more than 200 people who waited in line for a chance to meet him.

Professor Hadfield's relationship with the University of Waterloo dates back to 1982 when he undertook post-graduate research here. Professor Hadfield, who made a space-to-campus downlink call to Waterloo students February 15th. this year - he was 370 kilometres over the Earth at the time - gave the keynote address when the university launched its aviation program in 2007.

About the University of Waterloo

In just half a century, the University of Waterloo, located at the heart of Canada's technology hub, has become one of Canada's leading comprehensive universities with 35,000 full and part - time students in undergraduate and graduate programs. Waterloo, as home to the world's largest post-secondary co-operative education program, embraces its connections to the world and encourages enterprising partnerships in learning, research and discovery. In the next decade, the university is committed to building a better future for Canada and the world by championing innovation and collaboration to create solutions relevant to the needs of today and tomorrow. For more information about Waterloo, please visit