Rates of cervical pre-cancer in women have been cut by more than half in British Columbia and the province’s school immunization program for the human papillomavirus is being given credit for the results.
A study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases says those who took part in the program to prevent the sexually transmitted infection had a 57 per cent reduction in incidence of pre-cancer cells compared to unvaccinated women.
The program has been in place in public schools for 12 years and the first groups of women who were vaccinated in Grade 6 entered into the cervix screening program, allowing researchers to compare outcomes with those who hadn’t been vaccinated.
Dr. Gina Ogilvie, a senior research adviser at B.C. Women’s Hospital, says the study adds to the growing body of evidence highlighting the positive impact of the vaccine.
HPV is common in both men and women.
It can be easily spread through sexual contact and while most HPV infections clear up on their own, some pre-cancerous lesions can develop into cancer if not treated.
The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer says HPV immunization is offered to children in all provinces and territories, generally between grades 4 and 7.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix says the lower rates of pre-cancer shows the importance of having children immunized early.
“The dramatic success — pre-cancer rates dropping by over half, shows us the importance of having children immunized early to protect their lives,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.
HPV has been identified as the cause of almost all cervical cancers.
The province implemented a voluntary publicly funded school-based HPV immunization program in 2008.
Education Minister Rob Fleming said the study reinforces the importance of such school-based programs.
“The decline we are seeing in HPV-related cancer rates highlights how strong partnerships between school districts and health authorities can significantly improve the well-being of B.C. students.”
Six-year-old Mattias Thompson loves to play hockey, but he was born with a rare hip disease that is keeping him off the ice. However, thanks to early intervention and surgery, the Grade 1 student from Chilliwack may just have a chance to get back in the game one day.
Mattias is a major Pittsburgh Penguins fan, and loves sports, says his mother Nikki Thompson. While it may be years before he can play hockey, the family is hopeful he will be able to play baseball next year.
Dr. Kishore Mulpuri, the orthopedic surgeon at B.C. Children’s Hospital who performed Mattias’s surgery, said it’s too soon to comment on his long-term prognosis, but said he has a much better chance of a full recovery because of early treatment.
“We caught it very early and that will help him. If he was older he would be more at risk for arthritis. So we want to get it to as normal as we can,” said Mulpuri.
Mulpuri was recently awarded a $450,000 research grant from the federal government’s Canadian Institutes of Health Research program for his team’s project, I’m a HIPpy, which he started three years ago to help children here and in other countries receive early screening and treatment for hip dysplasia and other hip conditions.
Mattias was diagnosed with Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease, which restricts blood supply to the femur, eventually killing the bone. He spent weeks at B.C. Children’s in April having a full hip reconstruction. Preparation for that surgery included five days where for 23 hours a day he had to be in traction with his legs splayed apart.
In the summer of 2018, Mattias starting limping severely and so his family took him to the local hospital in Chilliwack. At first doctors told the family it was a virus that would go away in six weeks. After his limp got worse, they went back to the hospital and a paediatrician took X-rays and then diagnosed him with juvenile arthritis. They went to B.C. Children’s for an MRI and on that night the radiologist called the family to say he doesn’t have arthritis but instead had Perthes disease.
He really wants to be able to run and play with his friends, but otherwise he is doing so much better, said Thompson.
“Early detection can really change the outcome for these kids,” she said.
She said the family’s steel business recently held its annual softball fundraiser and raised more than $32,000 for I’m a HIPpy to helps kids like her son benefit from early detection. On Oct. 5, the annual I’m a HIPpy fundraiser gala will take place at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
Mulpuri says if hip dysplasia goes unchecked, many adults develop arthritis and will need hip replacements.
“People don’t realize that every single child around the world should be screened to see if their joints are loose,” he said, adding that roughly 40-50 people per 1,000 people are born with loose hip joints. “If it is picked up early on then they could have a normal life with an early brace treatment. So the key message is we need to get to them early.”
Overall in B.C. the mean age is three months for detection, he said, but in other countries like India and China the age is two to three years, so that means the kids at nine to 12 will be having 15 to 17 surgeries.
“Their entire childhood goes to just surgery after surgery. It affects their mobility and takes their childhood away,” he said.
Mulpuri and his team created the International Hip Dysplasia Registry, which is the largest research and patient registry in the world. The registry is funded by HIPpy, with the goal that this research will help children worldwide.
While early screening is the best method to prevent the burden of hip dysplasia, Mulpuri said there are still other risk factors that need to be addressed like baby swaddling, for example.
“A lot of people wrap the babies tight for comfort, but that puts them at risk of hip dysplasia,” he said,
Other conditions that put kids at risk include being in a breech condition or having unequal leg lengths.
“As soon as we figure out they have a dysplasia or dislocation based on the severity we then treat with a brace treatment, which has over 90 per cent success rate if you treat early,” he said.
Mulpuri advises watching children for signs of hip dysplasia including if they’re having knee pain or walking with one foot turned out. He also says parents shouldn’t worry about getting a hip X-ray or asking their doctor if their baby was screened. At birth, all newborns in B.C. are tested for hip dysplasia, but there is currently no standardized testing and in some countries, little testing at all.
When not properly diagnosed, children can go on to have numerous surgeries and physical limitations that will impact them for life, causing much suffering and significant costs to medical systems, said Mulpuri.
Mulpuri said thanks to the CIHR grant, the support of B.C. Children’s Hospital, donors and volunteers, they are expanding their network, building data and statistics into the database “at an extremely fast pace.”
The financial impact of missed hip-dysplasia diagnosis to Canada and U.S. health-care systems is about $625 million a year, according to Regina Wilken, executive director of I’m a HIPpy.
Mulpuri works with doctors in Canada, the U.S., Europe, China and India sharing the database knowledge and assisting with hip-dysplasia patient surgeries.
He says the ultimate goal is to help all children improve their quality of life.
The British Columbia government says it’s expanding its substitute drug program to include 1,700 patients with diseases such as Crohn’s and colitis.
Health Minister Adrian Dix says biosimilars, which are cheaper alternatives to name-brand drugs, have worked well in other countries and the province will be saving about $96.6 million to be put back into health care over three years.
Biosimilars are highly similar versions of bioengineered drugs known as biologics, and there are 17 such products approved for sale in Canada.
Bioengineered medicine is the single biggest expense for public drug plans; in 2018, B.C. spent $125 million to treat chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and Crohn’s disease.
In January, the province made a three-year, $105-million investment to help low-income British Columbians get access to the drugs.
The initial program announced in May saw over 20,000 British Columbians move their prescription from the biologic to biosimilar drugs.
A new research program is looking at innovative approaches to support people with mental health and addictions issues in finding and keeping suitable jobs, with $364,235 in government funding.
“At its heart, this research project is about helping people find and keep meaningful employment by meeting them where they are and providing them with wraparound supports,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “We know that when people get jobs where they feel valued, it improves their quality of life, provides a sense of purpose and enhances self-esteem and social belonging.”
The Canadian Mental Health Association – Vancouver Fraser Branch, in partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health and the University of British Columbia, is conducting research to better understand the unique labour market issues of the Downtown Eastside and influence how care services are provided to at-risk people. The project concludes in February 2020.
The project team is examining individual placement and support (IPS) and peer support to increase access to employment. IPS has been extensively researched internationally and proven to be effective compared to standard employment services. This B.C.-based research will be groundbreaking, as it uses medical professionals as an entry point to service delivery.
“Our vision is to embed social and health services in a one-stop integrated model of care for people living in the Downtown Eastside,” said Skye Barbic, lead scientist, University of British Columbia. “To date, little work has focused on the impact of employment as a health and social intervention. Our project aims to bring together systems that are traditionally difficult to navigate for people living in the Downtown Eastside.”
“People with mental illness who choose to work deserve to have the support they need in order to be successful,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “When people are working, they feel connected. We all understand that meaningful employment is important to people’s lives.”
Doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and social workers at the Downtown Community Health Centre refer patients to the program, which is housed just across the street. Of the 72 participants, half will receive this approach and half will receive treatment in the form of traditional employment supports.
“To our knowledge, no study or project has examined individual placement and support embedded in primary care settings for complex populations and few have looked at the value of adding peer support to individual placement and support,” said Michael Anhorn, executive director, Canadian Mental Health Association – Vancouver Fraser Branch. “This project complements the redesign of downtown primary care services and is an expansion of the longstanding partnership between Vancouver Coastal Health and the Canadian Mental Health Association to provide individual placement and support services.”
Through IPS, participants receive supportive entry into the workforce based on their personal needs. Employers are also supported in navigating any challenges that arise. Wraparound services include housing support, help getting identification, filing taxes, support with social relationships, money management, financial planning, debt consolidation and mental health and substance-use support.
The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction is providing $364,235 through the Research and Innovation stream of the Community and Employer Partnerships (CEP) program. CEP’s goal is to increase employment and work experience opportunities in communities throughout B.C.
Approximately $15 million will be invested in CEP projects around B.C. in 2019-20.
More than 100 people will get training and work experience in the forest sector, giving them opportunities for job success and improved lives, through $3.3 million in provincial government funding.
“One key way to reduce poverty is to open doors for people to new jobs and careers,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “This program, through training and work experience, will prepare people for a wide variety of forestry jobs, putting them on the path to better opportunities.”
On behalf of government, Stillwater Consulting is delivering the Advanced Forestry Training program in three communities: Cranbrook, Kamloops and Nanaimo. Students will earn 11 different industry certifications, including silviculture surveyor certification, occupational first aid – level 3 and basic chainsaw operator. The program includes a three-week job placement with local forestry employers.
“Our program gives participants knowledge, skills and certifications in different areas of forestry in just 19 weeks,” said Aaron Byng-Hall, project manager, Stillwater Consulting. “Our graduates become environmental technicians, recreational trail builders, silviculture surveyors and wildland firefighters. For someone looking for opportunities after a mill closure, the program provides a great way to expand on what they know and turn that into a new career.”
“In light of recent record-breaking wildfire seasons, there is an increased demand for people who can work in the woods,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
The Advanced Forestry Skills Training Program is recruiting students for a July 22, 2019, start date in Kamloops and an Aug. 12, 2019 start date in Cranbrook and Nanaimo. Overall, 36 students per city can participate, with a total of 108 spaces. People interested in applying can contact WorkBC Offices in Cranbrook, Kamloops or Nanaimo.
Brianna Henderson, Stillwater training program graduate —
“Taking this program definitely changed my life and propelled me into my career. I’m now a junior forestry technician with Atlas Information Management, and getting that job was 100% a result of the Stillwater training. It can be hard to get into forestry if you don’t come from the industry, but after the program I was so much more confident in going to apply for a position like that. Overall, I’m just really thankful that this program exists. It has opened up a world of opportunities for me.”
Tim LaRade, senior project manager, Nupqu Development Corporation —
“Stillwater Consulting’s Advanced Forestry Skills Training Program is completely unique in B.C.’s forest industry. It’s practical, it’s hands on and most importantly, it sets graduates up with the skills they need for immediate success once they join the working world. When our new employees come to us with these skills already, it saves us a lot of training time on our end.”
Shane Holley RFT, general manager, Maple Leaf Forestry Ltd. —
“We’ve hired several graduates of the Advanced Forestry Skills Training Program at Maple Leaf Forestry who initially completed the program’s three-week job placement with us. It’s a great way for both us and the student to get to know each other and make sure the fit is right. We find Stillwater graduates to be well-trained, confident and armed with the skills and certifications we’re looking for on our team.”
The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction is providing $3.3 million through the Project Based Labour Market Training stream of the Community and Employer Partnerships (CEP) program. CEP’s goal is to increase employment and work experience opportunities in communities throughout B.C.
Approximately $15 million will be invested in CEP projects around B.C. in 2019-20.
To be eligible to participate in the Advanced Forestry Training Program, students must meet employment insurance eligibility requirements and live in the city or surrounding areas of Cranbrook, Kamloops or Nanaimo.
After Christine Harris’s son died slowly and alone in a Vancouver supportive housing unit, she vowed to do everything possible to ensure no other parent would have to share her pain.
She last spoke to her son, Lindsey Longe, on July 12, 2012. The 30-year-old was last seen alive by a friend on July 15, 2012. He died the next day of blood poisoning in his room at Pacific Coast Apartments. The use of illicit drugs contributed to his death, according to a coroner’s report.
Longe’s body wasn’t discovered until three days after he died, after days of Harris calling and pleading with Coast Mental Health staff to check on him, Harris said.
In recent years, Harris, an Alberta social worker, has been developing “Got Your Back For Life,” a volunteer program that pairs people living in supportive housing with a “most-trusted person” who agrees to check on them regularly.
The program is halfway through a one-year pilot at PHS Community Services Society’s Margaret Mitchell Place. About 20 residents of the 52-unit temporary modular housing complex near Olympic Village Station signed an agreement with a trusted person who might be a friend, neighbour, family member or staff member.
Together, they decide how often they’ll do health and wellness checks — it might be every day or once per week — and sign contracts with some personal information and ID photos. The trusted person can then go to building staff at the agreed-upon time, or any time they have a reason to be concerned, and ask them to check on their partner.
Harris said the program came out of discussions with supportive housing residents during an event she holds each summer in her son’s memory. She pitched the cost-free program to PHS in July 2018 and by November the trial was underway.
She praised PHS for already doing 24-hour checks at its supportive housing units but said she hopes the program helps push other housing operators to do better, too.
“(PHS is) doing it to give their tenants an extra layer of protection,” she said. “I think it’s amazing.”
Amid the overdose crisis, B.C. Housing updated contracts with supportive housing sites to require them to conduct health and wellness checks at least every 48 hours, and more frequently when deemed necessary.
But Harris believes 48 hours is inadequate. She keeps an eye on coroner reports, which recently indicated that in Vancouver 48 per cent of the people who died of an illicit-drug overdose since 2017 were in “other residences” such as social and supportive housing, SROs, shelters and hotels.
“I don’t believe that we, as a society, have done enough,” Harris said. “We need to give people the power to look after each other and this community. These people care about each other.”
Margaret Mitchell Place resident Chris Middleton said he has a strong network of friends, family and staff who check on his well-being often, but knowing Got Your Back For Life has a “most-trusted person” regularly checking on him, too, puts his mind at ease.
“I have someone else looking out for me,” he said. “A lot of people don’t. They grow up in these buildings and they have no one that is willing to go ‘Hey, how are you?’”
Middleton believes the program is particularly good for people who might not leave their room too often, such as those who are elderly or disabled.
“It should be status quo,” he said. “Everybody would have their buddy that would check in on how they’re doing.”
The program also helps build community. When it came to Margaret Mitchell Place, it brought people together right away, said building manager Byron Slack.
“A lot of people knew each other in the building but hadn’t really congregated in the common spaces,” he said. “It was one of the first programs we brought into the building and it’s a way of empowering neighbours to be able to check up on their friends.”
Slack said staff check on residents on behalf of their loved ones whether or not they are in the program, but said the contract made between its participants, in honour of Longe, is especially meaningful.
“It’s been a really positive thing,” he said.
The program appealed to PHS because it was peer-driven and came at the height of the “prohibition crisis” behind B.C. overdose deaths, said Duncan Higgon, senior manager of housing.
It works as an overdose intervention tool, he said. For example, if partners score drugs from the same dealer, one might go back to their room, take them and come close to an overdose. With their Got Your Back For Life commitment in mind, they might be compelled to make sure their partner with potent drugs is OK.
Staff have embraced the program and it has the added benefit of engaging tenants in peer-to-peer work, Higgon said. Sometimes, tenants don’t like to ask staff for help, so an arrangement with a peer is more appealing.
“For us, that is very meaningful,” he said. “When we were presented with those opportunities, it was really exciting to trial.”
Higgon said PHS is developing trials at three other PHS modular-housing buildings. But there is potential for it to run at all 1,500 units of PHS housing. He would like to see it used to help homeless people, too.
“I really do see it as a uniquely beautiful, supportive and useful tool across a whole spectrum,” he said.
Harris believes that if just one life is saved by Got Your Back For Life, her program has done what it was designed to do.
“Lindsey, in the last while of his life, when he started hoarding, became very isolated,” she said.
“He was living in shame. To have had something that could have connected him with someone a little more tightly would have helped in many ways.”
A Vancouver emergency department has become the first in Canada to give overdose patients take-away packs of medication aimed at warding off withdrawal symptoms and getting them into treatment.
Dr. Andrew Kestler, a co-lead of the program at St. Paul’s Hospital, says patients get a three-day supply of Suboxone and easy-to-understand instructions from a nurse.
He says the idea is to prevent barriers to treatment because many patients are not able to even get a prescription filled at a pharmacy after being discharged.
Kestler says five women and three men have so far been given the medication and emergency departments around the province have shown interest in the project that could potentially be adopted across the country.
He says patients from the hospital can also access a clinic in the same building so they can be connected with a doctor in the community before being followed up by an outreach team.
The two-year innovative pilot project will be evaluated by the B.C. Centre on Substance Use in the province with the highest number of overdose deaths in Canada.
A Vancouver duo has won $50,000 to launch a mental health program for those working in the bartending industry who deal with anxiety, depression, addiction or workplace harassment. HANDOUT / PNG
A Vancouver duo has won $50,000 USD to launch a mental health program for those working in the bartending industry.
Vancouver bartender Alex Black and psychology advisor Mackenzie Chilton were named the winners in the inaugural Tahona Society Collective Spirit competition, receiving a $50,000 USD grant to expand their concept Mind the Bar.
The pair pitched a mental health network called Mind the Bar that aims to improve mental health in the service industry by providing counselling and resources.
Black and Chilton will now use the grant to hire counselling staff who will be available to talk to and give advice to those dealing with addiction, workplace harassment, depression, anxiety and other industry-related challenges. The counselling program will initially launch in Vancouver but the pair hope to scale up and expand the platform across Canada in an effort to improve bartender welfare.
“It’s time to take care of ourselves as well as we take care of our guests,” reads a slogan being used on Mind the Bar’s social media platforms.
Chilton called the next step of Mind the Bar “transformational for the bartender community in Canada.”
“I can’t wait to return home to work on this amazing project and to ensure that anybody who needs help, gets help,” she said after winning the competition hosted in Los Altos which is located in the state of Jalisco, Mexico.
Black is currently the head bartender at Wildebeest Vancouver.
“This is just the beginning of the #lastcall for mental health issues in the industry,” Black wrote in an Instagram post.
The competition is hosted by Altos Tequila and challenges bartenders to present new sustainable initiatives, events or projects that benefit bar staff, customers, the community or environment. A total of 15 finalists competed this year.
“We are incredibly excited by Black and Chilton’s Mind The Bar project as it resonates with Altos’ care for people and we look forward to seeing it being brought to life in Canada,” said Dré Masso, Altos co-founder.
Participants were treated to two days of immersive tequila training last month prior to the competition where 15 finalists were selected to present to a panel of judges.
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