Preventing Illness » Ontario Medical Association » Ontario’s Doctors: Putting Ontario’s patients first

Preventing Illness

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Flu

The flu is highly contagious and is spread when people come into contact with those who have the flu, or touch contaminated surfaces and then touch their faces. Children, seniors and people living with chronic disease are more vulnerable to the flu and are at a greater risk of hospitalisation, serious illness and even death.

In order to protect the most susceptible, it’s important to take the necessary steps to prevent the spread of the flu. Ontario’s Doctors advise everyone to get a flu shot, stay home when sick, and not go to the doctor’s office for a sick note. We can limit the spread of the flu, and keep ourselves and those around us healthy by washing our hands often.

 

Find out more on how to protect yourself against the flu

Download this helpful fact sheet

Heat Preparedness

Hot summer weather and extreme heat events (which are hot, humid days with warm nights) can put people at risk of suffering a heat illness. Heat illnesses include heat exhaustion, heat edema (swelling of hands and feet), heat rash, and the most serious, heat stroke. Heat stroke is a medical emergency, and must be quickly attended to with medical care and cooling methods.

There are many ways to protect yourself and others from heat illnesses. The resources linked on the this page provide detailed information about heat illness, risk factors, and how to protect children and yourself from the heat, especially if you have been physically active through outdoor work or exercise, or if you are a senior.

These fact sheets can be downloaded and printed – take a look and keep them handy around the house.  Talk to your doctor if you think you or your children are at greater risk of suffering a heat illness due to medications or a medical condition.

Together, we can all beat the heat over the summer months.

Resources:

  1. Children: Keep Kids Cool
  2. Seniors: Beat the Heat
  3. Physical Activity: Change your Pace

 

Obesity

Ontario’s doctors are alarmed at the levels of obesity in patients across our province. Doctors are seeing more patients — of all ages — whose weight is currently having a negative impact on their health or will likely have an impact in the future. The increasing weight of Ontario’s children is of particular concern. Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to grow up to be overweight or obese adults and struggle with their weight throughout their lives. Obese patients are more likely to experience type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and arthritis.

Among children, it has been said that obesity is an epidemic. 26% of Canadian children between two and 17 years of age are considered overweight (18%) or obese (8%) — a dramatic increase from 1978-79 when the total was only 15%. The trends in childhood obesity are staggering as statistics indicate 75% of obese children will become obese adults.

The data regarding obesity point to an escalating problem for Ontario’s health-care system, and for the overall quality of life of the people of Ontario. 59% of the adult Canadian population is considered to be overweight (36%) or obese (23%). An Ontario-specific study suggests that obesity in Ontario may be worse than the national average. A recent study by the University of Ottawa Heart Institute concluded that over 70% of adults in Ontario are overweight or obese.

Over the past decade Ontario’s Doctors have been involved in efforts to counter the increasing weight of the population and prevent the illnesses that are associated with being overweight.

In April 2009, Ontario’s Doctors identified the need to educate consumers about calories as key to obesity prevention. The OMA believes that revealing the caloric content of fast foods, will better equip consumers with the information that they need to make healthier choices.
Among other policy recommendations, Ontario’s Doctors also believe that physical education should be an integral part of a school’s curriculum until the end of grade 12.

We will continue to support our patients, partnering with them to help them make positive health care decisions. Speak to your doctor about how you can make healthier choices to improve your wellbeing.

Understanding Calories

 

Salt Awareness

Many Ontarians are unaware of how much salt is in their food, and that most of the sodium they consume is already in the foods they buy. Most importantly, Ontarians are unaware of the negative effects it can have on their health.

Table salt is made up of about 40% sodium. This is the same “sodium” that is listed in the Nutrition Facts labels on the side of food packages. The recommended daily intake of sodium for an adult is 1,500mg, which is less than the amount in one teaspoon of salt. The average Canadian consumes more than twice that amount each day. High sodium diets are strongly linked to high blood pressure and stroke.

The OMA’s public awareness initiative on salt awareness is intended to provide an additional source of information about how patients can find and reduce the sodium in their diet. Many people are surprised to learn that some of their favourite pre-packaged foods, like frozen pizzas, soups and canned vegetables can be very high in salt.

Although a sprinkling of salt in the kitchen or at the dinner table is the most visible source of salt in our diets, it provides a very small proportion of our total salt intake. With greater awareness and better understanding of salt, sodium, and possible health effects, patients will be able to make more informed, healthier food choices.

To support this salt awareness campaign, the OMA has created a brochure that explains what salt and sodium are, and points out where Ontarians can find sodium information on packaged foods.

If you have an existing heart-related illness and want to learn more about sodium and your daily intake, or you are concerned that the sodium in your diet is affecting your health, make an appointment to talk to your family doctor.

Resources:

Sodium Fact Sheet

 

Smog / Air Pollution

The OMA has done many reports on the health effects of air pollution in Ontario, and on how patients can act to protect themselves, through our Smog-Wise information. Since the Ontario Medical Association’s initial release of its Smog-Wise tips in 2003, the medical understanding of how smog impacts the human body has grown considerably.

We now understand that smog pollutants have a very significant impact on heart health and in fact that premature smog deaths are more likely to be from cardiac causes than respiratory ones. Although the general public may not yet fully understand exactly how smog affects them, the concern about smog and other environmental health impacts has increased significantly in the past years.

In response to improved understanding and societal concern, there is more information now publicly available on current and projected air pollutant concentrations. 

In parts of Ontario, the Provincial Air Quality Index (AQI) and a new Federal Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) are both available.

As confusing as this may be, the OMA Smog-Wise advice remains essentially the same:

  • If you are aware of health conditions that make you, or those in your care, especially vulnerable to smog, you must educate yourself about how to reduce exposure
  • Both the AQI and the new AQHI can be used as indicators of smog conditions, but as everyone’s health response is different, do not assume that Low Risk or Good Air Quality forecasts mean that it is safe for everyone
  • Take a reasonable, but precautionary approach to reducing your exposure and protecting yourself from smog’s ill effects

If you are concerned about smog’s impact on a pre-existing health condition (e.g., asthma, heart disease), or have other health concerns, talk to your physician. We have included a few helpful links on how to be Smog-Wise, and special advice for Seniors and Parents.

Resources:

  1. How to be Smog-Wise
  2. Special Advice for Seniors
  3. Special Advice for Parents

 

Tobacco

Ontario’s Doctors have long been advocates against tobacco. We have called for government initiatives to protect smokers and non-smokers alike, and have played an important role in helping our patients to quit.

Tobacco industry products have no safe level of use, are highly addictive, and half of their long-term users die prematurely. No other industry has caused the same number deaths and illnesses. 13,000 people die in Ontario because of tobacco use every year – about one person every 40 minutes. Treating tobacco illnesses costs Ontario $1.6 billion in direct health care costs annually, including 500,000 hospital days for those ill with tobacco-related illnesses. These illnesses also cost the Ontario economy $4.4 billion in lost productivity.

Patients suffering from a wide variety of tobacco-induced diseases – particularly cancers, cardiovascular conditions and primary respiratory illness – continue to occupy doctors’ waiting rooms, operating rooms and intensive care units in large numbers today.

Tobacco use accounts for 85% of lung cancers, 30% of total cancer incidence excluding skin cancer, and 30% of cancer deaths. Smoking related cardiovascular disease (CVD) is responsible for more than 6,000 deaths annually in Ontario. Tobacco use is also responsible for 80-90% of all cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Ontario’s Doctors have helped to push the Government of Ontario to act on tobacco with a number of policies including smoke-free workplaces and public spaces, regulations on the sale of tobacco, and the development of some programs to help people quit, but we believe that there is still lots more to do. New products and flavoured tobacco threaten to introduce more kids to nicotine addiction, which could last a lifetime. Tobacco is still affordable and available in thousands of outlets across the province, and many smokers still can’t get the help they need to quit. Many non-smokers are also still exposed to tobacco smoke in public spaces and even at home.

Unfortunately kids are still starting to smoke in high school and some will develop nicotine addictions that could last a lifetime. Smoking prevalence has declined, but there are still approximately 2 Million Ontarians who smoke, and progress on reducing the smoking rates has slowed in the last few years.

Ontario’s Doctors will continue to push for more protective tobacco policies, and will help to guide their patients who want to quit, to a smoke-free life.

If you or your family members use tobacco products, talk to your doctor about it.

 

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