Canadian Pulse

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Access Granted: Too Often Denied
A new report published by the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League (CARAL) reviews the status of abortion across Canada. Access Granted: Too Often Denied is a great up to date briefing on the issue and describes in detail just how much work there is still to do in Canada to make abortion accessible. Cumbersome hospital approval procedures, including referrals delay women's access to this acute care procedure. Check out Chapter 3: Quality Issues in Abortion Provision which evaluates hospitals and clinics and looks at standards and training for abortion providers. This new binder of information makes a great tool for any clinic or health advocate.

Contact CARAL at:
1 Nicholas Street, Suite 726 Ottawa, ON K1N 7B7 ph(613) 789-9956 fax (613) 789-9960 or you can read it on their web site:

Tune in to women's TV
On April 27th, tune in to the Women's Television Network to watch Open for Discussion for a nationally televised discussion on the effects of breast implants, following the film Two Small Voices. A panel of 3 women will discuss the suing of breast implant manufacturers.

The Ontario Women's Health Network Project got the go-ahead from Health Canada for several provincial women's health projects on information and networking. They include:

  • A DATABASE on women's health issues which will eventually be shared with the Canadian Women's Health Network. Contact Lisa Betel at (416)408-2121 ext. 256;

  • PROVINCE-WIDE COMMUNITY CONSULTATIONS throughout the province, sponsored by the Disabled Women's Network (DAWN), including plans for a province-wide women's health conference. For information, contact Beth Mairs at 1-800-561-4727.

  • THE ONTARIO WOMEN'S CANCER PROJECT will develop several projects on various women's cancers, including:
    1. Cancer Awareness for Women with Disabilities
    2. Responding to the Death of a Group Member: A Workshop for Women Active in Breast Cancer Support Groups
    3. Needs Assessment and Resource Booklet for Women with Gynecological Cancers
    4. Resources on: breast cancer, DES and Hysterectomy (Hysterectomy brochure to be printed in large print, French and Spanish)
    5. Breast Cancer and Environment Resource Packages and Print Supplements
      For further info on the women's cancer project, contact: Chris Sinding, 1-888-778-3100.

Alternative Remedies: Hearings

The federal Standing Committee on Health will be hearing presentations through April before it develops recommendations regarding the regulatory regime governing traditional medicines, herbal remedies, homeopathic preparations and vitamin and mineral supplements. As you'll recall, the federal Health Minister Allan Rock scrapped his predecessor's intention to put natural remedies under the same regulations as drugs and set up a new advisory board to chart the future of the agency that monitors health, including the drug approval process. If you have anything to say about the availability or regulation of herbal supplements, vitamins or alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs, call the clerk of the committee and legislative services office at (613) 947-6729 to find out how you can make a presentation.

When Tinkering is Too Much: A Case Study of Incentives Arising from Ontario's Deinsurance of In Vitro Fertilization

A report out of McMaster University's Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis suggests that de-insuring in-vitro fertilization may not be the best way to keep an eye on the in-vitro fertilization business.

The Working Paper When Tinkering is Too Much: A Case Study of Incentives Arising from Ontario's Deinsurance of In Vitro Fertilization, questions the decision of the Ontario Ministry of Health in 1994 to deinsure IVF except in cases of completely blocked fallopian tubes. The Ministry expected to save $4.4 million and questions prevailing wisdom about defining medically necessary procedures.

"Privatization through deinsurance signals perhaps a movement towards the values of 'actuarial fairness' of private insurance system and away from the 'solidarity' principles underlying social insurance," the paper says.

For information, contact:
The Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis,
McMaster University,
1200 Main Street West, Room 3H1, Hamilton ON L8N 3Z5
Tel (905) 525-9140 Ext. 22135

Wake Up Call on Caffeine

The Centre for Science in the Public Interest, publishers of Nutrition Action Newsletter, advises that too much caffeine increases the risk of poor reproductive outcomes such as miscarriage, reduced fetal birth weight and delayed time to conception and contributes to risk of bone fractures that result from osteoporosis. "The more regular coffee a woman drinks, the more calcium is excreted in her urine," says Linda Massey, a bone researcher at Washington State University.

The Centre wants the caffeine content in foods to be included on the label. A recent article in Nutrition Action Newsletter contains a breakdown of the caffeine content of various food and beverages and a summary of studies of its effects on birth defects, infertility and low birth weights. For more information, contact Patricia Lieberman, or Bill Jeffrey at the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Ottawa, at (613) 730-0799.

Implanted Evidence

According to a 1997 study at the University of Texas department of pathology, silicone-containing breast implants leech organosilicon polymers into the bodies of women whether they have symptoms associated with silicone exposure or not. Levels of organosilicon polymers were measured from samples taken from the autopsies of 15 women with breast implants who had no known history of chest trauma. They were compared to 14 age-matched controls. Breast, lymph nodes, abdominal fat, liver, lung and spleen samples were collected, as well as blood. "Statistically significant" increases of organosilicon polymers were measured in axillary lymph nodes, breast, and abdominal fat from individuals with silicone breast implants compared to the nonimplant group. The authors, JJ Barnard, EL Todd, WG Wilson, R Mielcarek and RJ Rohrich, concluded that "organosilicon polymers routinely migrate from the site of breast implantation to regional tissues near the implant site."

Congress of the Medical Women's International Association
Kenya, Nairobi, November 8-14,1998

For more information and full registration package, contact:
3667 W. 4th Ave., Vancouver, BC V6R 1P2
or phone (604) 731-5355.

Commonwealth Secretariat Awards for Excellence in Women's Health

Seven Canadian women's health projects and agencies received the Commonwealth Secretariat Awards for Excellence in Health for 1997. The Awards were established in 1995 by the Commonwealth Ministers of Health at their Eleventh Meeting in South Africa, as a way to honour innovative women's health services in Commonwealth countries.

The agencies receiving the awards for 1997 were:

  • Interagency Committee on Violence Against Women, Avalon Health, St. John's Newfoundland;

  • Santé et conditions de vie des femmes, Recherche et intervention sur les substances psychoactives - Québec, Québec;

  • Community Health, Women's College Hospital, Toronto, Ontario;

  • The Toronto Hospital Women's Health Program: Community Symposia Series on Women's Health, Toronto, Ontario;

  • School of Kinesiology, Lakehead University,Thunder Bay, Ontario;

  • The Women's Health Clinic, Winnipeg, Manitoba;

  • Edmonton Women's Health Network, Edmonton, Alberta.