Open Access Government looks at how health research can play a pivotal role in preventing major diseases throughout the country
Over the decades we have changed the way we live, which can have a major impact on our health. For example, new technologies we use and the environment can all impact our future health outcomes. New technologies such as mobile phones have evolved and research over the years has detailed the health implications of long-term use.
Canadians are considered amongst the healthiest in the world. However, like every country, they have their fair share of health burdens. For example, chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, arthritis and asthma are common health problems across Canada. The Public Health Agency of Canada reported in 2008/09 almost 2.4 million Canadians were living with diabetes. However, 20% of diabetes cases remain undiagnosed. Social, economic and lifestyle factors can have a significant impact on the distribution of type 2 diabetes. 1
Currently, 14.8% of the population in Canada (20+ year) has 2 or more chronic diseases concurrently and life expectancy at birth is said to be 83 years. Approximately 1 in 4 adults have high blood pressure and a massive one half (51.6%) of Canadians have a chronic disease. 2
The Public Health Agency of Canada is responsible for promoting and protecting the health of Canadians through leadership, partnership, innovation and action in public health. When referring to public health it means the entire population, and through research programs and services, the Agency aims to ensure Canadians love health lives with reduced disparities.
In order to help prevent these issues, the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention: Strategic Plan 2016-2019 Improving Health Outcomes – A Paradigm Shift aims to highlight actions being taken in order to ensure Canadians live longer and healthier lives.
Reducing the risks is integral, as well as understanding the importance of risk management when looking at health issues such as epidemics and reducing the burden of chronic diseases can help to ensure decision-makers have the right policies in place at the right time. However it isn’t always easy to know when epidemics might hit, however, disease like influenza is seasonal and plans can be put in place to ensure measures are taken to prevent it from becoming a problem.
The Strategic Plan also aims to understand the risk factors involved with developing these chronic diseases. In adults (18-64) these include:
- Positive mental health;
- Adequate sleep;
- Physical activity’;
- Sedentary behaviours;
Through encouraging healthy living and promoting positive behaviour change the Centre for Chronic Disease hope to help Canadians maintain or improve their health and prevent injury. Over the next 3 years, the Centre will work in collaboration with partners beyond those traditions to public health and development initiatives that contribute to modernised public health approaches in healthy living and chronic disease and injury prevention.
Actions such as these can only have a positive impact on the health of citizens across the country. Research by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is also integral in making a difference. Within the CIHR is the Institute of Population and Health (IPPH), where research is targeted around: health promotion; health determinants; identification of health advantage and health risk factors; methods of practice; environment and health; and, public and community health issues.
The CIHR distributes federal health research dollars through 13 virtual institutes that champion specific aspects of health. The IPPH funds projects that aim to improve population health and reduce health inequalities.
Health research plays a pivotal role in understanding a number of healthcare problems. As well as developing treatments it can also help to understand prevention methods needed. Both the Public Health Agency of Canada and the CIHR lead the way in ensuring the population of the country are moving towards tackling the health burdens.