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1.  Recent epidemiologic trends of diabetes mellitus among status Aboriginal adults 
Little is known about longitudinal trends in diabetes mellitus among Aboriginal people in Canada. We compared the incidence and prevalence of diabetes, and its impact on mortality, among status Aboriginal adults and adults in the general population between 1995 and 2007.
We examined de-identified data from Alberta Health and Wellness administrative databases for status Aboriginal people (First Nations and Inuit people with treaty status) and members of the general public aged 20 years and older who received a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus from Apr. 1, 1995, to Mar. 31, 2007. We calculated the incidence and prevalence of diabetes and mortality rate ratios by sex and ethnicity in 2007. We examined the average relative changes per year for longitudinal trends.
The average relative change per year in the prevalence of diabetes showed a smaller increase over time in the Aboriginal population than in the general population (2.39 v. 4.09, p < 0.001). A similar finding was observed for the incidence of diabetes. In the Aboriginal population, we found that the increase in the average relative change per year was greater among men than among women (3.13 v. 1.88 for prevalence, p < 0.001; 2.60 v. 0.02 for incidence, p = 0.001). Mortality among people with diabetes decreased over time to a similar extent in both populations. Among people without diabetes, mortality decreased in the general population but was unchanged in the Aboriginal population (−1.92 v. 0.11, p = 0.04). Overall, mortality was higher in the Aboriginal population than in the general population regardless of diabetes status.
The increases in the incidence and prevalence of diabetes over the study period appeared to be slower in the status Aboriginal population than in the general population in Alberta, although the overall rates were higher in the Aboriginal population. Mortality decreased among people with diabetes in both populations but was higher overall in the Aboriginal population regardless of diabetes status.
PMCID: PMC3168663  PMID: 21788417
2.  An integrated framework for the geographic surveillance of chronic disease 
Geographic public health surveillance is concerned with describing and disseminating geographic information about disease and other measures of health to policy makers and the public. While methodological developments in the geographical analysis of disease are numerous, few have been integrated into a framework that also considers the effects of case ascertainment bias on the effectiveness of chronic disease surveillance.
We present a framework for the geographic surveillance of chronic disease that integrates methodological developments in the spatial statistical analysis and case ascertainment. The framework uses an hierarchical approach to organize and model health information derived from an administrative health data system, and importantly, supports the detection and analysis of case ascertainment bias in geographic data. We test the framework on asthmatic data from Alberta, Canada. We observe high prevalence in south-western Alberta, particularly among Aboriginal females. We also observe that persons likely mistaken for asthmatics tend to be distributed in a pattern similar to asthmatics, suggesting that there may be an underlying social vulnerability to a variety of respiratory illnesses, or the presence of a diagnostic practice style effect. Finally, we note that clustering of asthmatics tends to occur at small geographic scales, while clustering of persons mistaken for asthmatics tends to occur at larger geographic scales.
Routine and ongoing geographic surveillance of chronic diseases is critical to developing an understanding of underlying epidemiology, and is critical to informing policy makers and the public about the health of the population.
PMCID: PMC2790450  PMID: 19948046
3.  Trends in risk factors for cardiovascular disease in Canada: temporal, socio-demographic and geographic factors 
Temporal trends in risk factors for cardiovascular disease and the impact of socio-economic status on these risk factors remain unclear.
Using data from the National Population Health Survey and the Canadian Community Health Survey, we examined national trends in heart disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, obesity and smoking prevalence from 1994 to 2005, adjusting for age and sex. We stratified data by income adequacy category, body mass index and region of residence.
An estimated 1.29 million Canadians reported having heart disease in 2005, representing increases of 19% for men and 2% for women, relative to 1994. Heart disease increased significantly in the lowest income category (by 27%), in the lower middle income category (by 37%) and in the upper middle income category (by 12%); however, it increased by only 6% in the highest income group. Diabetes increased in all but the highest income group: by 56% in the lowest income group, by 93% in the lower middle income group and by 59% in the upper middle income group. Hypertension increased in all income groups: by 85% in the lowest income group, by 80% in the lower middle income group, by 91% in the upper middle income group and by 117% in the highest income group. Obesity also increased in all income groups: by 20% in the lowest income group, by 25% in the lower middle income group, by 33% in the upper middle income group and by 37% in the highest income group. In addition to socio-economic status, obesity and overweight also modified the trends in risk factors. Diabetes increased to a greater extent among obese participants (61% increase) and overweight participants (25% increase), as did hypertension, which increased by 80% among obese individuals and by 74% among overweight individuals. Trends in diabetes, hypertension and obesity were consistent for all provinces.
During the study period, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and obesity increased for all or most income groups in Canada. Further interventions supporting modification of lifestyle and risk factors are needed to prevent future cardiovascular disease.
PMCID: PMC2717674  PMID: 19620271
4.  Access to health care among status Aboriginal people with chronic kidney disease 
Ethnic disparities in access to health care and health outcomes are well documented. It is unclear whether similar differences exist between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people with chronic kidney disease in Canada. We determined whether access to care differed between status Aboriginal people (Aboriginal people registered under the federal Indian Act) and non-Aboriginal people with chronic kidney disease.
We identified 106 511 non-Aboriginal and 1182 Aboriginal patients with chronic kidney disease (estimated glomerular filtration rate less than 60 mL/min/1.73 m2). We compared outcomes, including hospital admissions, that may have been preventable with appropriate outpatient care (ambulatory-care–sensitive conditions) as well as use of specialist services, including visits to nephrologists and general internists.
Aboriginal people were almost twice as likely as non-Aboriginal people to be admitted to hospital for an ambulatory-care–sensitive condition (rate ratio 1.77, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.46–2.13). Aboriginal people with severe chronic kidney disease (estimated glomerular filtration rate < 30 mL/min/1.73 m2) were 43% less likely than non-Aboriginal people with severe chronic kidney disease to visit a nephrologist (hazard ratio 0.57, 95% CI 0.39–0.83). There was no difference in the likelihood of visiting a general internist (hazard ratio 1.00, 95% CI 0.83–1.21).
Increased rates of hospital admissions for ambulatory-care–sensitive conditions and a reduced likelihood of nephrology visits suggest potential inequities in care among status Aboriginal people with chronic kidney disease. The extent to which this may contribute to the higher rate of kidney failure in this population requires further exploration.
PMCID: PMC2572655  PMID: 18981441
5.  Clinical and medication profiles stratified by household income in patients referred for diabetes care 
Low income individuals with diabetes are at particularly high risk for poor health outcomes. While specialized diabetes care may help reduce this risk, it is not currently known whether there are significant clinical differences across income groups at the time of referral. The objective of this study is to determine if the clinical profiles and medication use of patients referred for diabetes care differ across income quintiles.
This cross-sectional study was conducted using a Canadian, urban, Diabetes Education Centre (DEC) database. Clinical information on the 4687 patients referred to the DEC from May 2000 – January 2002 was examined. These data were merged with 2001 Canadian census data on income. Potential differences in continuous clinical parameters across income quintiles were examined using regression models. Differences in medication use were examined using Chi square analyses.
Multivariate regression analysis indicated that income was negatively associated with BMI (p < 0.0005) and age (p = 0.023) at time of referral. The highest income quintiles were found to have lower serum triglycerides (p = 0.011) and higher HDL-c (p = 0.008) at time of referral. No significant differences were found in HBA1C, LDL-c or duration of diabetes. The Chi square analysis of medication use revealed that despite no significant differences in HBA1C, the lowest income quintiles used more metformin (p = 0.001) and sulfonylureas (p < 0.0005) than the wealthy. Use of other therapies were similar across income groups, including lipid lowering medications. High income patients were more likely to be treated with diet alone (p < 0.0005).
Our findings demonstrate that low income patients present to diabetes clinic older, heavier and with a more atherogenic lipid profile than do high income patients. Overall medication use was higher among the lower income group suggesting that differences in clinical profiles are not the result of under-treatment, thus invoking lifestyle factors as potential contributors to these findings.
PMCID: PMC1852090  PMID: 17397550
6.  Socio-economic status and types of childhood injury in Alberta: a population based study 
BMC Pediatrics  2006;6:30.
Childhood injury is the leading cause of mortality, morbidity and permanent disability in children in the developed world. This research examines relationships between socio-economic status (SES), demographics, and types of childhood injury in the province of Alberta, Canada.
Secondary analysis was performed using administrative health care data provided by Alberta Health and Wellness on all children, aged 0 to 17 years, who had injuries treated by a physician, either in a physician's office, outpatient department, emergency room and/or as a hospital inpatient, between April 1st. 1995 to March 31st. 1996. Thirteen types of childhood injury were assessed with respect to age, gender and urban/rural location using ICD9 codes, and were related to SES as determined by an individual level SES indicator, the payment status of the Alberta provincial health insurance plan. The relationships between gender, SES, rural/urban status and injury type were determined using logistic regression.
Twenty-four percent of Alberta children had an injury treated by physician during the one year period. Peak injury rates occurred about ages 2 and 13–17 years. All injury types except poisoning were more common in males. Injuries were more frequent in urban Alberta and in urban children with lower SES (receiving health care premium assistance). Among the four most common types of injury (78.6% of the total), superficial wounds and open wounds were more common among children with lower SES, while fractures and dislocations/sprains/strains were more common among children receiving no premium assistance.
These results show that childhood injury in Alberta is a major health concern especially among males, children living in urban centres, and those living on welfare or have Treaty status. Most types of injury were more frequent in children of lower SES. Analysis of the three types of the healthcare premium subsidy allowed a more comprehensive picture of childhood injury with children whose families are on welfare and those of Treaty status presenting more frequently for an injury-related physician's consultation than other children. This report also demonstrates that administrative health care data can be usefully employed to describe injury patterns in children.
PMCID: PMC1687186  PMID: 17094808
7.  Association of socio-economic status with diabetes prevalence and utilization of diabetes care services 
Low income appears to be associated with a higher prevalence of diabetes and diabetes related complications, however, little is known about how income influences access to diabetes care. The objective of the present study was to determine whether income is associated with referral to a diabetes centre within a universal health care system.
Data on referral for diabetes care, diabetes prevalence and median household income were obtained from a regional Diabetes Education Centre (DEC) database, the Canadian National Diabetes Surveillance System (NDSS) and the 2001 Canadian Census respectively. Diabetes rate per capita, referral rate per capita and proportion with diabetes referred was determined for census dissemination areas. We used Chi square analyses to determine if diabetes prevalence or population rates of referral differed across income quintiles, and Poisson regression to model diabetes rate and referral rate in relation to income while controlling for education and age.
There was a significant gradient in both diabetes prevalence (χ2 = 743.72, p < 0.0005) and population rates of referral (χ2 = 168.435, p < 0.0005) across income quintiles, with the lowest income quintiles having the highest rates of diabetes and referral to the DEC. Referral rate among those with diabetes, however, was uniform across income quintiles. Controlling for age and education, Poisson regression models confirmed a significant socio-economic gradient in diabetes prevalence and population rates of referral.
Low income is associated with a higher prevalence of diabetes and a higher population rate of referral to this regional DEC. After accounting for diabetes prevalence, however, the equal proportions referred to the DEC across income groups suggest that there is no access bias based on income.
PMCID: PMC1618393  PMID: 17018153
9.  Enhancing capacity for risk factor surveillance at the regional/local level: a follow-up review of the findings of the Canadian Think Tank Forum after 4 years 
National health surveys are sometimes used to provide estimates on risk factors for policy and program development at the regional/local level. However, as regional/local needs may differ from national ones, an important question is how to also enhance capacity for risk factor surveillance regionally/locally.
A Think Tank Forum was convened in Canada to discuss the needs, characteristics, coordination, tools and next steps to build capacity for regional/local risk factor surveillance. A series of follow up activities to review the relevant issues pertaining to needs, characteristics and capacity of risk factor surveillance were conducted.
Results confirmed the need for a regional/local risk factor surveillance system that is flexible, timely, of good quality, having a communication plan, and responsive to local needs. It is important to conduct an environmental scan and a gap analysis, to develop a common vision, to build central and local coordination and leadership, to build on existing tools and resources, and to use innovation.
Findings of the Think Tank Forum are important for building surveillance capacity at the local/county level, both in Canada and globally. This paper provides a follow-up review of the findings based on progress over the last 4 years.
PMCID: PMC3916079  PMID: 24451555
Public health surveillance; Capacity building; Behavioural risk factors
10.  Surveillance of ischemic heart disease should include physician billing claims: population-based evidence from administrative health data across seven Canadian provinces 
Canadian provinces and territories routinely collect health information for administrative purposes. This study used Canadian medical and hospital administrative data for population-based surveillance of diagnosed ischemic heart disease (IHD).
Hospital discharge abstracts and physician billing claims data from seven provinces were analyzed to estimate prevalence and incidence of IHD using three validated algorithms: a) one hospital discharge abstract with an IHD diagnosis or procedure code (1H); b) 1H or at least three physician claims within a one-year period (1H3P) and c) 1H or at least two physician claims within a one-year period (1H2P). Crude and age-standardized prevalence and incidence rates were calculated for Canadian adults aged 20 +.
IHD prevalence and incidence varied by province, were consistently higher among males than females, and increased with age. Prevalence and incidence were lower using the 1H method compared to using the 1H2P or 1H3P methods in all provinces studied for all age groups. For instance, in 2006/07, crude prevalence by province ranged from 3.4%-5.5% (1H), from 4.9%-7.7% (1H3P) and from 6.0%-9.2% (1H2P). Similarly, crude incidence by province ranged from 3.7-5.9 per 1,000 (1H), from 5.0-6.9 per 1,000 (1H3P) and from 6.1-7.9 per 1,000 (1H2P).
Study findings show that incidence and prevalence of diagnosed IHD will be underestimated by as much as 50% using inpatient data alone. The addition of physician claims data are needed to better assess the burden of IHD in Canada.
PMCID: PMC3871006  PMID: 24138129
Ischemic heart disease; Incidence; Prevalence; Hospital administrative data; Canada
11.  Mental comorbidity and multiple sclerosis: validating administrative data to support population-based surveillance 
BMC Neurology  2013;13:16.
While mental comorbidity is considered common in multiple sclerosis (MS), its impact is poorly defined; methods are needed to support studies of mental comorbidity. We validated and applied administrative case definitions for any mental comorbidities in MS.
Using administrative health data we identified persons with MS and a matched general population cohort. Administrative case definitions for any mental comorbidity, any mood disorder, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia were developed and validated against medical records using a a kappa statistic (k). Using these definitions we estimated the prevalence of these comorbidities in the study populations.
Compared to medical records, administrative definitions showed moderate agreement for any mental comorbidity, mood disorders and depression (all k ≥ 0.49), fair agreement for anxiety (k = 0.23) and bipolar disorder (k = 0.30), and near perfect agreement for schizophrenia (k = 1.0). The age-standardized prevalence of all mental comorbidities was higher in the MS than in the general populations: depression (31.7% vs. 20.5%), anxiety (35.6% vs. 29.6%), and bipolar disorder (5.83% vs. 3.45%), except for schizophrenia (0.93% vs. 0.93%).
Administrative data are a valid means of surveillance of mental comorbidity in MS. The prevalence of mental comorbidities, except schizophrenia, is increased in MS compared to the general population.
PMCID: PMC3599013  PMID: 23388102
Multiple sclerosis; Administrative data; Validation; Prevalence; Depression; Anxiety; Bipolar disorder; Schizophrenia
12.  The Effect of Universal Influenza Immunization on Mortality and Health Care Use 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(10):e211.
In 2000, Ontario, Canada, initiated a universal influenza immunization program (UIIP) to provide free influenza vaccines for the entire population aged 6 mo or older. Influenza immunization increased more rapidly in younger age groups in Ontario compared to other Canadian provinces, which all maintained targeted immunization programs. We evaluated the effect of Ontario's UIIP on influenza-associated mortality, hospitalizations, emergency department (ED) use, and visits to doctors' offices.
Methods and Findings
Mortality and hospitalization data from 1997 to 2004 for all ten Canadian provinces were obtained from national datasets. Physician billing claims for visits to EDs and doctors' offices were obtained from provincial administrative datasets for four provinces with comprehensive data. Since outcomes coded as influenza are known to underestimate the true burden of influenza, we studied more broadly defined conditions. Hospitalizations, ED use, doctors' office visits for pneumonia and influenza, and all-cause mortality from 1997 to 2004 were modelled using Poisson regression, controlling for age, sex, province, influenza surveillance data, and temporal trends, and used to estimate the expected baseline outcome rates in the absence of influenza activity. The primary outcome was then defined as influenza-associated events, or the difference between the observed events and the expected baseline events. Changes in influenza-associated outcome rates before and after UIIP introduction in Ontario were compared to the corresponding changes in other provinces. After UIIP introduction, influenza-associated mortality decreased more in Ontario (relative rate [RR] = 0.26) than in other provinces (RR = 0.43) (ratio of RRs = 0.61, p = 0.002). Similar differences between Ontario and other provinces were observed for influenza-associated hospitalizations (RR = 0.25 versus 0.44, ratio of RRs = 0.58, p < 0.001), ED use (RR = 0.31 versus 0.69, ratio of RRs = 0.45, p < 0.001), and doctors' office visits (RR = 0.21 versus 0.52, ratio of RRs = 0.41, p < 0.001). Sensitivity analyses were carried out to assess consistency, specificity, and the presence of a dose-response relationship. Limitations of this study include the ecological study design, the nonspecific outcomes, difficulty in modeling baseline events, data quality and availability, and the inability to control for potentially important confounders.
Compared to targeted programs in other provinces, introduction of universal vaccination in Ontario in 2000 was associated with relative reductions in influenza-associated mortality and health care use. The results of this large-scale natural experiment suggest that universal vaccination may be an effective public health measure for reducing the annual burden of influenza.
Comparing influenza-related mortality and health care use between Ontario and other Canadian provinces, Jeffrey Kwong and colleagues find evidence that Ontario's universal vaccination program has reduced the burden of influenza.
Editors' Summary
Seasonal outbreaks (epidemics) of influenza—a viral disease of the nose, throat, and airways—affect millions of people and kill about 500,000 individuals every year. These epidemics occur because of “antigenic drift”: small but frequent changes in the viral proteins to which the human immune system responds mean that an immune response produced one year by exposure to an influenza virus provides only partial protection against influenza the next year. Immunization can boost this natural immunity and reduce a person's chances of catching influenza. That is, an injection of killed influenza viruses can be used to prime the immune system so that it responds quickly and efficiently when exposed to live virus. However, because of antigenic drift, for influenza immunization to be effective, it has to be repeated annually with a vaccine that contains the major circulating strains of the influenza virus.
Why Was This Study Done?
Public-health organizations recommend targeted vaccination programs, so that elderly people, infants, and chronically ill individuals—the people most likely to die from pneumonia and other complications of influenza—receive annual influenza vaccination. Some experts argue, however, that universal vaccination might provide populations with better protection from influenza, both directly by increasing the number of vaccinated people and indirectly through “herd immunity,” which occurs when a high proportion of the population is immune to an infectious disease, so that even unvaccinated people are unlikely to become infected (because infected people rarely come into contact with susceptible people). In this study, the researchers compare the effects of the world's first free universal influenza immunization program (UIIP), which started in 2000 in the Canadian province of Ontario, on influenza-associated deaths and health care use with the effects of targeted vaccine programs on the same outcomes elsewhere in Canada.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Using national records, the researchers collected data on influenza vaccination, on all deaths, and on hospitalizations for pneumonia and influenza in all Canadian provinces between 1997 and 2004. They also collected data on emergency department and doctors' office visits for pneumonia and influenza for Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and Manitoba. They then used a mathematical model to estimate the baseline rates for these outcomes in the absence of influenza activity, and from these calculated weekly rates for deaths and health care use specifically resulting from influenza. In 1996–1997, 18% of the population was vaccinated against influenza in Ontario whereas in the other provinces combined the vaccination rate was 13%. On average, since 2000—the year in which UIIP was introduced in Ontario—vaccination rates have risen to 38% and 24% in Ontario and the other provinces, respectively. Since the introduction of UIIP, the researchers report, influenza-associated deaths have decreased by 74% in Ontario but by only 57% in the other provinces combined. Influenza-associated use of health care facilities has also decreased more in Ontario than in the other provinces over the same period.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings are limited by some aspects of the study design. For example, they depend on the accuracy of the assumptions made when calculating events due specifically to influenza, and on the availability and accuracy of vaccination and clinical outcome data. In addition, it is possible that influenza-associated deaths and health care use may have decreased more in Ontario than in the other Canadian provinces because of some unrecognized health care changes specific to Ontario but unrelated to the introduction of universal influenza vaccination. Nevertheless, these findings indicate that, compared to the targeted vaccination programs in the other Canadian provinces, the Ontarian UIIP is associated with reductions in influenza-associated deaths and health care use, particularly in people younger than 65 years old. This effect is seen at a level of vaccination unlikely to produce herd immunity so might be more marked if the uptake of vaccination could be further increased. Thus, although it is possible that Canada is a special case, these findings suggest that universal influenza vaccination might be an effective way to reduce the global burden of influenza.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Read the related PLoSMedicine Perspective by Cécile Viboud and Mark Miller
A related PLoSMedicine Research Article by Carline van den Dool and colleagues is also available
The Ontario Ministry of Health provides information on its universal influenza immunization program (in English and French)
The World Health Organization provides information on influenza and on influenza vaccines (in several languages)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information for patients and professionals on all aspects of influenza (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides a list of links to other information about influenza (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service provides information about the science of immunization, including a simple explanatory animation of immunity
PMCID: PMC2573914  PMID: 18959473
13.  Prognosis for long-term survival and renal recovery in critically ill patients with severe acute renal failure: a population-based study 
Critical Care  2005;9(6):R700-R709.
Severe acute renal failure (sARF) is associated with considerable morbidity, mortality and use of healthcare resources; however, its precise epidemiology and long-term outcomes have not been well described in a non-specified population.
Population-based surveillance was conducted among all adult residents of the Calgary Health Region (population 1 million) admitted to multidisciplinary and cardiovascular surgical intensive care units between May 1 1999 and April 30 2002. Clinical records were reviewed and outcome at 1 year was assessed.
sARF occurred in 240 patients (11.0 per 100,000 population/year). Rates were highest in males and older patients (≥65 years of age). Risk factors for development of sARF included previous heart disease, stroke, pulmonary disease, diabetes mellitus, cancer, connective tissue disease, chronic renal dysfunction, and alcoholism. The annual mortality rate was 7.3 per 100,000 population with rates highest in males and those ≥65 years. The 28-day, 90-day, and 1-year case-fatality rates were 51%, 60%, and 64%, respectively. Increased Charlson co-morbidity index, presence of liver disease, higher APACHE II score, septic shock, and need for continuous renal replacement therapy were independently associated with death at 1 year. Renal recovery occurred in 78% (68/87) of survivors at 1 year.
sARF is common and males, older patients, and those with underlying medical conditions are at greatest risk. Although the majority of patients with sARF will die, most survivors will become independent from renal replacement therapy within a year.
PMCID: PMC1414056  PMID: 16280066

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