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1.  Financial Incentives for Weight Loss and Healthy Behaviours 
Healthcare Policy  2012;7(3):23-28.
Rising rates of overweight and obesity are of serious concern in Canada. Until recently, discussion of policy options to promote healthier lifestyles has ignored the topic of direct financial incentives. The idea of paying people to lose weight or adopt healthier behaviours is now attracting study and debate. Some governments and companies are already experimenting with reward programs.
Available evidence indicates that financial incentives help promote short-term change, but there is a dearth of evidence on longer-term programs and outcomes. Targeted incentives for specific risk groups have shown more success. With creative design, targeted use and evaluation, financial incentives for weight loss and healthy behaviour may be a useful addition to the health policy toolkit.
PMCID: PMC3298019  PMID: 23372578
2.  Roadblocks to laws for healthy eating and activity 
doi:10.1503/cmaj.091403
PMCID: PMC2855916  PMID: 20159896
3.  Pharmacists and Natural Health Products: A systematic analysis of professional responsibilities in Canada 
Pharmacy practice  2008;6(1):33-42.
PURPOSE
Natural health products (natural health products) such as herbs, vitamins and homeopathic medicines are widely available in Canadian pharmacies. The purpose of this paper was to conduct a systematic analysis of Canadian pharmacy policies and guidelines to explore pharmacists’ professional responsibilities with respect to natural health products.
METHODS
Legislation, codes of ethics, standards of practice and guidance documents that apply to the practice of pharmacy in each Canadian jurisdiction were systematically collected and examined to identify if, and how, these instruments establish professional duties in regard to natural health products.
RESULTS
The majority of Canadian jurisdictions now include some explicit reference to natural health products in standards of practice policy or guideline documents. Often natural health products are simply assumed to be included in the over-the-counter (OTC) product category and thus professional responsibilities for OTCs are relevant for natural health products. A minority of provinces have specific policies on natural health products, herbals or homeopathy. In addition, the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities’ Model Standards of Practice specifically refers to natural health products. Most policy documents indicate that pharmacists should inquire about natural health product use when counselling patients and, when asked, should provide accurate information regarding the efficacy, toxicity, side effects or interactions of natural health products. Public messaging also indicates that pharmacists are knowledgeable professionals who can provide evidence-based information about natural health products.
CONCLUSIONS
Explicit policies or guidelines regarding pharmacists’ professional responsibilities with respect to natural health products currently exist in the majority of Canadian jurisdictions.
PMCID: PMC3265537  PMID: 22282720 CAMSID: cams1356
pharmacist; legal responsibilities; natural health products; dietary supplements
4.  Exposure Assessment in Cohort Studies of Childhood Asthma 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2010;119(5):591-597.
Background
The environment is suspected to play an important role in the development of childhood asthma. Cohort studies are a powerful observational design for studying exposure–response relationships, but their power depends in part upon the accuracy of the exposure assessment.
Objective
The purpose of this paper is to summarize and discuss issues that make accurate exposure assessment a challenge and to suggest strategies for improving exposure assessment in longitudinal cohort studies of childhood asthma and allergies.
Data synthesis
Exposures of interest need to be prioritized, because a single study cannot measure all potentially relevant exposures. Hypotheses need to be based on proposed mechanisms, critical time windows for effects, prior knowledge of physical, physiologic, and immunologic development, as well as genetic pathways potentially influenced by the exposures. Modifiable exposures are most important from the public health perspective. Given the interest in evaluating gene–environment interactions, large cohort sizes are required, and planning for data pooling across independent studies is critical. Collection of additional samples, possibly through subject participation, will permit secondary analyses. Models combining air quality, environmental, and dose data provide exposure estimates across large cohorts but can still be improved.
Conclusions
Exposure is best characterized through a combination of information sources. Improving exposure assessment is critical for reducing measurement error and increasing power, which increase confidence in characterization of children at risk, leading to improved health outcomes.
doi:10.1289/ehp.1002267
PMCID: PMC3094407  PMID: 21081299
childhood asthma; cohort studies; exposure assessment
5.  Handling ethical, legal and social issues in birth cohort studies involving genetic research: responses from studies in six countries 
BMC Medical Ethics  2010;11:4.
Background
Research involving minors has been the subject of much ethical debate. The growing number of longitudinal, pediatric studies that involve genetic research present even more complex challenges to ensure appropriate protection of children and families as research participants. Long-term studies with a genetic component involve collection, retention and use of biological samples and personal information over many years. Cohort studies may be established to study specific conditions (e.g. autism, asthma) or may have a broad aim to research a range of factors that influence the health and development of children. Studies are increasingly intended to serve as research platforms by providing access to data and biological samples to researchers over many years.
This study examines how six birth cohort studies in North America and Europe that involve genetic research handle key ethical, legal and social (ELS) issues: recruitment, especially parental authority to include a child in research; initial parental consent and subsequent assent and/or consent from the maturing child; withdrawal; confidentiality and sample/data protection; handling sensitive information; and disclosure of results.
Methods
Semi-structured telephone interviews were carried out in 2008/09 with investigators involved in six birth cohort studies in Canada, Denmark, England, France, the Netherlands and the United States. Interviewees self-identified as being knowledgeable about ELS aspects of the study. Interviews were conducted in English.
Results
The studies vary in breadth of initial consent, but none adopt a blanket consent for future use of samples/data. Ethics review of new studies is a common requirement. Studies that follow children past early childhood recognise a need to seek assent/consent as the child matures. All studies limit access to identifiable data and advise participants of the right to withdraw. The clearest differences among studies concern handling of sensitive information and return of results. In all studies, signs of child abuse require reports to authorities, but this disclosure duty is not always stated in consent materials. Studies vary in whether they will return to participants results of routine tests/measures, but none inform participants about findings with unknown clinical significance.
Conclusions
Analysis of how cohort studies in various jurisdictions handle key ELS issues provides informative data for comparison and contrast. Consideration of these and other examples and further scholarly exploration of ELS issues provides insight on how best to address these aspects in ways that respect the well-being of participants, especially children who become research subjects at the start of their lives.
doi:10.1186/1472-6939-11-4
PMCID: PMC2859353  PMID: 20331891

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