October 10 – Board of Health Meeting Summary

Written by Communications, October 15, 2018

Board of Health Welcomes MPP Dave Smith

The Board of Health welcomed the newly-elected Peterborough-Kawartha MPP Dave Smith who attended his first board meeting as a guest. Dr. Salvaterra gave him a tour of the facility, community kitchen and clinics of Peterborough Public Health.

Peterborough Precarious Employment Research Initiative

Health Promoter Monique Beneteau and Trent University Professor Fergal O’Hagan from the Precarious Employment Research Initiative (PERI) presented the findings of a major study that explored local job security. The PERI project involves several community partners who surveyed 800 local residents to identify how employment and working conditions are impacting the economic, social, physical and mental health of workers and their communities in the Peterborough Area. Employment is a key social determinant of health that relates to income, food security, working conditions and affordable housing. Their findings included:

  • Nearly two-thirds (62%) are in precarious or vulnerable employment situations. Only 20% of local respondents reported their employment as stable.
  • Vulnerable and precarious employment most prevalent among younger (under 25 yrs) and older workers (over 55 yrs).
  • Vulnerable and precarious employment is most prevalent among lower income workers (less than $29,000/yr).
  • Vulnerable and precarious employment is most prevalent across all sectors.
  • Union membership is a protective factor.
  • Vulnerable and precarious employment is most prevalent among less educated.

 

PERI is producing a series of information briefs summarizing the findings according to various themes, such as employment and health, employment and workplace stress, employment precarity, income and children, etc. These are available at www.peterboroughpublichealth.ca/peri. PERI is organizing a conference on November 6, 2018 to initiate a community conversation about the findings and how they can influence planning and public policy.

Changes to the Cannabis and Smoke-Free Ontario Acts

Dr. Salvaterra updated the board on the latest developments regarding cannabis and e-cigarette legislation. On September 27, 2018 the provincial government introduced Bill 36 that outlines the licensing scheme for private cannabis retail sales, and makes amendments to provisions for the sale and promotion of vapour products and e-cigarettes. Local public health agencies will be expected to enforce place-based cannabis use, and Boards of Health will not receive any additional funding to support this activity. Enforcement will be complaint-driven and redeployment of staff to this activity will most likely have an impact on the Board’s compliance with other mandated programs.

Cannabis is a psychoactive product that can both impair and intoxicate a person who uses the substance.  Permitting the use of cannabis in places where tobacco use is permitted is not recommended due to the health and safety consequences that can come from people being impaired in public. Dr. Salvaterra shared that from a public health perspective it would be preferable to treat cannabis legislatively as similar to alcohol and not like tobacco.

The board reviewed the staff recommendations in response to these legislative changes. The board will advocate to the provincial government to prohibit the marketing and promotion of e-cigarettes and to fund the enforcement activities of public health. It has requested that the staff report be forwarded to all municipal and First Nation councils. PPH staff will be exploring opportunities to develop a regional Cannabis Collaborating Committee to support an integrated response to issues regarding cannabis production, sales, enforcement and use.

Child Vision Health and Vision Screening

Patti Fitzgerald, Manager of Child Health Services, shared an update on the status of implementing vision screening, a new requirement of the Ontario Public Health Standards announced earlier in 2018. Vision screening is a short sequence of tests that can detect and identify some risk factors for the certain vision disorders: amblyopia (sometimes called “lazy eye”), reduced stereopsis (reduced depth perception between the eyes), strabismus (problem with eye alignment), refractive vision disorder (e.g. nearsightedness and farsightedness). The screening does not diagnose vision disorders, and is not considered a replacement for a comprehensive eye examination.  The Ministry of Health and Long Term Care is not providing any additional funding to assist with staffing costs, however PPH can submit a one-time request for equipment costs. PPH anticipates the program will require at least 0.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) of staff time, which may result in long-term non-compliance in other program areas. Comprehensive eye exams are covered by OHIP, and the local Lions Club has been providing vision screening to most schools in the area since 2004. Next steps include promoting the OHIP covered comprehensive eye exam for JK students and developing a consistent approach to vision screening in collaboration with the Lion’s club and local public health agencies within our shared school boards.

Healthcare Worker Influenza Immunization 2017-2018

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care requires the collection of influenza vaccine coverage rates for staff from nursing homes and hospitals. Peterborough Public Health released its annual report on healthcare worker (HCW) flu shot rates from last year’s flu season based on staff immunization coverage rates collected as of December 15, 2017. The total average HCW flu immunization coverage rate increased to 80% from 79% in the 2016-2017 season. Influenza vaccination provides benefits to HCWs and to the patients for whom they care. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) considers the provision of influenza vaccination to be an essential component of the standard of care for all HCWs for the protection of their patients.  The full report which includes flu immunization coverage rates by individual facility can be found here.

No Money for Food is Cent$less (Limited Incomes Report, 2018)

Peterborough Public Health recently completed the costing of the Nutritious Food Basket (NFB) in our community. The NFB is Ontario’s standardized food affordability tool used by public health agencies to measure the cost of healthy eating, based on the Canada Food Guide.  Food costs are recorded according to the lowest available price at the grocery store. In May 2018 Peterborough Public Health costed out the NFB and found that Peterborough’s most vulnerable residents continue to suffer from an inability to eat nutritiously because other expenses such as housing make eating a healthy diet unaffordable. This is especially the case for those on social assistance.

For example, after paying for his shelter costs, a single man receiving Ontario Works benefits would experience a monthly deficit of $198 if he spent the $303 each month required for a nutritious diet, not including other basic necessities such as clothing, transportation and medical costs.  For a family of four, the NFB costs out to $898 per month, which represents 25% of the income of a family supported by a minimum wage earner or 35% of the income of a family receiving Ontario Works.  For the average income family in Ontario, only 11% of their total income is required for a nutritious diet. The root cause of food insecurity and poverty is a lack of sufficient income.  While programs such as food banks, community meal programs and emergency food access programs provide important short-term relief to those who are in need, they are not the solution. Instead, broader and longer-term strategies that addresses poverty need to be considered, such as the recently scuttled Ontario Basic Income Pilot.

Next meeting: The Board of Health meets next on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 at 5:30 p.m. in the J.K. Edwards Board Room, third floor, 185 King St., Peterborough, Ontario.