Monday 26 December 2005

Holiday Woes Of The Heart

For some individuals who are at risk of heart disease, the Christmas holiday season can be a dangerous time for their health. Past epidemiological studies had founder higher incidences of heart attack and heart failure during the winter season as compared with the summer season. Today, Canada’s national newspaper The Globe and Mail published a story on the syndrome that was dubbed the “Merry Christmas coronary” and the “Happy New Year heart attack.” In it, the column cited studies from the US and France but also data from our own research group in Canada to which I belong. The phenomenon is of great public health interest because it remains unclear what preventable measures can be taken by the population to reduce the risks of cardiac morbidity or mortality during the winter season. While the colder outdoor temperature is an obvious potential culprit responsible for the holiday “woes” of the heart, many other environmental factors as well as the behaviours of the population are also likely to be at play. Moreover, I had suggested that it might be the response of the population to the changing environment that is more of a determinant of risk than the actual environment where the population is currently inhabited. For example, the story cited our data showing that the increase in heart attack and heart failure rates is paradoxically higher in Southern than Northern Canada, despite the fact the climate in the north is colder than the south. Future studies should help to discover the underlying causes of this winter danger and derive appropriate public health measures. In the meantime, the public should heed to the advice of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and use common sense to minimize risky behaviors that may increase the risks of having heart attack or heart failure.

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under Health • Under Study • Under Work • Under World
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Monday 19 December 2005

Is Public Domain Knowledge Database Ready For Public Consumption?

Wikipedia is the poster child of public domain knowledge database. Found in 2001 by Jimmy Wales, the utilitarian goal of this “free” online encyclopaedia is to provide a platform where the “total” knowledge of humankind can be permanently recorded for prosperity. To keep up to date, this online knowledge repository can be continuously edited by anyone who chooses to contribute. With the increasing use of Wikipedia by the public, critics of Wikipedia have raised concerns about the credibility of such public domain knowledge database where no one truly polices the accuracy of the information within.

In November, the trustworthiness of Wikipedia was seriously called into question in an USA Today exposé by John Seigenthaler Sr., a former assistant of Robert Francis Kennedy, about his discovery of a false entry in the online encyclopedia in which he was implicated in the assassination of both Senator Kennedy and his brother President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Last week, the New York Times reported the perpetrator to be Brain Chase, who entered the false information into Wikipedia as a gag directed against the eminent Seigenthaler family in Nashville where Chase lives. This single act of sabotage exposes the vulnerability of Wikipedia in that the information within can easily be falsified by anyone for unethical gains.

In contrast, the accuracy of Wikipedia on scientific information appears to fair better. In a research paper just published from the prestigious scientific journal Nature, a peer-review comparison between Wikipedia and Britannica Encyclopedia on their contents across a board range of scientific disciplines found that the difference in accuracy between the two encyclopaedias was only small. On average, a scientific entry in Wikipedia contained about four errors as compared with three errors in a scientific entry in Britannica.

The creation of a public domain knowledge base such as Wikipedia is of great benefit to humankind. With proper safeguard to ensure the accuracy of its content, further development of such database should be actively encouraged and not prematurely abandoned because of “teething” problems.

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under Tech • Under World
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Monday 12 December 2005

Is Co-Operative Medicare The Savoir Of Universal Healthcare?

The adoption of Canada Health Act in 1984 establishes the provision of universal healthcare in providing essential medical services to all Canadians without economic or access barriers. It forbids health professionals and institutions from rendering priority medical care to individuals in return for financial compensation. For the past two decades, our universal healthcare system remains to be a pinnacle achievement by Canada in attempt to deliver efficient and cost-effective medicine. Still, the merit of public versus private healthcare has been an ongoing debate between proponents and opponents of our current system.

More recently, co-operative medicare has been promoted to be the ultimate savoir of our degenerating healthcare system, where public medical care coexists with limited priority medical care that are available to individuals who are willing to pay for “extra” service. Proponents argue that the establishment of such two-tiered system will jeopardize neither quality nor equity of medical care for Canadians. Yet, it is unclear at present how such protection can be guaranteed. In the US, variations in quality of medical care have been linked to the coexisting delivery of managed care and public care. Last month, Canadians witnessed the opening of Canada’s first private primary care centre in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Copeman Healthcare Centre offers services to primary care physicians and in-house specialists for an initial enrolment fee and an annual service charge. Last week, Vancouver’s Cambie Surgical Centre announced plans to open a for-profit surgical hospital in Ontario. As a healthcare professional myself, I believe the prima facie proof must always be the delivery of timely quality medical care to “all” people who seek such service, regardless of what healthcare system or systems may ultimately be employed. If co-operative medicare is to be instituted, the ethical ramification and resource repercussion must be thoroughly explored by all key stakeholders (not just those who may benefit) before it should be made available to Canadians.

By Philip Jong • At 12:16 AM • Under Column • Under Health • Under Work • Under World
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Monday 05 December 2005

Poor Timing For A Federal Election

On November 28, Canadians saw the falling of the minority Liberal government after its defeat in a vote of non-confidence in the House of Commons. This defeat is historic that it is the first motion ever in Parliament to defeat the government on a simple vote of non-confidence. The toppling of the government by the oppositions is the direct fallout of the Gomery Report that has laid blame of the federal sponsorship scandal squarely on the Liberal Party. The next day Canadians witnessed the dissolution of our government by Prime Minister Paul Martin and the call for a general election to be held on January 23. Without delay, the oppositions began their campaigns by accusing the former government of neglecting the needs of the Canadians. Yet, public opinion has openly questioned the awkward timing of the federal election and the true motive of the oppositions. With Christmas only weeks away, most Canadians are focused rightly on preparing for the holiday season with families and friends rather than on listening to political speeches with shady ideals. Campaigning at this time of the year will not allow Canadians the time we need to properly question our future leaders on their political promises and pledges before the historic election date arrives.

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under World
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Thursday 01 December 2005

Shedding Trees

Shedding Trees

By Philip Jong • At 05:16 PM • Under Media
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