Caring for those with special abilities

health for all copy

It is estimated that about 1-3% of the Canadian population lives with a developmental disability (DD).  This refers to people with limited cognitive abilities and adaptive functioning which have their onset before the age of 18.  The causes of DDs are varied and often unknown and can be a combination of both genetic and environmental factors (for example trauma during birth).  This population often has specific health concerns and can be complex yet rewarding patients to work with.

On this week’s show, we spoke with Dr. Bill Sullivan, a family doctor at the Surrey Place Centre in Toronto, about health care for people with DDs.  Dr. Sullivan is leading a provincial initiative to improve the health and quality of life for people with DDs through training and resource development for primary health care providers.

On the show, we speak about how having a DD can affect one’s health outcomes as well as  specific health concerns that members of this population might have.  We learn that there are surprisingly few health care providers that specialize in care for this population.  How can we improve upon this lack of training and education? Tune in to find out.

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2013 Homelessness Marathon – Live segment on health and precarious housing in Hamilton

Recent cuts to the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit, "put men and women at risk of homelessness." photo: Danielle Major

Recent cuts to the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit, “put men and women at risk of homelessness.” photo: Danielle Major

On February 20th, HJRC in collaboration with Health Providers Against Poverty, YWCA and CFMU 93.3 FM brought the 2013 Homelessness Marathon to Hamilton. The marathon is a live national 14 hour radio broadcast about Homelessness and Housing
Issues, heard across the country by over 40 campus community radio
stations with a focus on the voices of those directly impacted.

According to a 2011 report prepared by the Social Planning and Research Council, in Hamilton, shelter usage by women is increasing, while shelter use by men is decreasing. There are 195 men only beds, 127 for women, 90% of which are specifically designated for women fleeing violence . Women’s shelters routinely turn away clients owing to lack of capacity.

On today’s episode of HJRC, we speak with six courageous women who tell us how precarious housing in Hamilton has impacted their health.

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Join HJRC for the 2013 Homelessness Marathon — Live!


Health Justice Radio is teaming up with Health Providers Against Poverty, YWCA Hamilton and CFMU 93.3 FM to bring you the 2013 Homelessness Marathon!

Wednesday February 20, 2013
Listening Booth at the YWCA Hamilton – 75 MacNab Street S, Hamilton
6pm – midnight
Food and warm drinks will be provided

The Homelessness Marathon is a 14-hour live radio broadcast from the streets across Canada, about housing, homelessness, and poverty. The marathon aims to provide a national perspective on housing realities and homelessness from the perspective of those directly impacted. It is broadcast on more than 40 stations across Canada and runs all night from 5pm EST on Wednesday February 20th, 2013 to 7am EST on Thursday February 21st. Listen live online at or @ CFMU 93.3 FM.

Each hour of the broadcast focuses on a specific theme related to housing. A toll free number allows anyone in Canada to call in to share their stories, opinions, and experiences of homelessness live on air.

This year, Health Providers Against Poverty Hamilton, CFMU, Health Justice Radio, and YWCA Hamilton are working together to host a listening booth at the YWCA Hamilton from 6-12pm.

We will also be hosting a live 30-minute segment on Health & Homelessness at 8:30pm. This will be recorded live at the YWCA Hamilton and will include interviews with women impacted by homelessness as well as local health care providers.

A phone line will be available so that listeners can call in to the national broadcast at any time throughout the evening.

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Dispelling myths about mental illness


What is the difference between our bodies getting sick and our brains getting sick?  It seems obvious that these should be seen as similar processes.  Why does stigma still exist against mental illness, but patients are not discriminated against for having medical conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure?  Current research on brain physiology is shedding light on the biological causes of mental illness.  One thing we know for sure is that although illness is not the patient’s fault, or due to any weakness in character, stigma often prevents them from seeking and receiving care.

However, perceptions about mental illness are slowly changing as it is receiving more attention in the media.  Today, we speak with Dr. Joseph Ferencz, the head of psychiatry at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, about the nature of mental illness and how to dispel some of these myths and stigmas.

For more information about mental health, visit the Canadian Mental Health Association website.

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The Maternity Centre of Hamilton: Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies

Today on HJR, we’re featuring a unique and fascinating obstetrical health resource in our community.

image: istockphoto

It is well established that receiving adequate prenatal care is an important determinant of health for both mom and baby. According to the Hamilton Spectator and the Better Outcomes Registry and Network (or BORN), early access to prenatal care is considered a vital part of preventing premature and low-birth-weight babies, as well as long-term developmental challenges. BORN found that about 85% of expectant moms in Ontario receive prenatal care in their first trimester. In Hamilton, the rate is about 94%, significantly higher than the provincial average. However, similar to the CODE RED series findings, there are geographical differences within the city. For example, in Ancaster, the rate of women receiving prenatal care in the first 3 months of pregnancy in 97%, whereas in the downtown neighbourhood between Kenilworth and Queen St, the rate is 89%. According to BORN, this may be partially due to socio-economic status differences.

However, according to Dr. David Price, chair of McMaster’s Department of Family Medicine and one of the founding members of the Maternity Center, Hamilton has a strong, well-integrated social service network, which helps to increase prenatal care access throughout the city. One of the best examples of these resources is the Maternity Center of Hamilton, the focus of our Health Justice Radio show today.

The Maternity Center of Hamilton, which was opened in 2001, is a clinic that provides prenatal, postpartum and newborn care to moms and their babies. It is a project of the McMaster Department of Family Medicine and is unique in that physician referrals are not required, so women can self-refer. They are cared for a by a committed interprofessional team of nurse practitioners, family doctors, social workers and lactation consultants. Moms will then deliver at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, with the help of the family doctor on call.

To gain some insight into this neat place, we spoke with Claudia Steffler, a Nurse Practitioner and the Unit Director of the Maternity Center of Hamilton. She shares her thoughts on the birth and growth of this exemplary community resource.

Listen to the show by clicking here

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“They’ve had free prescriptions, not anymore”: Conservative MP mailout angers refugee health defenders

Residents in MP Kelly Block’s riding of Saskatoon Rosetown Biggar were surprised in mid October when they found a flyer in their mail boxes celebrating the end to “unfair” benefits for refugee claimants. The flyer states, “They’ve had free prescriptions, Not anymore.” The mail-out was from MP Kelly Block’s office, and it had her constituents along with defenders of health care for refugees upset.

Dr. Mahli Brin-damour, a pediatrics resident Block’s said, “It’s biased and misleading. It’s trying to pit Canadians against this vulnerable group.”

Block for her part has since said that the mailout, “wasn’t meant to be divisive.”

The mail-out refers to cuts to healthcare services for refugees that were implemented on July 1st of this year, despite opposition from over 17 health associations across the country including the College of Family Physicians and the Canadian Medical Association.

A rally on October 20th to oppose Block’s mail out attracted over 400 people in Saskatoon. On October 22nd, Dr. Mahli Brin-Damour took her fight to parliament hill along with students from the University of Ottawa’s medical school. On today’s episode of HJR, we take you there.

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To the streets – again. We refuse to cooperate!

“Health care workers should be deciding what care people need based on their illness—not their income, refugee status, religion or anything else.” – Dr. Tim O’Shea, 2012

Following last week’s show on the cuts to refugee health care funding in Canada, we attended the “We Refuse to Cooperate” campaign in Bayfront Park on Saturday September 29th.  Dozens of community members, students and health care professionals gathered to demonstrate their support for equal access to services.  It was an event aimed at mobilizing awareness and enacting change for the many patients affected across Hamilton.

Today, we hear from three passionate activists about the clinical and financial effects of the cuts, and where things may go in the future.


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To the streets! Reflecting on health-sector responses to refugee health cuts

In late April of this year, the federal government announced it would make sweeping cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program – a program that provides access to healthcare for refugees in Canada. On May 11th over 90 doctors occupied Member of Parliament Joe Oliveri’s office, demanding the cuts be reversed. In June, rallies took place in 14 cities across the country. Frustrated by being seemingly ignored by the federal government, and having exhausted other means of communicating with Members of Parliament, physicians began disrupting news conferences. In response to this unprecedented mobilization of the health sector, the federal government quietly backtracked on some of the cuts. Refugee claimants no longer have access to medications, despite the fact that they often arrive in Canada with little more than the clothes on their back. A diabetic refugee claimant arriving in Canada with little or no resources will not have access to life-saving insulin he or she may need, for example. Furthermore, refugee claimants from countries deemed “safe” — those countries which the government believes are unlikely to produce refugees — will have no preventative care and no access to meds unless it is deemed a threat to public safety. Today, activist and pediatrician Dr. Samir Shaheen-Hussein returns to the show to talk with us about whether the cuts could have been predicted, their ideological underpinning, this summer’s mobilizations, and the “We Refuse to Cooperate,” campaign.

Find out about the launch of “We refuse to Cooperate” in Hamilton (Sept 29, 1-4 pm @ Bayfront park) and the new org, Hamiltonians for Migrant and Refugee Health here.

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Au Naturel – naturopathy’s important and indispensable role within our healthcare system

Naturopathic Medicine is and broad inclusive field. It is a distinct system of primary health care that addresses the root causes of illness, and promotes health and healing using natural therapies. It supports your body’s own healing ability using an integrated approach to disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention that includes:

  • acupuncture/asian medicine
  • botanical medicine
  • Physical medicine
  • Clinical nutrition
  • Homeopathic medicine
  • Lifestyle counselling

Naturopathic Doctors are highly educated primary care providers who integrate standard medical diagnostics with a broad range of natural therapies. This dynamic field often attempts to address healthcare issues through a different approach though with the same ultimate aim of providing patients with the tools to improve their quality of life.

This week on Health Justice Radio we have a very special guest here to talk to us about her own personal journey in the field of naturopathic medicine. A recent graduate of McMaster University in 2010, and currently attending the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, our guest has a unique perspective on the field of naturopathic medicine informed by her experiences within and outside of school. This week on Health Justice Radio, we are honoured to have Anne Hussain here to tell us about her personal journey in the field of naturopathic medicine, and her perspective on the many  hot button issues surrounding the field at the moment. She recognizes the critical importance of naturopathic medicine as a facet of healthcare delivery and could help shed some light into the challenges that await training traditional doctors as they step into the workforce and attempt to work in conjunction with naturopathic doctors to improve health care outcomes.

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Minding the Mind

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is a new form of therapy used for many psychological disorders. It was developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan at the University of Washington. Dr. Linehan has suffered from mental illness herself and has been dedicated to helping others walk out of their emotional shadows.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy was initially used  to help individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder but is now used for people who have trouble managing their emotions, suicidal thinking or behaviour, self-injury,  Bipolar Personality Disorder, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol or drug problems, eating disorders, chronic feelings of emptiness, etc.

DBT is a combination of mindfulness meditation and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Mindfulness helps the person acceptance of themselves and their situation and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy helps to change behavioural patterns. Two central goals in DBT are “learning to bear pain skillfully” and “creating a life worth living”.

In this interview we spoke with Sheri Van Dijk about DBT and her experience as a DBT provider in Newmarket, Ontario.

Sheri has written several books on DBT including:

Calming the Emotional Storm. This is an easy to read introduction to the dialectal behaviour therapy skills that can help readers to keep calm in the face of distressing emotions.

Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Your Life for Teens. This DBT workbook can help all teens with depression, anxiety, anger, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder, take charge of their feelings.

The Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Skills Workbook – for Bipolar Disorder, using DBT to regain control of your emotions and your life.

The Bipolar Workbook for Teens. This book helps youth develop expertise and resources for managing bipolar disorder.

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