York health professor comments on new Canada Health Consumer Index

Canada lags far behind most of the developed world when it comes to covering the cost of prescription drugs for seniors and low-income families, reported CBC News Sept. 17 in a story about the inaugural Canada Health Consumer Index.

Countries choose which drugs to fund based on different criteria, with some like Canada considering cost-effectiveness while others don’t, said drug industry critic Dr. Joel Lexchin, a professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management, in the Faculty of Health. The findings are like comparing apples and oranges, Lexchin said Tuesday. In France for example, a life-sustaining drug gets more funding than one to treat a chronic condition.

  • Drug industry critic Dr. Joel Lexchin, a professor of health policy at Toronto’s York University, pointed to what Tuesday’s Canada Health Consumer Index report, omits, such as the percentage of children who receive all recommended vaccinations rather than just the new HPV vaccine for cervical cancer, and measures that would show the effectiveness of hospital care, such as the percentage of people readmitted to hospital after surgery, wrote CBC News online Sept. 17.

The focus on percentage of new approved drugs subsidized by the province fails to consider research published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggesting that drugs that are approved faster may have more safety problems, Lexchin pointed out.

Newest Liberal election ad attacks ‘Harpernomics’

The Liberals released a new election ad this week attacking Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s economic policies, wrote The Canadian Press Sept. 16.

“At least this is about policies,” said Alan Middleton, marketing professor in York’s Schulich School of Business. “It’s refreshing to see us going back to actually focusing on things that actually matter. I suspect you’re going to be seeing a lot more on economics. You’ve got an electorate that’s beginning to be quite fearful about the economic conditions. So I expect…more and more attack ads, not so much on Harper individually, but on his policies.”

“It’s obviously another form of negative advertising because the first half of the ad is talking about alleged negative effects of Conservative policy. Then they try to sort of counter that with the positive effects of their own policies or at least what they claim. They say Dion’s carbon tax, which is the main platform of their campaign, is going to create jobs and… they will be able to offer tax reductions in income tax and small business tax. In that way, it’s a negative ad but there’s also a positive message, which is their response.

Two York grads compete for seat in Willowdale riding

Willowdale constituents are heading back to the polls Oct. 14 for a general election, seven months after electing Liberal Martha Hall Findlay (LLB ’87) to the House of Commons, wrote the North York Mirror Sept. 16.

Hall Findlay won a landslide victory in the March 17 byelection in the Liberal stronghold, replacing longtime MP Jim Peterson who retired last year. “The issues that we ran on in the byelection are the same issues we’re running on now,” said Hall Findlay, the associate finance critic for the Opposition. Hall Findlay, a graduate of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and a candidate for the Liberal leadership in 2006, said she’s appreciative of support Willowdale constituents have shown for the party and plans to continue serving in Ottawa. “I certainly hope I will continue to represent the riding of Willowdale,” she said.

Conservative candidate Jake Karns (BBA ’03) is hoping to gain ground in the Liberal safe-seat riding. A graduate of the Schulich School of Business at York University, Karns was set to run in York South-Weston but recently switched to Willowdale after candidate Maureen Harquail decided not to seek election. “(The Conservative Party) decided to let me come back home,” Karns said of the riding he lives in. “I’m happy to be back home, talking to neighbours.”

How much diversity is too much?

Professor Carl James, of York’s Faculty of Education, argues that soft or hard diversity is not the question here, wrote the Edmonton Journal Sept. 17 in a story about accommodating cultural differences. He argues that black students in Toronto already experience segregated education and that an Africentric school – that is, an actual segregated institution – is necessary so that black students can heal. Not all need it but, for those whose confidence and capacity for learning has been especially damaged, segregation of that kind may be essential.

The Journal also noted that James was among the scheduled speakers at a conference sponsored by the Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership on Oct. 3 and 4 in Calgary.

York quarterback passes torch to rookie

After the York University Lions football team was thumped 58-7 by the University of Toronto on Saturday, veteran quarterback Bart Zemanek went to speak with his coaches, wrote The Toronto Sun Sept. 17.

No, the fifth-year player wasn’t going to complain about being pulled after three possessions only to be replaced by a rookie. Instead, he wanted the ball put in the hands of that rookie, Nick Coutu, more often.

“I think he’s easily going to be one of the best players to play CIS football,” Zemanek said of Coutu. “He will honestly be a lot better than I could have ever been. He’s a lot more athletic than I am,” Zemanek said. “Nick Coutu is head and shoulders above anyone I’ve ever seen coming in at his age.”

First-year coach Mike McLean knows that his program is in a rebuilding process. His squad features 25 first-year players, including four that never had played football before. But he says Coutu is one of the biggest building blocks that will help turn the program around.

“He is the future,” said McLean, a former defensive coordinator with the Saint Mary’s Huskies. “He is the exact person and personality that we’re going to build around.”

Being one of the team’s centrepieces was one of the biggest things that sold Coutu on choosing York. He believes that McLean and his coaching staff can build a team that will compete on the national level. “It’s the best possible situation for me,” Coutu said. “I’m excited to rebuild this team and I know it’s going to happen.”

Senior bureaucrats visit York

Canada played host last week to a group of senior public-service officers who are taking part in a cross-border study program to make them better leaders, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Sept. 17. The program, called Leadership Across Borders, includes bureaucrats from Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

While they were in Canada, the group spent time in both Ottawa and Toronto. Students met with the clerk of the privy council (the privy council sponsors the program here) and also with academics at the University of Ottawa and York University.

More Niagara schools sign on to York’s Ontario EcoSchools program

Twenty-two more District School Board of Niagara schools will affirm their environmental friendliness this year, wrote the St. Catharines Standard Sept. 17. After Sheridan Park on Linwell Road, Col. John Butler in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Westlane Secondary in Niagara Falls joined the Ontario EcoSchools program, more are trying for certification.

The York University program has stringent green guidelines for schools wanting certification, including turning off lights, planting gardens and significantly reducing garbage.

On air

  • Gail Fraser, biology professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, spoke about her recent study of oil spills off Canada’s Atlantic coast, on radio stations in St. John’s and Cornerbrook, Nfld.; Ottawa; Victoria; and Yarmouth, NS, Sept. 15.
  • Mark Winfield, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, spoke about public transit and Liberal leader Stéphane Dion’s Green Shift plan, on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” Sept. 16.
  • Qiang Zha, professor in York’s Faculty of Education, took part in a panel discussion about education in the Western and Eastern worlds, on TVO’s “The Agenda” Sept. 16.