Friday, June 29, 2007

Using Comedy to Fight Mental Illness and Stigma: CBC Passionate Eye Documentary

Cracking Up is a life-affirming documentary about people with mental illness who embark on a quirky quest to become stand up comics. The film follows 11 courageous people who suffer from mental illness as they pursue a year of stand up comedy.

Part fun and part therapy, the course, entitled Stand Up For Mental Health is the brainchild of Vancouver counselor, stand-up comic, and author of The Happy Neurotic: How Fear and Angst Can Lead To Happiness and Success David Granirer. “It’s like ‘The Full Monty’ except people want us to keep our clothes on”, he says.

Doing stand-up comedy has had an amazing effect on the people in the course. For the first time in their lives, they have embraced the word "crazy," and learned to laugh at their mental illness–and their audiences are laughing right along with them. They have discovered a talent they never dreamt they had.

Airs nationally on August 30 at 9 p.m. On CBC’s Doc Zone.

For more information contact:
David Granirer, Founder
Stand Up For Mental Health–Using stand-up comedy to empower people with mental illness
3633 Triumph Street
Vancouver, BC V5K 1V4
Phone: 604-205-9242; Fax: 604-205-9243

Friday, June 22, 2007

Health Issues for Canadian Children & Youth: Online Consultation


The Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Health, has announced the launch of on-line consultations to gather opinions from Canadians on the health issues of Canada's children and youth.

"We have an important opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children and youth," said Minister Clement. "Still, we need input on how to truly make a positive and lasting impact not only on our kids, but on Canadian society as well."

Dr. Khristinn Kellie Leitch, Advisor on Healthy Children and Youth, is examining the health issues facing Canada's children and youth. Since her appointment on March 8, 2007, Dr. Leitch has met with a number of stakeholders from across the country as well as provincial and territorial government representatives. The opening of the on-line consultations marks an important step in Dr. Leitch's mandate.

"The responses that I receive from this on-line consultation, combined with the information I am gathering from face-to-face meetings, will assist me in forming recommendations on key federal priorities and opportunities in the domain of children and youth health," said Dr. Leitch.

The consultations will be held on Health Canada's Web site from June 19, 2007, and will close at 23:59 (Pacific time) on June 29, 2007.

Dr. Leitch will report on the on-line consultation to the Minister of Health later this summer. Her advice and recommendations will inform the federal Health Portfolio on what actions it can take to best contribute to enhancing the health of Canada's children and youth.

To participate visit:

Participants Wanted: Osteoporosis & Physical Activity Research Study

"Drs. Philip M. Wilson and Diane E. Mack are requesting your assistance in regards to their federally funded research study entitled Osteoporosis and Physical Activity. The purpose of this study is to examine the measurement of lifestyle physical activity in those diagnosed with osteoporosis. "—From The Ontario Health Promotion E-bulletin (OHPE) June 21, 2007. Click on the link to read the full post.

Consider subscribing to the weekly OHPE, produced by the Ontario Prevention Clearinghouse and The Health Communication Unit.

BC Legal Aid Newsletter

ELAN: Electronic Legal Aid Newsletter for Community Workers is an electronic newsletter published nine times/year by the Legal Services Society.

Each issue includes geat tips and resources, such as:
"Do you have a client looking for free legal services? Check out the Pro Bono map of BC. Search by city or region, and get easy-to-use online maps and driving directions to the nearest locations." (February 2007 issue of ELAN)

To subscribe, visit:

To read back issues, visit:

Women’s Stories about Surviving Stroke

A new book by Canadian Sociology Professor, Sharon Dale Stone sheds light on how women experience hemorrhagic stroke [bleeding within the brain which damages nearby brain tissue].

A Change of Plans: Women’s Stories of Hemorrhagic Stroke is a collection of eleven stories by women who experienced hemorrhagic strokes before the age of 50. The author herself experienced a stroke as a young girl. It came on suddenly and the symptoms were misdiagnosed. Who would think that an eleven-year-old girl would be having a brain aneurysm?

As she grew into adulthood, the author thought deeply about the silence that had surrounded her experience and the psychic trauma she wasn't allowed to talk about. In the 1990s, she happened upon an article written by a woman who had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke at the age of 24, and for the first time she felt less isolated in her experience. With her new awareness that there were others like her, she embarked upon a journey through Canada, the US, England, and Scotland to find and publish their stories.

The book opens with a background discussion of hemorrhagic stroke and the disabling consequences that follow. The women's stories are told honestly and movingly, and touch on the themes of recovery and rehabilitation; being a medical patient; self-image; being or not being recognized as disabled; relations with family, friends and co-workers; and how the stroke so suddenly changed their lives.

The book was published by Sumach Press and can also be purchased through

Dr. Sharon Dale Stone is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, ON. As an activist and academic, she is committed to giving voice to groups of people whose experiences are marginalized in mainstream society, and has published widely on the many issues facing women with disabilities.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions

A health education program to help people with chronic conditions—such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, fibromyalgia, depression and others—manage their illness is available throughout British Columbia. The Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, “Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions,” developed by the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, is free.

Trained and certified local volunteers, many living with chronic health conditions themselves, deliver the program in pairs once a week for six weeks. Groups take eight to 15 participants and each session lasts two-and-a-half hours.

The program offers practical tips on how to cope with the emotional and physical challenges of day-to-day living with a chronic condition. The sessions provide participants with skills for gaining more control over their illness and for boosting their self-confidence. The program, which receives funding from the BC Ministry of Health, is also open to friends, family and caregivers of people with chronic conditions.

For more information, or to register for one of the six-week courses, call the toll-free line at 1-866-902-3767 or visit the website at

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Vancouver Women's Health Collective (VWHC) Tidbits

Tidbits are fact sheets "designed to provide concise and useful information on women and health from a gendered perspective." Topics covered include:

Finding a New Doctor
Taking Charge of Your Health Part 1
Taking Charge of Your Health Part 2
Medical Services Plan
Accessing Abortion
Women's Hearth Health
Health Care User Fees: A Gendered Perspective
Women & Health Care in BC: A Gendered Perspective
Rural Women and Health
Facts on Aboriginal Women's Health
Women, Poverty, and Health
The Vancouver Women's Health Collective Menopause Kit

Tidbits are available free of charge as PDF files which you can download from the Vancouver Women's Health Collective website at

Study: access to health services and information in the UK

Accessing Information about Health and Social Care Services
Picker Institute Europe
April 2007

Executive Summary
This is the second of two research studies on patients’ information produced for the Department of Health by the Picker Institute. The first, published in 2006*, found that few health information materials included a clear presentation of the likely outcomes of treatment, a discussion of clinical controversies and uncertainties, or an understanding of the patient’s decision-making role. Thus, they did not go very far to help patients make decisions.

This new study examines how patients, service users and carers currently find out about locally available services and how to access them.

Key Findings
1. Health professionals—who are often responsible for first diagnosis, or are an initial port of call for help with a condition—do not systematically or proactively provide their patients with information about accessing local services

2. There is a lack of co-ordination between information providers across boundaries—geographical, sectoral and organisational. It is rare for an individual or an organization to take responsibility for providing relevant information about the entire range of services available

3. There is a lack of effective signposting. There is no shortage of information—a significant amount of information is being designed and produced—but the service user is often left to dig it out for themselves, and may not know what it is they need to know

4. The types of information most commonly requested by service users include:
-details of voluntary sector support groups
-support for the family or carer(s)
-condition-specific services
-the financial benefits available, and how to claim them
-how to comment on or complain about services

5. With regard to the quality of information provision:
-users report that most telephone information points offer a friendly service, but do not always lead to helpful or appropriate information
- most health and social care websites contain useful information, but some are poorly designed
-some telephone advice services and websites fail to update regularly
-social care services appear to perform better than health agencies in offering information in various formats, thus making them accessible to people with disabilities

*Coulter A, Ellins J, Swain D, Clarke A, Heron P, Rasul F, Magee H, Sheldon H. Assessing the quality of information to support people in making decisions about their health and healthcare. Oxford: Picker Institute Europe, 2006

To download the full report (108 pages), visit:

For other Picker Institute Europe publications on health care and access to health issues, visit:

[Executive summary reprinted with permission.]

Drug information too hard to read and understand

To make drug information easier to read, researchers recommend:
• using short, familiar words and short sentences
• using short headings that stand out
• using the largest possible type size
• leaving plenty of white space
• using bullet points to organize lists.

Earlier this year, researchers announced the results of a systematic review of studies examining the usefulness to patients of medication information sheets. The review covered the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia and the United States and found that information does not meet the needs of patients. Poor layout and complex language often hinder communication.

The reviewers emphasize that patients want written information in addition to—not instead of—spoken instructions from their health care professionals. Many people would like information that better helps them evaluate potential benefits and harms of a drug treatment. Lead author D.K. Raynor, Ph.D., of the University of Leeds in England says that one key finding was an apparent dichotomy between prescriber and patient views of the fundamental purpose of drug leaflets.

Some providers see increasing treatment compliance as a primary function. In contrast, patients say an informed decision not to take a medicine is also an acceptable result. “Patients see the role of written medical information as guiding them in terms of which medicine is right for them and, if they take the medicine, how best they can use it,” Raynor said. To that end, patients would also like to see more balance between benefit and harm information.

Current drug information focuses too heavily on warnings and adverse effects of the medication, Raynor said. “Patients also need to know how it might benefit them and how likely it is to benefit them.” Exactly how to convey the likelihood of benefits and harms most clearly remains in question. Verbal descriptors like “rare” or “common” are too vague, according to the review.

Yet, more scientific terminology like percentages or “numbers needed to treat” can also confuse the lay public. More research is needed in how best to communicate probability data to consumers, the reviewers say.

To read the full report:
Raynor DK, et al. A systematic review of quantitative and qualitative research on the role and effectiveness of written information available to patients about individual medicines. Health Technology Assessment 11(5), 2007.

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The Health Literacy Network News blog is up and running again. Please send us news about resources or programs you know about (especially BC or Canadian) that helps to make health information and services more accessible.

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