Articles, Blog

Information is key to tracking, and fighting the opioid epidemic: Canada’s Public Health Officer

December 11, 2019

So, with over 7,000 lives lost and over 16
hospitalizations daily, the opioid epidemic is Canada’s biggest public
health crisis since the epidemic of HIV/AIDS. This is a crisis that is national in scope, but has affected
different parts of the country differently, so there are pronounced regional differences. A huge impact in the West of the country,
but quite worrisomely, there has been escalations in the impact of opioids
in other parts of the country such as Ontario. We don’t have national data on specific
impacts on Indigenous populations, but from British Columbia and Alberta,
they informed us that First Nations peoples were five times more likely
to experience an overdose and three times more likely to die as a result
compared to the rest of the population. But there is hope. Just over two years ago, we would not be able to tell you how many people
have been impacted in terms of deaths across the country, and so there was no way that we could discern this tangled thread of this epidemic. But with partnerships
and collaboration with the provinces and territories, medical examiners and corners, different national
organizations, we are beginning to get better information that is more timely and more informative
including some of the complex drivers and various contributing factors. So that the
thread are beginning to show the individual colours. This is the biggest public health crisis in recent decades and the loss of lives is so tremendous, that it is having an impact
on our life-expectancy gain. As we speak the epidemic continues to grow and there are some signs from some provincial data,
from Alberta and British Columbia, that there may be a slight flattening off of the curve,
but it’s really too soon to tell us the trajectory. So we haven’t turned
the corner on this crisis. And knowing that data is so critical to form our actions, I
call on all of us to contribute to fill in those data and knowledge gaps, in order for
us to provide an effective response. We must together, do our very best
to learn from the 7,000 lives lost. Thank you.

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