Is It Safe to Gather With Others During The COVID-19 Pandemic? Use This Tool to Find Out: CovidVisitRisk.com

The Visit Risk Calculator (CovidVisitRisk.com) is a new assessment tool launched by the NIA (National Institute of Ageing) in partnership with the Government of Canada to help Canadians assess the risk-level associated with social gatherings.

Using the best available scientific evidence and the input of leading experts in infectious diseases, public health and epidemiology, the website was developed to help people of different ages and states of health better understand the factors that affect the risk of getting COVID-19 when visiting or gathering with others.

As vaccination programs ramp up across the country, restrictions are slowly loosening. Canadians want more guidance on what fully-vaccinated people can do safely. Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says, “We would like to enable people to take themselves through [this] kind of risk assessment while respecting local public health requirements.”

To use the tool, you will be asked a series of questions related to your vaccination and health status, and that of the people you want to gather with, details of the event and what the local infection rates are.

“This tool uses the best available scientific evidence to support people of all ages and states of health to make more informed decisions about gathering with others during the pandemic,” says Dr. Samir Sinha, NIA Director of Health Policy Research. “After working through the questions, people are assigned a risk level in accordance with the gathering they are considering, along with public health advice on how to meet more safely with others.”

Based on your answers, you will get a “risk score” from Low to High, a personalized report to help you understand the level of risk associated with your planned visit or gathering, and tips on how to make your visit or gathering as safe as possible for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The vision behind the tool is to prepare you and your loved ones to better discuss the potential risks and benefits of visiting or gathering with each other and in the end make a well-informed decision on how to make any necessary visits or gatherings as safe as possible.

“These risk assessments depend on your individual risk, who you’re about to get into contact with, as well as the epidemiology of your specific community,” says Dr. Theresa Tam.

As of June 25th 2021, 75% of the population 12 years and older has received at least one dose and 22% is fully vaccinated. However, COVID-19 remains an important public health issue as transmission with new variants of concern continue to circulate. Careful assessment before deciding to visit, gather, or meet with others remains vitally important.

To learn more about the COVID-19 Risk Calculator or to use it for yourself, click here.

Disclosure: EMPOWER Health helped the NIA build the online experience of the risk assessment tool, and provided technical guidance along with testing.  As always, our team is proud of our work with Public Health Organizations to help conquer COVID! Visit us at empower.ca!

References

Rabson, M. (2021, June 22). Risk-assessment tool for fully vaccinated people coming soon, Tam promises. Ctvnews.ca. https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/risk-assessment-tool-for-fully-vaccinated-people-coming-soon-tam-promises-1.5481082

The wealthy bird gets the worm: Getting a head start on second doses

With the Delta variant continuing to spread in various parts of Ontario, it is crucial that second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are accessible to those who are most vulnerable. According to recent data however, it appears that those living in wealthier postal codes are moving well with the rate of second doses—even more so than the poorer and more racialized communities that need it the most.

Ontario has identified and targeted the following regions to receive an increased amount of second doses: Toronto, Peel Region, Halton and York Region. 

The independent research organization ICES claims that as of June 7, 2021,

the wealthier postal codes among the targeted regions appear to have an
increased amount of second-dose recipients  (Woodward, 2021). The postal code that led the race at the time was M5P which includes parts of Forest Hill where 17.55 percent of the residents had received their second dose (Woodward, 2021).The area around Jane and Finch, as well as Rexdale had significantly lower numbers, at 4.97 and 4.58 percent respectively (Woodward, 2021).

Dr. David Burt of the Black Scientists’ Task Force on Vaccine Equity states that “many [racialized and other vulnerable community members] are in the service industry, they can’t work from home, they have to take public transit, they have to work in the health-care sector”.

Distribution Solutions

The inequities with the rollout of second doses are no different than the first. In order to create a more balanced distribution, Toronto’s Sprint Strategy is working towards targeting areas of interest. On the other hand, pop-ups such as the ones held by Scarborough Health Network are focused on the population that lives and works in high-risk postal codes (Woodward, 2021).

References

Woodward, J. (2021, June 15). Ontario’s wealthiest zones get head start on second doses, data shows. Toronto. https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-s-wealthiest-zones-get-head-start-on-second-doses-data-shows-1.5470688.

Author, Bairavie Piravakaran (she/her)

Bairavie Piravakaran is a second-year undergraduate at the University of Toronto Scarborough. As a Psychological & Health Sciences student, she values the importance of sharing credible information and making health resources more accessible to the public. Her interests in population health, research, and design are also reflected in her non-academic pursuits—she currently volunteers with the Young Leaders of Public Health and Medicine (YLPHM) as a Social Media Manager for the Scarborough Chapter and is a Health Promotion & Analytics Member at Critical Health Innovations Lab (CHIL). At EMPOWER Health, Bairavie works closely with the Marketing Team in order to plan and execute strategies that help inform the public about current health-related topics.

10 Health Hacks For Canada’s 149th Birthday & Canada Day Holiday Hours

Over here at iamsick.ca, we’re all about boosting and improving the health of our fellow Canadians.

For the Canada Day long weekend, we’ve collected holiday hours for healthcare services, so you can easily use the iamsick.ca website or iPhone, Android or BB10 app to see whether a pharmacy or clinic is open.

And, to celebrate Canada Day, we’ve created a list of 10 cool health hacks that celebrate and advance our daily marriage with our own health.  Here they are!

1 – Nappuccinos
What is this sorcery? Nap…puccinos? The last time I had coffee before taking a nap, I lay awake on my bed jittering uncontrollably for 40 minutes. But as with all techniques, effective execution is necessary for its success.

Time for a super quick (simplified) science lesson:Your body consumes molecules called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to release energy, and produces adenosine molecules as a result. In the brain, adenosine can act as a central nervous system depressant, which makes us sleepy. The longer we stay awake, the more adenosine accumulates; when we sleep, the body replenishes ATP from the produced adenosine (a.k.a. rest). Caffeine keeps us awake because it essentially acts by blocking the effects of adenosine.In concept, napping and caffeine both do the same thing – they make us more awake by reducing the effects of adenosine. So it’s really no surprise that the two paired together are an effective strategy to potentiate naps. You see, caffeine takes about 20 minutes to kick in – so if you consume a cup of coffee and immediately take a quick power nap, you wake up with a wonderfully compounded wakefulness!

2 – Train your brain! (with music)
Music is such an intrinsic and natural component of life. Everywhere from the rustle of the leaves to the whispers of the wind, melodies arise and caress our ears. But we usually don’t pay much attention to what this could actually be doing for us. Music is actually shown to exert many benefits on our health that are worth learning about:
– Music, as a distraction element, can effectively reduce the perception of pain, and improve performance during physical activity.
– Music has a huge impact on mental health, being shown to help combat depression, relieve stress, and just to elevate moods in general.
– Music (especially when playing music) is shown to boost neuroplasticity and cognitive performance.
So why not try exploring some new genres or types of music this Canada Day? Taking care of mental health is equally if not more important than physical health, and music is a very easy way to do it.

3 – Download our app!
Sometimes health might escape us. But that’s okay. The most important thing to do when we fall is to get up. And we can help you with that. Remember to download iamsick.ca app on Android, iOS, or Blackberry (or just use the web app). Our app is tiny in size and big in impact, so you won’t need to worry about it taking up your precious smartphone storage space while also having it ready to help you when you least expect it.  You can do all sorts of things with our app.. like check where the nearest walk-in clinic is, book your doctor’s appointment online, find doctors accepting new patients (including clinics with doctors that let you book appointments online), look for diagnostic labs, and even see real-time wait times for walk-ins that use our virtual waiting room service! What’s even better is that for the upcoming Canada Day long weekend, we’ll display updated holiday hours.. so you can access healthcare when & where you need it. Even if you just need to pick up some sunscreen at a local pharmacy, we’ll help you protect your skin! Our service is especially useful to keep those on great Canadian road trips healthy.. if you’re visiting a new place, you can rely on use to ensure that your nearest healthcare options are just a couple of taps away if anything (hopefully not) happens.

4 – Ditch the whiskers
Allergy season got you down under the weather? Rocking a sick moustache? Well… it’s time to make a decision. It turns out that moustache hair is very good at trapping pollen and other airborne allergens (like pollen grains) that trigger seasonal allergies. A very easy and quick fix to this without having to take those drowsiness-inducing antihistamines would be to…ditch the whiskers and shave that ‘stache. Alternatively, as hygiene is ALWAYS important, making sure to clean your facial hair regularly throughout the day could achieve a similar effect.

5 – Offer to dog sit
Ever heard of dog therapy? It turns out that having dogs as company has great therapeutic effects. Playing with a dog can increase levels of the stress-suppressing hormone oxytocin, while simultaneously lowering your body’s production of the stress hormone, cortisol. Other benefits include lowering blood pressure, increasing
post-heart-attack lifespans, and a general increased happiness. So… if your neighbours are planning a road trip for the Canada Day weekend but can’t take their dog with them… why not be a  benevolent member of the community and pick up on some dog-sitting with a side of mental therapy?

6 – Hypothermia
Okay, this one’s even weirder than the nappuccino tip. Hypothermia? And the summer? Compromised heat regulation…in the heat of the summer? It just doesn’t make sense… Well, as it turns out, the CDC has found that there’s been an alarming number of deaths occurring due to hypothermia… in June.Why? Well, the answer is simple, really. People are unprepared. In the winter, everybody likes to bundle up with layers upon layers upon layers. But in the summer, it’s very common for people to go for a dip in the lake at the cottage (even at night), and just walk around in swim-clothes, unaware that their body heat may be declining rapidly. The tip here, is to stay prepared. Towels and light extra layers are key, especially if you’re planning on getting wet!

7 – Apply cold (tea) to area of burnThis tip is super useful for the summer. If you find yourself sunburned in the hot summer sun (you should be putting on sunscreen to prevent this in the first place), or brushed against some poison ivy, or bitten by mosquitoes, you can use TEA as a remedy! The many natural organic compounds in tea have many powerful therapeutic effects. Black tea applied to sunburns can speed recovery. Anti-inflammatory agents in chamomile tea can reduce irritation from poison ivy and bug bites. Biting into tea bags can also be used to relieve cold sores! Check out this article on Greatist.com for more information about the amazing benefits of tea: http://greatist.com/health/treat-sunburns-tea-and-other-tips

8 – Sniff some fruits and flowers
Having a bad day? Headache’s got you down? Can’t sleep? Mother nature’s full of solutions – and they’re easier to access than you think. Studies have found that odorous molecules released by oranges can relieve anxiety and boost mood, the scent of green apples can reduce the magnitude of pain perception in some individuals, and the scent of lavender oil has soothing effects that can facilitate the sleeping process. I guess whoever said that you need to take time to “step back and smell the roses” was on to something… 

9 – Exercise with your immune system!
People are always nagging you to do exercise because “it’s good for you”, but often don’t really offer much more information beyond that. So how do you actually know it’s good? Well… it goes deeper than “it boosts your metabolism” or “it makes you feel good”. It turns out that when you regularly do exercise, you are concurrently training your immune system (that part of your body that defends against illnesses and infections) to be stronger. Ever heard of a white blood cell? Well, there are several types of these, and two of them are directly impacted by your levels of exercise.Natural Killer Cells (NK Cells) are the virus and cancer-killing white blood cells. Your body is constantly producing “busted” cells that have the chance of developing into cancers… but the reason why everyone doesn’t have cancer is that their NK cells are there to destroy the bad cells before they can do damage. Macrophages (a.k.a. “big-eaters”), are another member of your body’s general immune defense, and literally eat up illness-inducing pathogens that may enter your system. Doing exercise has been found to boost the number of NK cells AND making them more powerful, while also making macrophages more responsive to your body’s chemical signals, and more capable of destroying unwanted invaders. Exercise, then, not only makes you stronger, but makes you more resistant to disease and keeps you healthier for longer!So…yeah. Next time someone tells you that “exercise is good for you”, make sure THEY know why too.

10 – Tune your mind to your body
Have you ever just looked at your hands and marvelled at how, with barely a thought, you can make your fingers move exactly how you want? Have you ever sat down and just wondered how all the multiple molecular intricacies in your body dance together to create the fully functioning organism that is you? So many of us simply take our bodies for granted, without realizing how amazing this complex vessel we are born with and grow with for our entire lives really is. Cited in multiple realms with different names, such as “mind-muscle connection” in weightlifting, “zen” in Buddhism, or “mindfulness” in colloquial terms, establishing a connection between your mind and your body is a topic of increasing importance. This mindfulness allows for the defusing of stress, a momentary reset, and just feeling more in tune with yourself as a person. Check out these 5 bonus health tips to get started on your journey to become more mindful in your everyday environment: http://www.mindful.org/5-tips-for-practicing-mindfulness-at-the-office/

Happy Canada Day everybody!!!  We hope these health hacks are useful to help you live happier every day.

Love,

The iamsick.ca Team

Sources

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16453980

http://greatist.com/happiness/unexpected-health-benefits-music

http://www.bodyandsoul.com.au/news-story/0937a947dbc07abd0ca0e643adf44e85

http://www.bodyandsoul.com.au/health/health-advice/nine-weird-health-tips-that-work/news-story/0937a947dbc07abd0ca0e643adf44e85

http://animalsmart.org/species/dogs/dogs-help-reduce-stress

http://www.theactivetimes.com/summer-hypothermia-4-tips-preventing-unexpected

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16095639

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2008/01/02/green-apple-scent.aspx

http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/9129266

http://www.nature.com/icb/journal/v78/n5/full/icb200075a.html

http://www.helpguide.org/harvard/benefits-of-mindfulness.htm

After Hours Care: Where do you go?

You can’t always rely on scheduling an appointment days in advance when you need a doctor. Sometimes, you start feeling sick shortly after your doctor’s office closes or in the middle of the night. Thankfully, you’ve got a few options. In Ontario, there are a number of healthcare providers that can give you medical attention, depending on your need and whether you are rostered to a clinic.

Here are some of your options:

If you are rostered to a clinic, it may be part of a family health team

Your clinic should have after-hours options. FHTs, FHGs, FHNs and FHOs all offer extended hours services, where doctors set aside time to see patients outside of their regular hours. The benefit of taking advantage of your clinic’s extended hours is that all of your medical information is readily accessible. Even if you don’t see your own doctor, one of their colleagues will take care of you and they will have access to your medical file. This ensures that your records are always up-to-date, and your regular doctor will be able to follow-up with you.

Clinics may also offer a telephone service. The Telephone Health Advisory Service offered to patients in FHTs, FHGs, FHNs and FHOs connects you with a registered nurse who can help you. These nurses will know your clinic info, and can connect with them should you require more assistance. Make sure you get the right number from your clinic.  We will soon pilot a service that will let you see after-hours recommendations and your clinics Telephone Health Advisory Service number when you log into your iamsick.ca account.  You will hear more about this new feature over the next few months.

It’s really important that your medical records are accurate and up-to-date. Unless you are too far away or can’t call the after-hours telephone service, we recommend that see your regular doctor and clinic.

If you can’t visit your clinic, another option is to use iamsick.ca to find the closest open walk-in clinic or urgent care centre near you.

If you are NOT rostered to a clinic: 

Walk-in clinics and urgent care centres are available if you require non-emergency medical attention after-hours. To find your nearest open clinic, visit iamsick.ca and enter your location. We even have a handy filter that lets you hide everything that is closed at the time of search:

Open / Close Filter

Unrostered patients also have a telephone service, called Telehealth Ontario. The service is accessible 24/7. A registered nurse will answer any non-emergency health questions you may have.

If you need emergency help, call 911 or visit your local emergency department. 

If you’re a visual person, we’ve got this nifty flow chart to help you make your decision.

AfterHours_ON

This post is about options in Ontario, but we hope to blog about services across Canada soon. Stay tuned!

What the FIG/FIT/FOE? Decoding Ontario’s Family Practice Models

There’s no point sugarcoating it – the Canadian healthcare system can be overwhelming. The difference between healthcare providers, funding models and health regions, among other things, can be very confusing. We’ve learned a lot since we started iamsick.ca, and we wanted to share it with you.

Since we are located in Ontario, we wanted to start off with exploring Ontario’s family practice models.

You may have heard healthcare professionals talk about “fits”, “figs”, “fins” and “foes”. You may even be part of one! As you probably guessed, these terms don’t refer to tantrums, fruits, fish and unknown enemies. In fact, they refer to acronyms that describe the different kinds of family practices in Ontario.

Each practice model differs by the kinds of services offered, the number of hours committed by the doctor, their purpose and their funding model. We created the infographic below to summarize the four most confusing models: FHTs, FHGs, FHNs and FHOs. Read on for a more descriptive summary.

What the FIT/FIG/FIN/FOE?

1. Family Health Teams (FHT)

When you hear “fit” in the context of Ontario healthcare, chances are the speaker is referring to Family Health Teams. FHTs are multi-\disciplinary, meaning many different kinds of healthcare providers work together as your healthcare team. It is possible that there are many clinics or location that belong to one FHT.

Clinics associated with a FHT offer different healthcare services, such as pharmacies, diabetes management and mental health services. Each FHT has a different set of services, so it’s a good idea to check with your clinic.

2. Family Health Groups (FHG)

Family Health Groups may be smaller than FHTs, and are not multi-disciplinary. FHGs are a group of 3 or more doctors who have committed to providing after-hours care in addition to being available during regular hours.

Here, physicians are paid fee-for-service. Simply put, this means that family physicians are paid based on what service or procedure they perform.

3. Family Health Networks (FHN)

Like FHGs, Family Health Networks are groups of 3 or more doctors who are working as a team to provide care during regular and after hours. However, there are two main differences between FHNs and FHGs.

First, FHNs can apply to become FHTs. If they are successful in transitioning into a FHT, they can receive funding to bring multidisciplinary care providers to the team.

Second, FHNs are funded under a blended capitation model. The way it is calculated is complicated, but a simple way of understanding it is each family doctor is paid per patient. The amount that is paid per patient differs based on a predetermined set of criteria. In the case of FHNs, these criteria account for the patient’s age and sex.

4. Family Health Organizations (FHO)

Finally, we have Family Health Organizations. Like FHGs and FHNs, family physicians working in this model work in groups of 3 or more, and commit to regular and after hours services. FHOs can also apply to become FHTs, just like FHNs.

However, family doctors in FHOs are paid differently. They are still paid in the blended capitation model. The criteria used to determine the base pay is calculated differently.

Now you know the difference between FHTs, FHGs, FHNs and FHOs!

If you are looking for a new family doctor accepting new patients, visit iamsick.ca and click “Family doc accepting new patients” to see your nearby options.

Are you a patient or healthcare provider in any of these models? What do you think about these different structures? Let us know below! 

Presenting New Features at Primary Care Day

iamsick.ca will be at the second Annual Primary Care Day this Friday, March 27, 2015. The event is presented by the Mississauga Halton LHIN and MIssissauga Halton Primary Care Network. Primary care providers will have an opportunity to chat with our co-founder, Ryan, and the rest of our team about our platform.

Mississauga Halton Health Integration Network  LHIN

In late 2014, we started working together with Mississauga Halton LHIN to bring patients better access to timely and appropriate care. A core element of our platform is helping patients see relevant information. We believe that will help them find the right care at the right now. We have been working hard with MH LHIN prepare features that will help patients and health care providers in the Mississauga-Halton region.

On Friday, primary care providers will have the opportunity to explore our platform. Here’s a sneak peak of three features we have built for this project:

1. Provider Accounts

Health care providers will be able to use iamsick.ca to update any facility information, including holiday hours, after hours, and any contact information that is included in our system. This feature was designed with flexibility and convenience in mind. It is important to us that health care providers can easily update their patients with the most up-to-date and accurate information.

2. Holiday Hours

Each healthcare facility’s holiday hours will be prominently displayed. We understand there are challenges around holiday surges. These challenges can burden hospital emergency departments, while patients risk not receiving appropriate and timely care. With this feature, we hope to address these challenges. Patients will be able to view holiday hours and visit the appropriate care provider for their medical needs over holidays.

3. After Hours Information 

Similar to our Holiday Hours feature, we are also displaying after hours recommendations for primary care clinics. We know that each care provider wants to make sure that patients are receiving the best care. This means providing patients with the right after hours information, in the event they may require medical attention outside of regular business hours.

We look forward to presenting our new features on Friday at the Primary Care Day conference. Attendees will be able to try out these new features, provide feedback, and learn about how to use iamsick.ca to enhance their practice.