Women's Health Q&A

Text Size: Normal / Medium / Large
Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version


Women's Health Q&A

I keep hearing about changes in Health Canada's Health Protection Branch. What does this mean for me and my family?

Consciously or not, Canadians rely on our federal Health Protection Branch (HPB) to ensure that the drugs we take, the medical devices we use, and the foods we eat are safe. Up until now we have been able to look at the HPB for such critical advances as standardized birth control pills and information inserts in medication packaging.

The laws that govern the Branch are currently under review, however, and proposed legislation may lack the necessary teeth to enforce current standards.

Some disturbing facts:

  • Since 1994 the Branch's operating budget has been slashed by over $100 million.
  • Labs that test drugs and foods for toxicity and overall safety have been closed.
  • Roughly 70% of the Branch's operating costs, once paid out of Canadian tax revenues, are now derived from industry user fees, potentially creating conflicts of interest.

Over the last 50 years Canada, like many other developed countries, has approved drugs and devices that later proved harmful to women's health. These include early forms of birth control pills, the Dalkon Shield and Copper 7 IUDs, as well as drugs used in pregnancy such as DES (diethylstilbestrol) and Thalidomide. More recently is the Même breast implant.

The Working Group on Women and Health Protection is a new group consumer organizations, academics and women's health activists who have come together to provide sound advice on improving the health protection system in Canada, and to clarify its possible impacts on the health of women.

Source: Working Group on Women and Health Protection Pamphlet.


I have an eight-year-old daughter who is going through puberty - she's growing pubic hair and menstruating. I'm concerned about how these changes to her body is changing her relationship with her peers. Can you recommend a support group where my daughter and I can go to talk about these issues?

Early puberty is a fairly new phenomenon that is generally attributed to environmental factors, such as hormone disruptors - synthetic chemicals, such as dioxin, that interfere with hormones, causing harm in wildlife and humans, though there is still not enough evidence to be sure of this (for an article on hormone disruptors, see Rachel's Environment and Health Weekly, #486).

Unfortunately, we don't know of any support groups for families who want to talk about it. This is not to say that there is no one else facing the same problem, just that there doesn't appear to be a group focussing on this issue.

If you are interested in starting a support group in your area, we suggest you contact:

Self Help Resource Centre

Do You Have a Women's Health Question?

Are you looking for a group working on a health issue? Do you have a question about a specific illness and need to find some books and other materials to help you answer it? Do you need more information on current research, or debates in women's health? Contact the Canadian Women's Health Network for some answers. Not every question and answer will be printed in Network (anonymity is guaranteed for those that are), but every question will be answered.

Call toll free: 1-888-818-9172
In Winnipeg: 942-5500
E-mail: questions@cwhn.ca
Fax: (204) 989-2355