Canadian practitioners back CDC-like agency

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Ottawa-Veterinarians in Canada are working to form a national public health organization dubbed CDC-North.

Ottawa—Veterinarians in Canada are working to form a national public health organization dubbed CDC-North.

While efforts to create the agency modeled after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are in their infancy, Prime Minister Paul Martin supports the tentatively titled Canadian Public Health Agency designed to thwart disease outbreaks among the country's 10 provinces, says Dr. Keith Campbell, Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (Canadian VMA) president.

The call to increase regulation stems largely from last year's Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Toronto, where the largest occurrence outside of Asia took place, involving 252 cases and almost 40 fatalities, according to the World Health Organization.

Zoonotic disease outbreaks have forced the government to recognize the veterinary profession's role in public health, Campbell says.

"Most people realize now that most infectious diseases emerging or re-emerging in humans come from animals," he says. "The whole U.S. public health service is quite different than anything we have in Canada. We're aiming for a federal agency like that."

Muddled system

The proposed national system should eliminate confusion that stems from arming each province with separate public health departments that often fail to communicate.

"The reason things get mucked up in a federal provincial system is the division of powers," Campbell says. "There is a blurring of boundaries that can cause turf wars. One of the purposes in forming a new public health agency is to create a better definition of those boundaries."

Aside from the Canadian VMA, the coalition creating the Canadian Public Health Agency includes the Canada Medical Association, Canadian Public Health Association and Canadian Nurses Association. At presstime, two officials had been hired to staff the agency.

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