Measuring Environmental Impacts on Health

Location: Grand Bend, Oakwood Inn Resort and Golf

Date: Sept. 29–Oct 1, 2002


Conference Goals
  • To provide practical information on the key aspects of measuring environmental impacts on public health. 
  • To share specific examples and case studies of environmental investigations related to public health. 
  • To develop a network of contacts in the area of environmental health.
Conference Objectives
  •  To provide an introduction to the relationship between the environment and public health. 
  •  To review key aspects of critical appraisal of literature related to the environment. 
  • To provide information on investigating environmental health concerns. 
  • To examine issues related to risk communication and media relations. 
  • To provide networking opportunities for epidemiologists and other public health professionals. 
  • To provide a forum for experts and participants to exchange ideas regarding the issues, concerns, challenges and future directions for measuring environmental impacts on health.
  • To provide an opportunity for those working in public health epidemiology to showcase their work.
  • To discuss the current state of knowledge on the environmental impacts on children's health and other vulnerable populations.

Conference Overview

County Health Unit's Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Beth Hennings. Dr. Pierre Gosselin, from the WHO/PAHO Collaborating Center on Environmental and Occupational Health Impact Assessment and Surveillance, addressed the first conference objective, by providing an introduction to the relationship between the environment and public health. Dr. Gosselin provided an excellent overview of environmental health on a global scale. He addressed issues such as population density, poverty, inequality, food, agriculture, water, forests, energy and air pollution around the world and discussed how all of these issues related to health. He then went on to discuss initiatives in both Canada and the US which target these environmental issues.

The next speaker was Dr. Susan Elliott from the McMaster Institute of Environment and Health and a Public Health Associate with the City of Hamilton's Social and Public Health Services. Dr. Elliott addressed the second conference objective, to review key aspects of critical appraisal of literature related to the environment, by reviewing a study of the Sydney Tar Ponds. After a refreshment break, Katija Blaine, a researcher with the Food Safety Network in the Department of Plant Agriculture at the University of Guelph, examined issues related to risk communication and media relations. Ms. Blaine discussed risk analysis, risk perception and the roles of mass media using a case study of Food Safety in the Ontario Greenhouse Industry.

The final morning session was a launch of the web site for the Core Indicators for Public Health in Ontario. Mary-Anne Pietrusiak, the Chair of the Provincial Health Indicators Working Group, demonstrated the site, which acts as a resource to enhance accurate and standardized reporting of information across public health units in Ontario. Conference delegates were encouraged to check out the site at

Following lunch, Barry Jessiman from the Air Quality Section of Health Canada, provided a presentation on air quality entitled, "The Epidemiological Basis for Air Quality Risk Management in Canada". Mr. Jessiman reviewed the Canada wide standards for air quality, discussed some common measures including the Air Quality Index (AQI), and provided insight on future directions. The next speaker was Tye Arbuckle, a Senior Epidemiologist and Research Scientist from the Reproductive Health, Health Surveillance and Epidemiology Division of the Population and Public Health Branch at Health Canada. Ms. Arbuckle presented on the reproductive effects of pesticides in an agricultural population by reviewing results from the Ontario Farm Family Health Study. The final speaker for the day was France Lemieux, a Senior Evaluator in Health Canada's Water Quality and Health Bureau. Ms. Lemieux discussed Federal-Provincial-Territorial roles and responsibilities for drinking water and the guideline development process.

Day one of the conference ended with a panel discussion, facilitated by Dr. Iris Gutmanis from the Southwest Region Health Information Partnership. The invited speakers shared their views and opinions on different issues raised by conference delegates. While that marked the end of the structured agenda for the day, conference delegates then had the opportunity to network and share stories at dinner while being entertained by a Murder Mystery with a 1940's Gangster theme complete with a replicated casino and period costumes.

Day two of the conference opened with oral presentations from selected abstract submissions. Mary Lou Decou shared her experiences with a lead screening study in a small Ontario community. Dr. Lesbia Smith and Dr. Douglas Bryant then discussed applying qualitative and quantitative environmental epidemiology to study a community with industrially contaminated soils. This was followed by a presentaion by Jane Ying on the Toronto Child Health and Environment Needs Assessment Survey. After a refreshment break Kathy Moran and Mary-Anne Pietrusiak explained how the Rapid Risk Factor Surveillance System could be used to collect information on environmental health issues. Patrick Seliske then shared experiences around investigating indoor air quality concerns at an elementary school. The abstract presentations concluded with Bernadette Element discussing the role of public health units in risk assessment and risk communication around indoor air quality concerns in schools. Delegates then had an opportunity to enjoy the beautiful autumn weather while eating a barbecue lunch on an outdoor patio overlooking Oakwood's tree-lined golf course.

The final afternoon of the conference was a highlight for many with an Environmental Health Investigation Workshop led by Dr. Linda Panaro. Dr. Panaro is the Director of the Field Epidemiology Training Program at Health Canada and was the first Field Epidemiologist in Canada to work on an Environmental Health Investigation. Dr. Panaro began with an overview of the steps involved in such an investigation and then led the group through a case study of a leaking landfill. Truly multimedia, Dr. Panaro's session included a slide show of actual photos taken in the area and multiple handouts of resources that the investigating team utilized, including maps and drawings.

The conference ended with Adam Stevens, the 2002 APHEO President, announcing next year's topic and location. The 2003 APHEO Conference will be in Kingston, Ontario and will examine epidemiological issues around Child Health. See you there!

Summary Evaluation

Sixty-five (65) delegates attended the 2002 APHEO Conference at the Oakwood Inn in Grand Bend Ontario on September 29 to October 1. Twenty-four (24) of these delegates completed an evaluation form for a response rate of 37%. The majority of the evaluations were completed by APHEO members (63%, n=15) but four APHEO affiliates (17%) and five non-members (21%) also filled out evaluations.

According to the evaluations, the most useful components of the conference included the Environmental Health Investigation workshop on Tuesday afternoon which 89% of respondents (16) found very useful, the Launch of Core Indicators for Public Health in Ontario which 88% of respondents (21) found very useful and the Tuesday morning oral abstract presentations which 82% (18) of respondents found very useful. Monday's invited speaker presentations got somewhat mixed reviews with 62.5% of respondents (15) finding them very useful and 38% (9) finding them somewhat useful. The least useful components of the conference included poster abstract presentations which only 35% of respondents (8) found very useful, and the open forum & panel discussion on Monday afternoon which only 18% of respondents (4) found very useful. Comments focused on timing including expressing a need to limit time for speakers and provide more time for discussion.

Evaluation respondents were mostly "very satisfied" that the conference objectives were met. The exceptions were for the objectives "To review key aspects of critical appraisal of literature related to the environment" and "To discuss the current state of knowledge on the environmental impacts on children's health and other vulnerable populations". Only 17% of respondents (4) were very satisfied that these objectives were met.

Monday evening's Casino/Gangster Murder Mystery event received rave reviews including comments such as " entertainment was fun" and "loved the actors, theme and dressing up". The meal, however, was not as well received. The workshop was a very common response to the question, what did you like the most about the conference. Other favorites included the location and networking opportunities. Issues with feeling rushed and Monday evening's meal were common responses to what delegates liked least about the conference.

Suggestions for future conference topics included, reproductive health, statistical methods, survey methodology, study design, chronic disease reduction (interventions, assessments), data presentation, data quality, and health status reporting. Respondents seemed to support the resort/rural setting future conferences. Suggestions for locations across southern Ontario were provided, including Niagara Falls, Halton area, Guelph, St. Catherines, Kingston, Toronto area, Ottawa area, York Region, Kitchener/Waterloo, Barrie, and Collingwood with support for the resort/rural setting.

Conference Organizing Committee

Sherri Ennis, Committee Chair - Epidemiologist, Durham Region Health Department
Brenda Guarda - Manager, Epidemiology & Research, York Region Health Services Department
Anne Marie Holt - Epidemiologist, HKPR District Health Unit
Mary-Anne Pietrusiak - Epidemiologist, Durham Region Health Department
Rolf Puchtinger - Epidemiologist, Huron County Health Unit
Dr. Donna Reynolds - Associate Medical Officer of Health, Durham Region Health Department
Ruth Sanderson - Epidemiologist, Middlesex-London Health Unit
Heather Schouten - Head, Immunization Surveillance, Surveillance, CIDPC
Carla Troy - National Manager / Senior Epidemiologist, Skills Enhancement Training Program, Centre for Surveillance Coordination - Health Canada

Planning Services Provided by:


Chuck Schouwerwou & Monique Trottier, ConferSense Planners Inc.

Sponsors & Exhibitors

APHEO would like to thank the following sponsors for their support of our 2002 conference.

Carla Jane Troy
National Manager/Senior Epidemiologist 
Skills Enhancement Training Program 
Centre for Surveillance Coordinator 
Population and Public Health Branch, Health Canada 
130 Colonnade Road, 3rd Floor, East Wing 
Ottawa, ON K1A 0K9 
Tel.: (613) 941-8558 
Fax: (613) 952-3196
John LaMarre 
Senior Technical Officer 
Ontario Power Generation 
700 University Avenue 
Toronto, Ontario, M5G 1X6 
Tel: (416) 592-7203 
Fax: (416) 592-2466
Web Site:
Dave Stoehr
DMTI Spatial
625 Cochrane Drive, 3rd Floor
Markham, ON L3R 9R9
Tel.: (905) 948-2000
Fax: (905) 948-9404
Maria Fernandes-Afonso 
Shire Biologics 
5925 Airport Road , Suite 200 
Mississauga ON L4V 1W1 
Tel: (905) 855-8100 
Fax: (905) 855-7800
Web Site:

A special thank you to the Mountain Equipment Group for donating a fleece top and gloves, as well as Conference Planners Inc. for donating a gift for our murder mystery night.