Mr. Speaker, I will start again.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today about Bill C-278, which was introduced by the hon. member for Halifax West.
This bill seeks to establish March 26 as Purple Day in Canada, helping to raise awareness of epilepsy. On March 26 we can encourage people to wear the colour purple to show their support for people living with this disease.
This is an idea that all of us can support.
It is an area in which we all play a role, whether it is through raising awareness, learning about the disease or working with government colleagues and stakeholders on important programs, activities and research. For my part today, I would like to take a few minutes to tell the House more about epilepsy and the federal government's role, including its initiatives, programs, research and support.
The government is committed to promoting and protecting the health of all Canadians. Those living with epilepsy face challenges on a daily basis: discrimination, stigma, and at times a lower quality of life. The incidence of epilepsy continues to increase with diagnosis now more common in children and older adults.
There is no cure for epilepsy. The major form of treatment is long-term drug therapy, which bears its own side effects and costs every day for those suffering and their families. We now know that people living with epilepsy are often able to live normal, happy and full lives. Most go to school, make friends, date, have jobs and raise families. However, routine tasks and everyday life can still be very difficult. Whether it is coping with the negative stigma and reactions associated with unpredictable seizures or dealing with low self-esteem, self-confidence and depression, people living with epilepsy do not have an easy life, but by raising awareness of these kinds of facts, for example, what it is like to live with epilepsy, we can help affected Canadians reach their full potential.
There is much we do not know, but we do know that symptomatic epilepsy has known causes. Brain damage, head injuries, infections and tumours all contribute to this condition. Although not all of these issues can be prevented, precautions can be taken to lessen the chances of injury. This government is investing in efforts to raise awareness and shed light on this condition, including steps that can be taken to reduce risks and prevent injuries.
Before we get into the details, it is important to understand the terminology.
Epilepsy can be separated into two types: idiopathic epilepsy and symptomatic epilepsy. Idiopathic epilepsy accounts for 60% of cases. It cannot be prevented and its cause is unknown. Symptomatic epilepsy is caused by trauma to the brain, and steps can be taken to prevent it.
I would like to focus on the latter as it represents a key area in which all sectors of society can play a role. Why? For selfish reasons. I believe this is the cause of my own epilepsy, but also because injury prevention begins with all of us.
According to the Canadian hospital injury reporting program, almost 50% of all injuries in children between the ages of 10 and 19 are play related. Additionally, 40% of all reports are attributed to injury through the participation in team sports such as hockey, baseball and soccer. Between 2000 and 2002, skull and brain injuries related to team sports made up almost 15% of all reported injuries, with almost 5% of these cases requiring hospitalization.
This government is committed to reducing that incidence. For example, $5 million has recently been allocated to address sport and recreational injuries among children and youth through the active and safe injury prevention initiative.
This initiative focuses on raising awareness of the importance of safety and precaution in sports and recreation activities while encouraging children and youth to be active.
As part of the active and safe initiative, in January 2010 the Government of Canada announced approximately $1.5 million in funding to address the prevention of brain injuries and concussions in hockey.
ThinkFirst Canada, in partnership with Hockey Canada, the Coaching Association of Canada and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport also continue to make significant headway.
Epilepsy Canada, founded in 1966, is a non-profit organization whose mission is to enhance the quality of life for persons affected by epilepsy. Through promotion and supportive research, education and awareness initiatives, this organization is building understanding and acceptance of epilepsy.
The Canadian Epilepsy Alliance is a Canada-wide network of grassroots organizations dedicated to the promotion of independence and quality of life for people with epilepsy and their families. It provides support services, information, advocacy and public awareness, and is working to make a difference for those living with epilepsy.
Working together to develop shared resources, they have standardized protocols for the prevention of head injuries and activities that target sports organizations at all levels. This includes team sports participants, their coaches, trainers and parents.
In order to make its own programs work, the government relies heavily on research and surveillance. For this reason, $15 million has been allocated to the national population health study for neurological conditions to strengthen the knowledge and evidence base related to this condition.
Along with other neurological disorders, this study will examine the prevalence of symptomatic epilepsy and emerging risk factors, identifying trends in preventable injuries so that an appropriate response can be developed.
It is a suite of studies aiming to fill gaps in knowledge about individuals with neurological conditions, their families and their caregivers. The studies are administered by the Public Health Agency of Canada. They will provide key information to improve current knowledge about the incidence and prevalence of neurological conditions.
Some will study risk factors for the development and for the progression of neurological conditions. Others will investigate the use of health services by patients with neurological conditions, identify gaps in those services and recommend improvements. Finally, they will assess the impact of neurological conditions on individuals, families, caregivers and communities.
In addition, the Government of Canada funds research into new treatments for epilepsy, notably through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, CIHR.
Since 2006, CIHR has invested more than $46 million in epilepsy research to deepen our knowledge of this disease. This research investigates how genetics affect the development and treatment of epilepsy. It examines how epilepsy affects development in children, and it attempts to develop interventions to benefit the quality of life and care for people living with epilepsy.
In addition, McGill University's Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital is examining the link between brain conditions and epilepsy.
CIHR also provided funding for the brain connectivity workshop in June 2011. This workshop brought together leading Canadian and international experts on brain development, epilepsy and neuroscience. These are partnerships that will enhance our relations with Canadian scientists and researchers in Canada and will focus attention on important health concerns. The resulting research will help us to better understand epilepsy, its causes and possible interventions.
Research funded by CIHR will improve our understanding of this complex condition, our capacity to respond effectively, and the quality of life of those living with epilepsy. Improving our understanding of the disorder will facilitate the development of treatments and better drug therapy regimens for epilepsy.
The Government of Canada is committed to these goals. Regardless of the specific area, it is critical that we work together with all sectors of society. To be fully successful in preventing secondary epilepsy through the promotion of injury prevention, our efforts must be shared and be collaborative in nature. Encouraging and supporting the work of partners and stakeholders to address symptomatic epilepsy and its causes is one way we can do just that. For example, many municipalities across Canada are making it mandatory for children and beginners to wear a certified multi-impact helmet during public skating sessions.
By working with others and taking responsibility at all levels, we are better able to prevent serious head injury and reduce the potential for secondary epilepsy. However, governments and stakeholders cannot act alone in injury prevention. We all know well that the most effective strategy for reducing any injury is to take personal precautions. According to research, many head injuries are the result of improper playing techniques and can be prevented or reduced by teaching proper skills and enforcing safety-promoting rules.
Improved conditioning, particularly of the neck; protective head gear; and careful medical supervision also minimize the risk of head injury or trauma. By encouraging and supporting the use of proper safety equipment and training, we can all greatly reduce the risk of injury and, subsequently, consequences such as symptomatic epilepsy.
By learning more about the impacts of epilepsy, we will gain reliable information on its effects on Canadians. Knowledge is power, and through that knowledge we can build awareness of this important disease.
Bill C-278 would be an important step forward toward raising awareness of epilepsy in Canada. It would be a clear sign of our support for those living with this challenging condition.