Blog Posts

The Canadian Sexual Health Survey

We would like to thank all of the women who participated in our Canadian Sexual Health Survey. The survey gathered information regarding sexual and reproductive health, contraception use, pregnancy outcomes and accessibility of reproductive health services, enabling us to analyze how women plan and space their pregnancies. Unlike many countries, Canadian epidemiological data on sexual health to this date is very limited. Collection of this data is essential to inform health policies to improve the quality of life of Canadian women and their families. We hope that the government will be inspired to continue our project through the regular collection of nation-wide data about sexual health in the future, in order to create policies that are best representative of our Canadian population.

Our project surveyed 21 communities across all 5 health authorities, reaching many communities without airports or car rentals that were more challenging to access. “But it was often in these communities where we would have the warmest welcomes, with people stopping our surveyors on the street to say ‘we support you!’ and providing connections, free printing, or booths at farmers’ markets,” says Eva McMillan, research coordinator of the Sexual Health Survey. “I feel that this speaks to power of the voices of rural BC. The people there want to express their need for contraception and to have their voices heard about their sexual health and experiences. Our project is going to give voice to these women.”

We are currently using the data obtained from our survey to create Canada’s First Cost Effectiveness Model to predict, at a provincial level, the number of pregnancies and their subsequent outcomes based on survey indicators for sexual partners and activity, contraception use and social determinants of health. Policy analyses using this model  can assist the government to evaluate the potential health and financial benefits of free contraception for women, thereby supporting  evidence-informed policies for optimal health system strategies. When women have access to effective contraceptive techniques that they may have not otherwise been able to afford, they are able to avoid unintended pregnancies and abortions.   According to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, health system costs can be reduced by 75% by investing in family planning to avoid treating complications arising from unintended pregnancies.


Photo of Eva McMillan, Research Coordinator

Issue Brief: Health Canada could Improve Abortion Safety & Access by permitting pharmacist-dispensed mifepristone

Dr. Norman suggests how Health Canada’s Mifepristone decision reduces safety- and has practical suggestions on how to improve safety and access.  Read the full briefing note for the details by clicking the link:

Briefing Note_Health Canadas mifepristone decision reduces safety_2016-05-12

“What is Health Canada thinking on the abortion pill?” – Ottawa Citizen Editorial Board

CART in the news April, 2016:

Excerpts from the National PostOttawa Citizen and Toronto Star

The Toronto Star: “It’s been available in France since 1988, Britain since 1991 and the United States since 2000. Now 28 years after it first appeared on the market, mifepristone — better known as the abortion pill RU-486 — will be available in Canada in July under the brand name Mifegymiso.

This is cause for celebration among the 100,000 women who choose an abortion each year in Canada. They will finally have an option other than a surgical abortion with a medication that is already available in 61 countries and is so safe and effective that the World Health Organization includes it in its Model List of Essential Medicines.

The pill will give Canadian women easier access to abortions. They will not have to travel long distances to hospitals or clinics to have one performed surgically and the procedure will not be delayed because of waiting lists.

Still, women’s health advocates and Canadian pharmacists say Health Canada’s restrictive policies on how the drug is to be distributed, while common to other countries where it is available, could make it more difficult than necessary for women to access the pill. That must be changed.”

The Ottawa Citizen: “Just in case you’d thought the legalization of a pill was going to make abortion accessible across Canada, Health Canada, which approved the drug last summer, is here to tell you that when it hits markets this summer, it’s going to be a pain to get ahold of.”

“The government should seriously consider expanding dispensing services and, potentially, prescribing as well. In some jurisdictions, midwives and nurse practitioners can prescribe the drug. For those concerned about what the family doctor might think, for example, this would lift a huge burden.

Caution is understandable. An excess, which has the effect of limiting access, is not.”


The National Post: “In addition, in a situation some have likened to a heroin addict on methadone maintenance, a doctor may insist on witnessing the woman taking the first dose — a practise normally reserved in cases of suspected drug diversion or misuse.

“There is no evidence in any jurisdiction that women would seek and obtain a mifepristone prescription, yet not use it,” said Dr. Wendy Norman, a leading researcher in sexual and reproductive health at the University of British Columbia. “This requirement is medically unnecessary and demeaning to Canadian women.”

Nor is there any safety or medical basis, she said, for limiting dispensing to doctors. “The single most important reason physicians from across the country are citing for not planning to offer mifepristone is the need for physician dispensing,” she said, which will include ordering, stocking and taking payment for the pills, which are expected to cost $270 per package.

“The physicians we have polled — particularly rural physicians — have no infrastructure for this,” Norman said.”


Read the full stories by following the links above or here:  National PostOttawa Citizen  and Toronto Star  .  You can also read CART’s full recommendation, and briefing note in our blog post from May 4th.




How well does birth control work?

A great resource clearly demonstrates the different types of contraception and how effective they are from the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at University of California San Francisco, in partnership with Bedsider.


These materials are provided by Beyond the Pill, a program of the Bixby Center for Global Health. Beyond the Pill promotes access and equity in women’s contraceptive health care. They build the research foundation to transform clinical care and women’s lives worldwide.  You can find more materials at their website under Tools and Materials, where they have created accessible and eye-catching educational materials for patients and students.


The Guttmacher Institute honors Wendy Norman with the 2015 Darroch Award

Dr. Norman receiving her award for work that combines excellence in research with practical application to public policy and programs in the field of sexual and reproductive health. Read more about it here: Guttmacher Institute Media Center


Congratulations Dr. Norman!

Dr. Norman receiving the 2015 Faculty of Medicine Distinguished Achievement Award for Excellence in Clinical or Applied Research.  Awarded to individuals whose performance during the current review year was exceptionally meritorious.


Why It Matters

A woman planning to have one or two children will spend less than 5 years trying to get pregnant, being pregnant or breastfeeding, and more than thirty years trying to avoid pregnancy. There is an immense need for access to high quality knowledge, methods and services to prevent unintended pregnancies.

Meet the Team

The CART-GRAC is an interdisciplinary group of clinicians, researchers, healthcare decision makers, and knowledge experts. Our members come from a variety of backgrounds and expertise. The diversity in our team makes our ambitious healthcare goals possible. Together, we collaborate with a network of national interdisciplinary researchers and healthcare experts.


Our Projects

The CART-GRAC network is working on a number of studies to: improve access to contraception in Canada; improve the quality of contraception and abortion care provided by health care professionals; and, increase knowledge of the Canadian context for sexual health, contraception use and abortion.

Congratulations to Dr. Norman- for her CIHR-PHAC Chair in Applied Public Health Research !

CHIR Chair logo Vert-frameNormanWendyV-2014_web