CHN Part II – Replacement Resources?

What resources will fill in for the CHN when it no longer exists?

Let’s consider our options…

  • The US NIH, via MedlinePlus (not Canadian, necessarily US-biased…which makes little difference in some areas and a whole lot in others, like pharmaceuticals)
  • Provincial Health Portals/Guides (Typically not in-depth and underutilised)
  • There is that new Canadian government consumer health website, Healthy Canadians (unfortunately, it only covers the 6 topics the current government wants you to be thinking about)
  • Hospital or Clinic websites (How many of these are still non-profit and impartial, particularly if they are US institutions?)
  • For-profit medical websites such as WebMD and (Supported by advertising…need I say more?)

The CHN is big, well-used, and non-commercial. These are non-trivial attributes in an information source.

Interestingly, at the same time as the primary, premier source for Canadian consumer health information is being defunded, another source of health “information” is proliferating – one that I wager will ultimately cost Canadians far more than the piddly price of a few librarians, nurses, and IT folk who appear to make the CHN happen. This flourishing source is, of course, pharmaceutical industry advertisements.

Is it merely coincidence that there are more public “reminder ads” (the kind that are legal here in Canada – you can get away with much more in this arena in the USA and NZ) around my city this fall than I’ve seen since moving here? Bus shelters encourage us to have warm fuzzies about Celebrex (a Vioxx-like drug), subway ads ask us if we’ve had a HPV vaccine, among others.

There is currently a battle going on in this country over how far drug advertising should be allowed to go, and the pro-ad argument tends to fall back upon the unproven notion that pharmaceutical advertising is somehow educational to patients in a way that can improve health outcomes, not just teach then to ask for drugs. While I like a good conspiracy theory as much as the next lefty, I’m not suggesting that the rise in drug advertising has been deviously crafted to fill the void we will feel when we no longer have a national health website on which to look up arthritis or human papilloma virus. I am however, quite concerned over the trend here.

When a pro-privatization government cuts national funding to social infrastructure and, at the same time, turns a blind (or at least feeble) eye to corporate challenges to public health and social policy regulations…well, I guess that’s where all that information literacy training we librarians are always pushing comes in. Because health information with a profit-motive is clearly not in the public interest. But without a not-for-profit health education, will we recognize it when we see it?

Resource list inspired by:
Evans, M. (2007, November 13). Searching for sound medial advice online. Globe and Mail. Retrieved November 19, 2007 from:



Filed under Health

6 responses to “CHN Part II – Replacement Resources?

  1. Friends of CHN

    Speak out against the closure of CHN

    Public outcry – especially from users – will help to raise the profile of this issue. There are two ways you can help:
    1. Speak out: you can find messages and addresses at
    2. Join Friends of CHN by sending an e-mail to

  2. greyson

    Thank you for posting this link with talking points and contact info for key individuals to send letters to.

    Our provincial library association and health library association have written already, but we know what can have even more influence is individuals writing. I encourage any readers to send emails or letters to your MP, the PM, and Health Canada.


  3. Thank you for bringing this issue to your readers. I have joined the Friends of CHN. I hope you will too.

    I agree totally with your cynical take on the government’s plans and posted my similar views a while ago:

    You remark, “[H]ealth information with a profit-motive is clearly not in the public interest. But without a not-for-profit health education, will we recognize it when we see it?” Exactly the point. In Minima Moralia Adorno wrote, “In an all-embracing system conversation becomes ventriloquism.” As the civic commons is closed down and replaced by commerce, we won’t even know that the life has been sucked out of things. Our mental existence becomes a kind of self-closure, the slate-clearing via negativa of manufactured assent. Any expression of “crimethink”is always-already-erased. In the end, as Adorno predicted, “Life has become the ideology of its own absence.”

    Unless more of us read blogs like yours.

    – Mark, Winnipeg

  4. Pingback: DTCA, part I - The CanWest Legal Challenge « Social Justice Librarian

  5. Pingback: CHN Part III - Petition Deadline « Social Justice Librarian

  6. Pingback: CHN Closure Part IV: Americanization or obfuscation? « Social Justice Librarian

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