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Online CME course tackles air pollution's impact on patients

The CMA has thrown its support behind a newly revised online CME course that focuses on the health effects of outdoor air pollutants and the clinical use of the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) to manage at-risk patients with respiratory and other problems.

The course, available for free to CMA members, was developed by the University of British Columbia's (UBC) School of Population and Public Health and leading air pollution and health experts. It is designed to provide physicians and health professionals with information on the principles and applications of air quality, and its health effects. The course includes guidelines for using the AQHI as a risk communication tool to advise patients on actions they can take to reduce the adverse impacts of outdoor air pollution.

First launched in September 2009, a year after a CMA report estimated that air pollution claims 21,000 lives in Canada every year and results in 30,000 emergency room visits, this updated multimedia course uses a self-directed learning format. However, participants can interact with others via a Discussion Board, and an Ask an Expert board allows them to pose questions about course content or the topic in general.

Lydia Ma, MSc, PhD, the director of continuing education and outreach at UBC's School of Population and Public Health, said the course is available on demand until Jan. 31, 2014; if taken in one session, it can be completed in three to four hours. It has been accredited by both the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

"The idea," said Ma, "is to provide physicians and other health professionals with information concerning outdoor air pollution and its effect on health, particularly for vulnerable populations that may be more susceptible to the negative health impacts. Physicians may combine this information with the AQHI, which is a public health and clinical tool, to advise patients on ways to reduce the adverse impacts of outdoor air pollution on their health."

Ma said the course will be "very useful" for physicians in family medicine and other specialties such as pediatrics, respirology, cardiology and geriatrics.

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