Canadian Firefighter Magazine

From the Editor: Preventative measures

Laura Aiken   


This edition’s cover story gets straight to the heart of the matter when it comes to health, and I’ll quote Benjamin Franklin aptly here: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In today’s lingo, that translates to self-care and screening, two critical components of firefighter health and well-being. Firefighters put their bodies through all sorts of stress, from heat and smoke to heavy lifting and heartbreak. But I sure don’t need to tell you that. You are a firefighter. You can probably feel the stress in your bones, your muscles; the coursing of adrenaline as it dissipates, the weariness of a fitful sleep. As a firefighter, you’re also human, and being a modern day human is often hectic with the problems of today bearing down on our willpower to assess and prevent potential problems that seem years away. The heart seems like an easy thing to take for granted. We can’t see it, or feel it unless it really begins to pound. Many of us now wear devices that monitor heart rates, which brings it a bit more to the fore, where it really ought to be. It’s much better to keep a healthy heart strong than to attend to the strife of cardiovascular disease.

If you research preventative health care online, you can quickly come up with American studies and research showing that insurance, reimbursement models — essentially finances — play a key role in why or why not people are partaking in recommended screening practices (see “Health Care Industry Insights: Why the Use of Preventive Services Is Still Low,” published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). These sentiments seem like they would bear little meaning in Canada’s universal health care system, yet prevention can be a challenge through access, opportunity, awareness of health factors and chronic disease, and, like all matters in life, time, distraction and plain old cases of “got sidetracked” come into play. 

The federal government has summed up the crux of its focus nicely through its Declaration on Prevention and Promotion from Canada’s Ministers of Health and Health Promotion/Healthy Living: “While we have the means to prevent or delay many health problems, Canada’s current health system is mainly focused on diagnosis, treatment and care. To create healthier populations, and to sustain our publicly funded health system, a better balance between prevention and treatment must be achieved.” 

The onus isn’t just on individuals to recognize, value and make time for preventative health screening. It’s also on the healthcare system itself to communicate and promote these available tools. But the need for self-advocacy and self-efficacy is high when it is one’s own life under consideration. 


Firefighters must be particularly vigilante in monitoring their health, within their departments and with their doctors. Cancer is the #1 killer of firefighters. A failing heart is the leading cause of on-duty deaths. Both of these conditions benefit from preventative measures, and neither are a condition you want to have to battle with cures that are nowhere near infallible. 

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