Calls to the British Columbia Drug and Poison Information Centre: A summary of differences by health service areas

Kathleen E McLean, Sarah B Henderson, Debra Kent, Tom Kosatsky


Objectives: Poison control centres provide information on the management of poisoning incidents. The British Columbia (BC) Drug and Poison Information Centre recently implemented an electronic database system for recording case information, making it easier to use case data as a potential source of population-based information on health services usage and health status. This descriptive analysis maps poisoning case rates in BC, highlighting differences in patient age, substance type, medical outcome, and caller location.

Methods: There were 50,621 human exposure cases recorded during 2012 and 2013. Postal code or city name was used to assign each case to a Health Service Delivery Area (HSDA). Case rates per 1,000 person-years were calculated, including crude rates, age-standardized rates, age-specific rates, and rates by substance type, medical outcome, and caller location. 

Results: The lowest case rate was observed in Richmond, a city where many residents do not speak English as a first language. The highest rate was observed in the Northwest region, where the economy is driven by resource extraction. Pharmaceutical exposures were elevated in the sparsely populated northern and eastern areas. Calls from health care facilities were highest in the Northwest region, where there are many remote Aboriginal communities.

Conclusions: Case rates were generally highest in the primarily rural northern and eastern areas of the province. Considering these results alongside contextual factors informs further investigation and action: addressing cultural and language barriers to accessing poison centre services, and developing a public health surveillance system for severe poisoning events in rural and remote communities.

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Online Journal of Public Health Informatics * ISSN 1947-2579 *