Past Event: Chronic Disease at Work

May 25, 2017
Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville

The theme of this year's conference is: The Workplace Impact of Chronic Disease

Three out of five Canadians aged 20 years or older have a chronic disease and four out of five are at risk of developing one, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. However, there are still many misconceptions surrounding this increasingly common health risk.

What does chronic disease look like today? Who is susceptible? What is considered a chronic disease? What is it like to work and manage one or more of these conditions?

This half-day conference will provide insight on a range of conditions as well as trends and treatments that plan sponsors and plan advisors need to make the best decisions for their plans and their members.


This conference is $49+HST


This conference is open to qualified plan sponsors, advisors and group insurers.

For information on the conference, please contact Lauren Harris, Conference Editor, Benefits Canada

Tweet your questions in advance at @BenCanMag #CDAW17

Chronic Disease at Work

May 25, 2017
Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville
(*Please note this is a draft and subject to change)

7:15 - 8:05 a.m.
Breakfast and Registration

8:05 - 8:10 a.m.
Opening Remarks

8:10 - 8:40 a.m.
The impact of chronic conditions on workforce participation in Canada
Canadians aged 50 and older have increased from 17% of the labour market in 1997 to 30% in 2016. With an aging workforce comes an increasing prevalence of certain chronic conditions, including arthritis, diabetes and hypertension. In this presentation, Peter Smith, a senior scientist at the Institute for Work and Health in Toronto, will present an overview of recent research studies that have examined the relationship between chronic conditions, remaining in the labour market and restrictions on activity while at work. The presentation will conclude with a discussion of organizational approaches to support continued workforce participation of those with chronic conditions in Canada.

Peter Smith,
senior scientist, Institute for Work and Health

[Download the Presentation]

8:40 - 9:10 a.m.
An Overview of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and its Impact on Plan Members
This session will provide an overview of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), its symptoms, impact on plan members, as well as current and evolving treatment approaches. MS typically requires a multi-disciplinary treatment approach, as members often benefit from therapies that extend beyond medication. Although there are many drugs available for treatment, there are subsets of MS for which treatment is lacking. This presentation will examine these issues, while also providing the audience insight into the challenges of working and living with MS.

Caroline Geenen, chief, department of medicine, consultant neurologist, Markham Stouffville Hospital (Participation made possible by Roche)

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9:10 a.m. - 9:40 a.m.
Cardiovascular disease and its impact on the workplace
Improvements in cardiovascular disease management have significantly reduced the n umber of heart attacks and related complications due to cholesterol lowering medications. However, some high-risk patients cannot control their cholesterol levels using current therapies, and cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death worldwide. Increasing economic burden imposed by this disease includes growing hospitalization costs and loss of productivity and potential lifelong disability.  This session will explore this chronic disease and highlight new advancements in treating cardiovascular disease that will ultimately allow for a more productive working environment.

Dr. Milan Gupta, cardiologist, Osler Cardiology (Participation made possible by Amgen)

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9:40 - 10:10 a.m.
The highs and lows of diabetes management in the workplace
Diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions in Canada. In 2016 3.5 million of us suffered from the disease and an additional 7.5 million Canadians lived with pre-diabetes.  This is a 72% increase in prevalence since 2006 and it is expected to rise another 41% in the next 10 years (Diabetes Canada).  Dr. Alain Sotto, director of the Medcan Wellness Clinic and occupational medical consultant to TTC, will present an overview of diabetes and the challenges of diabetes management in a busy workplace.  

Dr. Alain Sotto, occupational medical consultant, Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), director, Medcan Year-Round Care and Wellness clinic, investigative coroner, York Region (Participation made possible by Novo Nordisk)

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10:10 a.m. - 10:40 a.m.
Networking Break

10:40 a.m. - 11:10 a.m.
Obesity, is it a Chronic Disease, and Does it Matter?
Statistically, it is likely that obesity affects a third of any corporation’s workforce. How a company and its employees think about obesity and its causes may well affect their ability to manage its many risks. This session will discuss why the appreciation of obesity as a chronic disease is important to both corporate and employee health.
Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, medical director, Bariatric Medical Institute (Participation made possible by Canadian Obesity Network)

[Download the Presentation]

11:10 a.m. - 11:40 a.m.
The Role of the Pharmacy in Drug Plan Management for Chronic Conditions
As the prevalence of chronic disease in the workforce increases, the need to balance health outcomes with drug plan costs has never been more important. This session will discuss how pharmacy has the opportunity to be a part of the solution, and subsequently free up room for employers to invest in preventative health and wellness solutions.

Mark Rolnick, vice-president, payor partnerships and plan sponsor innovation, Shoppers Drug Mart

[Download the Presentation]

11:40 a.m. - 12:10 p.m.
Chronic Disease in the Workplace: Focus on Prevention and Support
Sun Life’s latest bright paper “Chronic disease in the workplace focus on prevention and support” addresses the issue of chronic disease, its impact on the workplace and how employers can mitigate the risk to their organization and support the health and well-being of their employees.

This session will cover the following topics related to chronic disease in the workplace:
• Leading causes
• Prevention and support strategies
• Innovation and trends

It will bring awareness to the top chronic conditions affecting Canadian employees, including heart health, diabetes, mental health, musculoskeletal conditions, and provide research and strategic insight on how employers can play a more proactive role to address them.

Jennifer Elia, assistant vice-president, client experience, integrated health solutions, Sun Life Financial

[Download the Presentation]

12:10 p.m.
Closing Remarks

Chronic Disease at Work Speakers

Chronic Disease at Work

May 25, 2017
Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville



Jennifer Elia

Jennifer Elia is the assistant vice-president of client experience, integrated health solutions at Sun Life Financial. With close to 20 years' experience, Elia's career has included roles in disability management, strategic planning, and product development. She joined Sun Life in 2009 to help establish the health and wellness business before moving to human resources where she led the design and delivery of market leading benefits and wellness programs for Sun Life's Canadian employees. Elia leads a strong team of organizational consultants focused on meeting the healthy workplace objectives of Canadian employers. She is passionate about integrating group benefits and wellness programs. Jennifer is a graduate of the Workplace Wellness and Health Promotion program at Centennial College and has an honours degree in Health and Psychology from Queen's University.


Dr. Yoni Freedhoff

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff is the medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute. He was the third physician in Canada to receive board certification in bariatric medicine from the American Board of Obesity Medicine. He has also served as the Canadian Obesity Network’s inaugural family medicine chair and is an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa. Freedhoff has been referred to as Canada's most outspoken obesity expert. His advocacy efforts in both obesity and nutrition policy have seen him speak in both the House of Commons and the Senate regarding his concerns about Canada's food guide and as a member of multiple stakeholder groups run by the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada. Freedhoff is quoted regularly in the national and international press and appears frequently on television. He writes an award winning blog and has co-authored a freely downloadable medical textbook on the office-based management of obesity. His first book for the public, The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work, is a No. 1 National Canadian bestseller.

Dr. Caroline Geenen

Dr. Caroline Geenen graduated with dean's honour from the University of Toronto Medicine in 1989, and did both her internal medicine and neurology training also at the University of Toronto, completing her neurology fellowship in 1995. She has been on staff as a consultant neurologist at Markham Stouffville Hospital since that time, and became the chief of medicine at Markham Stouffville Hospital in 2010. Her specific interests in neurology include multiple sclerosis, neuromuscular disorders, and epilepsy. She has been a frequent lecturer to medical trainees and physicians, both group psychotherapy groups and other community neurologists, particularly in the field of multiple sclerosis. 




Dr. Milan Gupta

Dr. Milan Gupta is a cardiologist who has been in practice for over 20 years. He is certified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in both internal medicine and adult cardiology. He has also been certified by the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology, the Heart Rhythm Society, and the American Board of Internal Medicine. Gupta received his doctor of medicine from the University of Toronto, where he then completed his residency in internal medicine and fellowship in cardiology. He runs a busy clinical practice in Brampton, Ont. He is an associate clinical professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., and an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto. In addition, he holds the positions of adjunct scientist in the division of cardiovascular surgery and affiliate scientist at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. Gupta is actively engaged in clinical research, physician education and professional advocacy. He holds a number of research grants and has published over 70 peer-reviewed manuscripts. He also serves on numerous professional advisory boards and guidelines writing committees. He is the medical director of the Canadian Cardiovascular Research Network and is past treasurer and executive member of the Canadian Cardiovascular Society. He is co-founder and past chair of the Greater Toronto Area Community Cardiologists, and past board member of the Cardiac Care Network of Ontario. He also chairs the board of directors of South Asian Network Supporting Awareness and Research, a national charity whose mission is to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease in South Asians. Gupta lectures widely on a variety of topics, and has a strong interest in developing innovative continuing medical education initiatives. His research interests include ethnicity and heart disease, acute coronary syndromes, atrial fibrillation, and emerging risk factors in vascular disease. He is a recipient of the Dr. Harold Segal Award of Merit (2008) from the Canadian Cardiovascular Society, and in 2014 received the Colin Woolf Award for Excellence in Course Coordination from the University of Toronto.

Peter Smith

Peter Smith is a senior scientist at the Institute for Work and Health in Toronto, and an associate professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. He currently holds a Canadian Institutes of Health Research chair in gender, work and health. His major research interests include the examination of how working conditions, particularly the psychosocial work environment, impact health, methods to integrate concepts of gender and sex into secondary data analyses; and understanding how changes in nature and availability of work in the Canadian market impact approaches to the primary and secondary prevention of work-related injury and illness.


Mark Rolnick

Mark Rolnick is the vice-president of payor partnerships and plan sponsor innovation at Shoppers Drug Mart. Rolnick is responsible for leading the strategy and development of innovative sustainable solutions to help employers manage their drug plans and improve the health and wellness of their employees. Rolnick and his team work in partnership with insurance carriers, benefits consultants and advisors to implement and execute these initiatives. Prior joining Shoppers Drug Mart, Rolnick spent more than five years at Sun Life Financial in leadership roles within the group benefits product development area with a portfolio that included pharmaceuticals, disability, and health and wellness. Rolnick also spent over 11 years at AstraZeneca holding a number of roles with increasing responsibility including market access, sales, marketing, strategic planning, and business development. Rolnick practiced pharmacy for many years, and also has a master of science in health economics and a master of business administration.


Alain Sotto

Since June 2014, Dr. Alain Sotto was named director of the Medcan Wellness Clinic, with Medcan being Canada’s largest executive health care clinic. From 2001 till 2014, he was the chief physician of the wellness division for Ontario Power Generation (OPG) in Toronto and Pickering. Since 2006, Dr. Sotto has been the occupational medical consultant for the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). He is a highly respected public speaker who is sought after to present on a variety of topics including cancer and mental health screening in the workplace, chronic disease prevention, and the business of aging. His primary area of interest is focused on “saving lives in the workplace one life at a time” with integrated health strategies at work for preventing or delaying the onset of chronic diseases. Dr. Sotto has held a number of medical consultant positions for large, national organizations, and he has been appointed to numerous medical and professional advisory boards. In May 2013, Dr. Sotto was named the Honorary Chair for the ROI of One Life conference held in Toronto, Ontario. In 2016, Dr. Sotto implemented a cardio-metabolic onsite screening program to all TTC employees with a focus on diabetes screening within the workplace. (See article in Benefits Canada April 2016). In 2012, Dr. Sotto led OPG’s Corporate Health and Wellness Strategy analyzing drug and benefit utilization with chronic disease management. The company was one of the top 3 finalists in Canada for the Best Employer in the Workplace Health and Benefits’ Award. In addition, he was the lead consultant on a cross—functional team during the SARS epidemic. As a result, OPG was used as the “model employer” by the Rotman School of Business. Dr. Sotto wa s  the founding member of the OPG-Pandemic Steering Committee. In 2009, Dr. Sotto was appointed as an examiner for the Canadian Board of Occupational Medicine and in 2008, he was appointed by an Order in Council in the Ontario Parliament as Investigative Coroner for York Region performing death scene investigations. In March 2009, Dr. Sotto was invited by the French Government’s Civil Defense Force to speak in Paris on pandemic planning with antiviral programs. Dr. Sotto appeared on Rogers TV and his articles on workplace health and wellness have been published in various magazines including several in Benefits CanadaThe ROI of One Life: CancerCourage and Patient’s Voice.


For information on the speakers, please contact Lauren Harris, Conference Editor, Benefits Canada

Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville

The award-winning Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville Hotel showcases luxury accommodation, superb on-site dining, and a lively, energetic atmosphere, befitting their downtown location.

marriott marriott2

90 Bloor Street East, Toronto, ON M4W 1A7

Telephone: 416 961 8000

For more information related to logistics, please contact Joanne Boccia, Event Manager, Benefits Canada

For sponsorship information contact Francesca Allman at

For information on the agenda, please contact Lauren Harris, Conference Editor, Benefits Canada