One of the things I learned from doing medical technology assessment is that Canada is a country filled with epidemiologists. Even family practitioners get masters degrees in epidemiology. At conferences, they introduce themselves as "family practitioner and clinical epidemiologist." In the USA, by contrast, epidemiologists are often considered the weirdos of the medical profession. (Why would anyone waste their precious brains on such dumb stuff when you could be stapling stomachs?) Epidemiology is the systematic study of disease in populations. Not the study of stapling technique in gastric surgery.
So, I guess I should not be surprised that the Canadians have taken the lead in using the current Swine flu epidemic to examine the link between flu severity and VITAMIN D! Just learned from CIDRAP (my favorite source on everything infectious, run by American epidemiologists, of course) that the Canadian Public Health Agency will be testing people with Swine Flu for their Vitamin D levels to determine whether those who do badly have lower levels. The Toronto Globe and Mail had a very nice article on it. Canada's press release was a little broader than just Vitamin D, since they'll also be looking for genetic factors. But, the very fact that they will actually use the current epidemic to get some info on Vitamin D and influenza is a reflection on the sophistication of Canada's approach to health research and policy. If Vitamin D actually turns out to provide some protection, as some scientists believe, it's the kind of low hanging fruit for cost-effective medicine that we need if our President's promises of lower cost health care are ever to be remotely approached. (He should stop promising that, anyway.)