Latest Health Council of Canada report says healthy lifestyle not
enough; tackling determinants of health have a stronger impact on
TORONTO, Dec. 15 /CNW/ - A report released today by the Health Council
of Canada declares that unless governments change their approach to
addressing the needs of poorer and socially disadvantaged Canadians, we
are destined to continue to spend large amount of dollars on our health
care system. Governments must expand their approach to health promotion
in order to tackle the major societal factors that lead to poor health
and to take pressure off health care budgets.
The report Stepping It Up: Moving the Focus from Health Care in Canada to a
Healthier Canada indicates that health disparities play a significant role in health
system costs. It states that ongoing spending on acute care and
programs encouraging a healthy lifestyle is not enough to improve the
overall health of Canadians, particularly those who live in or close to
"Good health is not simply a matter of diet and exercise," says John G.
Abbott, CEO of the Health Council of Canada. "These things matter, but
research shows that other factors such as our income, employment, home
and work environment, and social relationships have a stronger impact,
on our health and well-being."
The report highlights income as a particularly strong determinant of
health. In fact, Canadians with the lowest incomes are more likely to
suffer from chronic conditions like diabetes, arthritis and heart
disease, live with a disability, be hospitalized for a variety of
health problems, have many mental health issues and to die earlier.
Furthermore, these same Canadians are twice as likely to use health
care services as those with the highest incomes. In 2010 the estimated
health care expenditure in Canada is $192 billion. An estimated 20% of
that cost may be attributable to income disparities.
Making an impact on the underlying determinants of health will require
governments to think and work differently. The report underscores the
need for a "seismic shift" in how politicians and governments think
about health, calling for a better balance between investing in an
acute care system and investing in the factors that materially affect
"Canadians' health and a healthy population must be viewed as the
responsibility of governments and society as a whole, not just that of
the ministries of health or health promotion," says Abbott.
"Governments need to govern more collaboratively, in an approach that
links multiple ministries, multiple levels of government, and other
sectors of our society."
The report credits Canadian governments for beginning to move in this
direction, with attention to poverty-reduction strategies. However,
there is still a need for governments to shift the allocation of funds
to programs and services that target the poor, underemployed, and
"In the end," says Abbott, "governments need to recognize that unless we
challenge the status quo about how to improve the health of Canadians,
we are going to continue to pour billions of new dollars into the
formal health care system and achieve very little."
About the Health Council of Canada
Created by the 2003 First Ministers' Accord on Health Care Renewal, the Health Council of Canada is an independent national agency that
reports on the progress of health care renewal in Canada. The Council
provides a system-wide perspective on health care reform in Canada, and
disseminates information on best practices and innovation across the
country. The Councillors are appointed by the participating provincial
and territorial governments and the Government of Canada.
To read commentary from guest bloggers and other health industry leaders
about health promotion in Canada or to download the full report visit: www.healthcouncilcanada.ca.
SOURCE Health Council of Canada
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