Living well: An apple a day may keep health care costs away

OTTAWA, May 17, 2013 /CNW/ - As Canadians head home for a holiday weekend, a new Conference Board of Canada report offers a reminder that healthy lifestyles have an impact on health care costs as well as on individual wellbeing.

The Conference Board of Canada's analysis of lifestyle factors among provincial populations finds that there is significant room for improvement in how Canadians take care of their own health. Its analysis is part of a major report, Paving the Road to Higher Performance: Benchmarking Provincial Health Systems, which will be released on Thursday, May 23.

"The provinces that rank higher in lifestyle factors also perform better in overall health status. These findings highlight the importance of health promotion and disease prevention programs to control demand for health care services," said Gabriela Prada, Director, Health Innovation, Policy and Evaluation.

"Our analysis is not meant to 'shame and blame' provinces that do relatively poorly on any given indicator," said Prada. "Our intention is to identify performance achievements and gaps so that all provinces are better equipped to make decisions that will improve health care systems and population health."

The findings released today are the second of four categories published by The Conference Board of Canada in its benchmarking of provincial health systems, produced under the Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care. In all, 90 indicators are assessed in the categories of Lifestyle Factors, Health Status, Health Resources, and Health Care System Performance.

  • British Columbia's outstanding results set a high bar for the rest of the provinces.
  • Quebec gets an "A" grade on consumption of fruits and vegetables per day, but higher smoking rates and a lower amount of physical activity temper Quebec's overall grade.
  • Overall, when compared with the G8 countries, Canada has the third-highest proportion of men considered heavy episodic drinkers.

The Lifestyle Factors category considers indicators that measure rates of health-related behaviours, which include:

  • Heavy drinking
  • Overweight or obese adults
  • Smoking
  • Fruit and vegetable consumption
  • Physical activity

B.C. earns by far the best grades among the provinces - obtaining "A"s in all but one indicator. B.C.'s standout performance makes the average score needed to attain an "A" grade very high for the other provinces (SEE CHART).

Ontario, Alberta and Quebec earn overall 'B' grades. Quebec achieves "A" grades in two indicators - overweight or obese adults, and fruit and vegetable consumption. Quebec obtains the only "A" among the provinces in fruit and vegetable consumption, but its overall grade falls to a "B" because of comparatively high smoking rates and a lower amount of physical activity.

Newfoundland and Labrador receives a "D" grade overall and rates "D"s in four of the five indicators. Prince Edward Island, which receives two "B" and three "D" grades, also receives a "D" overall.

Almost all provinces show an increase in the proportion of Canadian adults reported to be overweight or obese since 2003. The trend is reversed when looking at daily smoking over the last few years. Canada has been able to decrease its smoking rates, and it shows relatively low rates of smoking compared with other OECD countries.

The Health Status segment was released on Thursday, May 16.  The remaining segments to be released are:

  • Health System Resources and Performance - Wednesday, May 22
  • Overall Grades - Thursday, May 23

To rank performance, The Conference Board of Canada's A-B-C-D report card ranking methodology. Grade levels are assigned to the indicators using the following method:

  • For each indicator, the difference between the top and bottom performer is calculated and this figure is divided by 4.
  • A province receives a report card rating of "A" on a given indicator if its score is in the top quartile, a "B" if its score is in the second quartile, a "C" if its score is in the third quartile, and a "D" if its score is in the bottom quartile.
  • This methodology helps to ensure that those regions awarded an "A" on a given indicator perform substantially better than the range of performances among the other regions.

The overall findings will be revealed at The Conference Board of Canada's Western Summit on Sustainable Health, to be held May 22-23 at The Westin, Edmonton.  This forum will provide an opportunity for all health stakeholders from across the West to connect, share ideas, and discuss how to transform the health care system and improve the health of Canadians.

Launched in 2011, the Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care is a five-year Conference Board program of research and dialogue. It will delve deeply into facets of Canada's health care challenge, including the financial, workplace, and institutional dimensions, in an effort to develop forward-looking qualitative and quantitative analysis and solutions to make the system more sustainable.


SOURCE: Conference Board of Canada

For further information:

Brent Dowdall, Media Relations, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext.  448


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