Major studies agree on Canada's health care ailments, but disagree on the prescriptions

OTTAWA, June 13, 2012 /CNW/ - Studies of health care reform in Canada show a remarkable degree of agreement on what needs to change - it is in how to reform the system that consensus falls apart. Resistance to change has been strongest around financing models, and key issues have received little attention - notably the role of health and wellness in the workplace and the potential for the health care system to create wealth for Canadians.

A Conference Board of Canada analysis of 18 major health care studies over 15 years reveals that individual jurisdictions have taken a wide variety of initiatives in response to these reports. But progress has been uneven and reforms have sometimes moved in opposing directions, according to The Canadian Health Care Debate: A Survey and Assessment of Key Studies.

"Canadians have strong feelings about health care. They consistently call for better access and higher quality care. At the same time, however, they have been just as vocal in telling political leaders that they don't want to pay more for health care—not individually through private care, nor collectively through higher taxes," said Louis Thériault, Director, Health Economics.

"The intensity of these demands has triggered a vast array of commissions, inquiries, and studies aimed at delivering better health outcomes while also controlling costs."

A first step in the work of the Conference Board of Canada's Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care (CASHC) was to review 18 national and provincial studies and reports that have examined the strengths, challenges, and sustainability of Canada's health care system. These studies produced 432 recommendations that fall into seven broad themes:

  • System Management Approaches and Processes
  • Funding and Financial Models
  • Quality and Value for Money
  • Health Human Resources
  • Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
  • Innovation and Innovative Technologies
  • Access to Care

More than half of all these recommendations fall into two categories: system management processes (30 per cent), and funding and financing (23 per cent).

The role of health and wellness programs in the workplace was the most remarkable omission from almost all reports. Recommendations rarely noted the importance of a healthy working environment for those outside the health care workforce. The Conference Board is bringing public attention to this issue at its upcoming Workplace Wellness and Mental Health 2012 conference, where the report Making the Business Case for Investments in Workplace Health and Wellness will be released on Monday, June 18.

In addition, none of the reports identified how the health care system is at the heart of Canada's national innovation system and, therefore, has the potential to boost productivity growth and generate wealth for Canadians.

This review suggests three priorities for CASHC's research and dialogue:

  • For areas of broad consensus, examine the practical barriers that stand in the way of more rapid progress. The 2011-12 CIBC Scholar-in-Residence, journalist Andre Picard, will shed light on the nexus between policy and politics in health care, in both his lecture held in May and in his upcoming book.
  • For areas of substantive disagreement, offer fresh evidence and perspectives.
  • For under-examined or ignored topics—such as workplace health and wellness or health care as a source of wealth creation—break new ground with insights and evidence.

Launched in 2011, CASHC 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 fiscal, workplace, and institutional dimensions, in an effort to develop forward-looking qualitative and quantitative analysis and solutions to make the system more sustainable.


For further information:


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

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