More preventative services could save health-care system from financial collapse

CALGARY, June 19, 2013 /CNW/ - Canada's approach to health care is primarily focused on treating people downstream, or when they become sick. An unanticipated consequence of Canadian medicare is that we have made illness and disease a growth industry and we are struggling to keep up with demand.  The solution to our problem is not bigger hospitals and more doctors to treat an ever increasingly unhealthy population but to focus on preventative health care, with upstream investment in health promotion to prevent people from getting sick in the first place.

A report published today by The School of Public Policy evaluates the costs and benefits of this alternative approach by examining a unique large-scale philanthropic preventative health-care program run by Pure North S'Energy Foundation. The Pure North program pays for and provides personalized preventative health care services including lifestyle counseling, dietary supplements and dental services for Albertans drawn from groups that are vulnerable to poor health.

Report authors Herb Emery, Ken Fyie, Ludovic Brunel and Daniel Dutton find the program has achieved positive health outcomes for its participants, and at a cost of $2,300 per participant, it is far less expensive than treating people once they become sick.

"The annual health-care bill for a Canadian in poor health is estimated to be more than $10,000 higher than for someone in good health, meaning that keeping people in good health can be an important means for controlling public health-care budgets," the authors write.

They go on to explain that if the program were scaled-up province-wide to cover the nearly quarter-million Albertans in poor health, the resulting health improvement seen in program participants could translate into a nearly 25-per-cent reduction in hospital days used by Alberta patients every year and a net savings of $500 million on hospital and physician costs. This number does not include the potential economic benefits of keeping workers in better health and productive, while spending fewer days ill or hospitalized.

With these types of gains to be had, and governments struggling to find budget room for mounting health-care costs, the authors stress the need for more preventative health care. Currently, people are left to seek out health promotion and disease prevention services through private means. But the authors suggest preventative care could be integrated into the public system.

The report can be found at www.policyschool.ucalgary.ca/publications

SOURCE: The School of Public Policy - University of Calgary

For further information:

Media Contact:

Morten Paulsen
Phone: 403.399.3377
Email: morten@paulsengroup.ca

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The School of Public Policy - University of Calgary

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