OTTAWA, March 15, 2012 /CNW/ - Three major chronic lung diseases cost Canada's economy $12 billion in 2010. According to an analysis by The Conference Board of Canada, if no further enhancements are made to strategies for dealing with respiratory diseases, the annual economic burden is projected to double by 2030.
Policies to further reduce and modify the risk factors for the three diseases - lung cancer, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - could reduce future costs substantially. The risk factors specifically associated with chronic lung disease - and therefore those that could have the greatest influence on disease prevalence - are smoking rates, second-hand smoke, and indoor air quality.
"These three diseases exact an enormous human and economic toll," said Louis Theriault, Director, Health Economics, The Conference Board of Canada. "Reducing smoking rates, lessening exposure to second-hand smoke, and improving indoor and outdoor air quality would lower the economic burden of these diseases."
"Policy action is being taken to reduce smoking rates, but the strategy has not yet met its ambitious objectives. Targeted actions, however, would be more likely to help advance the strategy."
The National Lung Health Framework, developed by respiratory health stakeholders with the support of the Canadian Lung Association and the Government of Canada, set strategies for reducing risk factors such as smoking, exposure to second-hand smoke, indoor and outdoor pollution, obesity, and occupational risk.
To support the objectives of the National Lung Health Framework, the Public Health Agency of Canada commissioned The Conference Board of Canada to provide a national-level forecast of the direct and indirect costs of the three major chronic lung diseases. The conclusions are published in the report, Cost Risk Analysis for Chronic Lung Disease in Canada, which is publicly available at www.e-library.ca.
The Conference Board's analysis estimates that the three diseases cost $12 billion in 2010, including $3.4 billion in direct health-care costs (drugs, hospitals, physicians) and $8.6 billion in indirect costs (such as premature death and long term disability).
The study includes two forecast scenarios. In the first scenario, historical trends in risk factors are maintained. As a result, the economic burden would increase to an estimated $24.1 billion by 2030. Indirect costs would make up the largest share of the increase. In this scenario, the number of cases increases by 32 per cent (an additional 1.6 million cases between 2010 and 2030).
Under the Conference Board's alternate scenario, the prevalence of chronic lung disease would rise by 29 per cent instead of 32 per cent. The economic burden would fall by $1.56 billion in 2030 - a reduction of 6.5 per cent from the first scenario. Over the 20 year-period, costs for these three diseases would be reduced by a cumulative $12.4 billion.
This alternate scenario assumes an accelerated pace of decline in risk factors - already evident in lower smoking rates and exposure to second-hand smoke. To achieve these objectives, additional government and business actions could include:
- Further reducing smoking rates through policy tools that include tax or price increases, health warnings, and stop-smoking assistance (such as counseling and medication for smokers trying to quit);
- Reducing exposure to second-hand smoke through ongoing support for smoking bans in workplaces and public spaces; and
- Reducing radon exposure by encouraging provincial and municipal adoption and enforcement of 2010 National Building Code requirements for protection against radon ingress in new home construction, targeting areas known to have high radon levels.
The analysis is based on the most recent data available and does not take into account new tobacco control measures announced by the federal government. In September 2011, the Government of Canada gave final approval for tougher requirements regarding health-related labels on cigarettes and little cigar packages - including new larger health warning messages. Tobacco manufacturers and importers have until March 21, 2012 to transition to the new labels, and, as of June 19, 2012 retailers may only sell cigarettes and little cigars that display the new health warnings. Each new health warning includes a pan-Canadian 'quitline' and web address that link smokers to provincial and territorial smoking cessation counselling and resources.
These initiatives are consistent with two key recommendations of the Conference Board report.
Additional information can be found at the National Lung Health Framework website (http://www.lunghealthframework.ca/home).
This study is just one way in which the Conference Board is working to improve the sustainability of Canada's health care system. Earlier this month, the Conference Board released its How Canada Performs - HeaIth report card (http://www.conferenceboard.ca/hcp/Details/Health.aspx). In May 2011, the Conference Board launched the Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care, which will provide Canadian business leaders and policy-makers with insights and analysis on what it will take to ensure the future of quality health care in this country. More than 30 companies and organizations have invested in the five-year initiative, providing invaluable financial, leadership, and expert support.
For further information:
Brent Dowdall, Media Relations, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 448