Managing Chronic Disease Huge Challenge For Ontario

    Report Says Health System Slowly Improving But Gaps Need Attention

    TORONTO, March 26 /CNW/ - Ontario is facing a huge challenge to reduce
and better manage chronic diseases, the Ontario Health Quality Council (OHQC)
said today in releasing its second annual report.
    "The way we handle chronic diseases is at the top of our `needs
improvement' list," said OHQC Chair Ray Hession. "The number of people living
with chronic disease, such as arthritis, diabetes, and heart failure is
increasing as our population ages - and yet many of these cases could be
prevented or better treated. Ontario needs a coordinated, system-wide,
long-term strategy for reducing and better managing chronic diseases. People
will be healthier and it will ease a large pressure on our health system."

    Highlights of the OHQC's findings on chronic diseases in Ontario included:

    -   1-in-3 Ontarians has one or more chronic diseases. Of those, almost
        4-of-5 over the age of 65 have one chronic disease, and of those,
        about 70 percent suffer from two or more.

    -   At least 60 percent of Ontario's health care costs are due to chronic

    -   Obesity increases the likelihood of developing many chronic diseases.
        One in three Ontarians over the age of 18 is overweight and 15
        percent are obese.

    -   South Asians and Latin Americans are at a higher risk of developing
        type 2 diabetes. Aboriginal Ontarians also are three to five times
        more likely to develop this disease.

    -   Over 80 percent of cases of coronary heart disease, such as heart
        attacks, and type 2 diabetes, and over 85 percent of cases of lung
        cancer and chronic obstructive lung disease such as emphysema could
        be prevented through healthier lifestyles - including nutritious
        food, physical fitness, clean environment and meaningful, safe work.

    Despite the chronic disease challenge, the OHQC reported that, overall,
there are positive signs that Ontario is making slow but steady progress in
improving its health system:

    -   Ontario's Wait Time Strategy has reduced wait times in the targeted
        areas of cancer and cardiac care, hip and knee replacements,
        diagnostic imaging and cataract surgery. Success was achieved through
        a targeted strategy and supplementary funding. The model could be
        applied more broadly in the health system.

    -   Ontario has opened 359 telemedicine centres in 190 communities, many
        of them in rural and remote locations. These centres enable patients
        to use computer links and video equipment for long-distance "virtual
        appointments" with specialists who may not exist in their

    -   Since 2003, an additional half-million people reported that they have
        a regular doctor, which means we are keeping pace with population
        growth. The overall supply of health-care providers is growing and
        will continue to grow in the future because of the increases in seats
        in education programs.

    -   Between 2000 and 2005, the number of 12-19 year olds who smoke daily
        dropped by half, from 11 percent to 6 percent.

    -   The percentage of heart attack patients admitted to hospital who
        survive the critical 30-day post-attack period, has grown from 85.5
        percent to 88.9 percent over six years.

    The OHQC report emphasized that Ontario must work to continually improve
the quality of its publicly funded health care.
    "Ontarians want independent third bodies to regularly rate, measure and
publicly report on their health system," Hession said. "The OHQC does this on
a province-wide level, but we also need this to be done at the regional level
and for each local health care organization. Practices such as accreditation
drive improvements in quality by measuring how well individual institutions
stack up against proven best practices and by spotlighting where there are
problems, so that improvements can be made."
    For the second year in a row, the OHQC reported that a major barrier to
accountability and quality improvement is a lack of information about what is
taking place in the health system. "If we can't measure quality, we can't
manage it effectively, it's that simple," Hession said.

    About the OHQC

    The Ontario Health Quality Council is an independent agency funded by the
Government of Ontario through the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care. The
Council reports directly to Ontarians on access to publicly funded health
services, human resources in health care, consumer and population health
status, outcomes of the health system and ways of improving it. The Council is
made up of 10 appointed members from across the province who have a diverse
range of expertise, including hospital governance, medicine, academic and
research work, business, public and health policy, ethics and aboriginal and
community leadership.

For further information:

For further information: Ania Basiukiewicz, Communications Assistant,
Tel: (416) 323-6868 x221

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