Health and wellness are priorities for individual Canadians, but less so for governments
OTTAWA, Feb. 13, 2013 /CNW/ – Canadians see their own daily activities
as the most important factor affecting their health, but governments
spend only a tiny fraction of their health care budgets on health
promotion. A Conference Board of Canada study, Health Matters: An Economic Perspective, suggests that incremental investments on public health today could
produce long-term savings for individuals, the health care system and
-- Canadians understand the connection between their lifestyles and their health. -- Four key modifiable factors have significant impacts on health: smoking; alcohol consumption; nutrition and dietary patterns; and physical activity. -- Canadian governments spend just 6.2 per cent of their health budgets on public health even though small additional investments today could produce benefits for individuals, the health care system and the economy.
Canadians appear to understand the connection between lifestyle and
health. An EKOS Research Associates survey for The Conference Board of
Canada’s Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care revealed that 48 per cent of respondents feel daily activities have the
greatest impact on the health of the average Canadian. No other factor
was close – including income levels (18 per cent), the health care
system (17 per cent), quality of food and water (10 per cent) and
environmental factors (6 per cent).
“The health of Canadians is unquestionably a private matter, but it is
increasingly becoming a public concern,” said Louis ThÃ©riault, Director, Health Economics, Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health
Care (CASHC). “The collective health of Canadians has implications for
the public health care system and for the economy. Treating health and
wellness as a policy priority, rather than focusing so much on health
care, could contribute to a healthier population and a wealthier
Governments have an opportunity to invest in health promotion in a way
that benefits public health, the economy and their own fiscal
positions. Health care costs have more than doubled in just 11 years,
and health spending is crowding out government spending on other key
services and programs.
Yet, in 2011, Canadian governments allocated an estimated 6.2 per cent
of its health expenditures to public health, leaving Canada in the
middle of the pack among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development countries. Moreover, promotion of population health and
wellness is only a fraction of public health spending.
Population health measures, such as health protection and the promotion
of awareness about illnesses, can be cost-effective. Initiatives that
target lifestyle changes (such as tobacco-use cessation and physical
activity programs) or secondary prevention (through drug interventions)
The Conference Board estimates that, in 2010, ten selected chronic
diseases cost the economy $119 billion, because short- and long-term
disability reduced productivity and higher rates of mortality led to
loss of future income. The Public Health Agency of Canada estimated
that these same conditions cost the economy $79 billion in 2000,
illustrating how the cost burden has grown.
Lifestyle factors can significantly affect health outcomes. Some factors
– such as aging and genetics – cannot be modified. But four key
modifiable factors have significant impacts on health: smoking; alcohol
consumption; nutrition and dietary patterns; and physical activity.
Studies indicate that heavy drinkers, daily smokers, and obese people
are more likely to leave the workforce prematurely.
Canadians surveyed by EKOS see these specific behaviours as crucial
factors in maintaining personal health:
-- Not smoking was seen as very important by 82 per cent of Canadians. -- Being physically active was seen as very important by 76 per cent. -- Nutrition or eating a well-balanced diet was seen as very important by 74 per cent. -- Not drinking too much alcohol was seen as very important by 44 per cent of respondents; another 42 per cent said it was somewhat important.
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 financial, workplace, and
institutional dimensions, in an effort to develop forward-looking
qualitative and quantitative analysis and solutions to make the system
EKOS Research Associates conducted the survey with the support of the
Canadian Medical Association, Accreditation Canada and CASHC, to update
and refine the understanding of Canadian views on health and the health
care system. The methodology involved a nationally representative
survey of 2,047 Canadians 18 years of age and older – 519 were surveyed
by telephone and 1,528 completed the survey online. The sample source
for this study was members of the EKOS panel, which was specifically
designed for online/telephone surveys, Results include a margin of
errors of plus or minus 2.2 per cent 19 times out of 20. The survey
took place in May 2012.
SOURCE Conference Board of Canada