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Government & policy

Canadian healthcare outcomes rated as middling

OTTAWA – Canada outshines the United States in health outcomes, but still trails the global leaders in the overall health of its population, according to the Conference Board’s annual health report card comparing leading developed countries.

Canada ranks 10th among the 16 comparator countries in overall health outcomes and earns a “B” grade. The United States is the worst performer in the ranking and gets a “D” grade. Most of the data for the report card are from 2006.

“Canada has been at the centre of much of the debate on U.S. healthcare reform. Since Canada ranks ahead of the U.S. on all but one indicator of health status – mortality rate due to cancer – it is clear that we are getting better results,” said Gabriela Prada, Director, Health Policy, Innovation and Evaluation. “But when we look beyond the narrow Canada-U.S. comparison to the rest of the world, Canadians rank in the middle of the pack in terms of their health status.”

Canada obtains no “D” grades on any of the 11 indicators, but gets “C”s on the mortality due to diabetes (14th place), mortality due to musculoskeletal diseases (10th place), and infant mortality (15th place) indicators. “Increasing levels of mortality due to diabetes should be raising alarm bells among policy-makers and the public,” said Prada.

“As the population ages, the burden from chronic diseases will only grow, unless Canadians change their attitudes and behaviours. Canada has no choice but to adopt a model of healthcare that focuses on sound primary care practices, particularly preventing and better management of chronic diseases.”

Canada is slightly above average – ranking seventh – in a new indicator that measures patient safety, mortality due to medical misadventures. About 150 Canadians die a year as a result of adverse medical events. Overall, an estimated 158,000 Canadians suffer a misadventure during surgical or other medical care, and close to 60,000 of these cases are considered preventable.

Japan is once again the top-ranking country. Japan turned a “C” in the 1960s to a sustainable “A” in the 1970s, and continues to obtain strong health outcomes. Switzerland, Italy, and Norway also earned “A” grades. Finland moved ahead of Canada in this year’s rankings due to better results on most of the mortality rate indicators.

Most top-performing countries have achieved better health outcomes through actions on the broader determinants of health – such as environmental stewardship and health promotion programs that focus on changes in lifestyle, along with education, early childhood development, and income to improve health outcomes.

How Canada Performs: A Report Card on Canada is the Conference Board’s annual benchmarking analysis, which the Board has conducted since 1996. The Conference Board assesses Canada’s performance against leading countries in the domains of Economy, Health, Society, Innovation, Environment, and Education and Skills.

Posted October 8, 2009

 

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