If you want to improve the health of Canadians, governments should invest outside the health-care system, say Canada's provincial and territorial public health officers.

The health officers make their argument in a commentary published in the latest edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Officer Heather Morrison told CBC News rates of illness and death are higher in Indigenous communities, among people with mental health conditions and for people living in poverty.

Dr. Heather Morrison

P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Officer Heather Morrison says rates of illness and death are higher in Indigenous communities, among people with mental health conditions and for people living in poverty. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

"It's not just about health. The things that impact that are these other broader determinants of health, and social determinants," Morrison said.

"Education or income or employment are all factors which influence our behaviours and ultimately can contribute to health outcomes."

Beyond paying closer attention to social determinants, Morrison said governments should promote healthy living.

Two-thirds of chronic diseases are linked to four risk factors: smoking, alcohol consumption, unhealthy eating and lack of physical activity.