Chief public health officer Heather Morrison

Dr. Heather Morrison, the province's chief public health officer, says there have been 15 new cases of syphilis over the past 18 months (CBC)

The Prince Edward Island population is older than the Canadian average, and Islanders are more likely to be obese and drink heavily, according to a new report that paints a sobering picture of health in the province.

Prince Edward Island's chief health officer released a report on health trends on Friday and says cutting poverty and increasing education are key ways to improve health.

"If we can deal with some of those underlying social determinants of health, it will improve the health status of the population," Heather Morrison says. "It’s an important part of looking at health."

One recent survey, Morrison says, shows a decline in the overall general health of Islanders. She says it’s important for people to stay healthy as they get older because it means more independence and a better quality of life, while keeping health-care costs down.

"Healthy aging slows the onset and decreases the severity of disease and disability," Morrison says. "And if we can do that we can enable Island seniors to enjoy good quality of life throughout their years."

The province’s health minister says the report provides a "powerful message" to Islanders.

"It’s about taking individual responsibility, it’s for government to provide leadership," Doug Currie says.