British Columbia is home to the healthiest Canadian population, while residents in Newfoundland and Labrador and the three territories are the least healthy, according to report card released Thursday by the Conference Board of Canada.

The report compared residents' health in each province and territory, while comparing Canada as a whole to the U.S., Japan, Australia and 12 countries in Western Europe.

The study looked at such factors as life expectancy, infant mortality, cancer deaths and suicides, but did not compare health-care spending or access to services.

B.C. gets the highest rating in Canada — an A — because people there have the lowest rate of disease, low obesity rates and the highest level of physical activity. It scored the third-highest rating overall, behind only Switzerland and Sweden.

Ontario had the second best Canadian results, followed closely by Quebec, P.E.I. and Alberta. All four provinces had B ratings, which is the same grade Canada received overall.

"B.C. and Ontario are the top ranked in Canada, in large part because their residents tend to lead healthier lifestyles. They have the lowest shares of daily smokers and heavy drinkers in Canada," said Gabriela Prada, a director with the board. 

New Brunswick earned the sole C, while Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan were near the bottom of the list with D grades.

Newfoundland and Labrador gets D–minus

Newfoundland and Labrador earned the lowest score of all the provinces with a D-minus because of disease rates and infant mortality. The three Northern Territories received the same low rank.   

"The obesity rate in Newfoundland is among the highest in the country and B.C., the lowest," said Louis Theriault, vice-president of public policy with the Conference Board of Canada. "So there's a strong correlation between that indicator and diseases."

Canada as a whole was middle of the pack against its so-called peer countries — eighth out of 16.    

Theriault said Canada needs to shift its focus from treatment as Canada's population ages.

"The prevention aspect is where we can make some strides," he said. "Disease management is part of that as well."

The complete country ranking was:

  • Switzerland, Sweden - A
  • Australia, Norway, France, Japan, Netherlands, Canada, Germany - B
  • Finland, United Kingdom, Austria, Ireland, Belgium - C
  • Denmark, United States - D

Canada compared favourably to the other countries on risk factors that lead to chronic diseases, but the report said the country's obesity rate is cause for concern, especially childhood obesity.