HealthBeat Medicare Diabetes

In 2011, close to seven per cent of those aged 20 to 79 in OECD countries, or over 85 million people, had diabetes. (Steve Yeater/Associated Press)

Canada ranks poorly when it comes to its overall number of cases of diabetes and adult obesity, according to a new international report.

The  Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development released its Health at a Glance 2013 report on Wednesday, focusing on slowing health-care spending after the global financial crisis. Members of the OECD include developed countries in Europe and North America, as well as Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Canada ranked poorly in:

  • Higher prevalence of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes among those aged 20 to 79 (8.7 in Canada vs. 6.9 OECD average in 2011).
  • Self-reported overweight and obese boys (about 25 per cent in Canada vs. about 17 per cent OECD average).
  • Self-reported obesity among those age 15 and older  (about 25 per cent in Canada compared with 18 per cent of adults population across OECD counties).

The number of midwives per 100,000 women was highest in Iceland, Sweden and Turkey in 2011 and lowest in Korea, Canada and Slovenia.

Canada did better than average on mortality from heart attacks and strokes, life expectancy at birth and fruit and vegetable consumption.

For example, in 2011, Canada had a lower overall stroke mortality rate at 43 per 100,000 people compared with the OECD average of 69 per 100,000, after standardizing for age.

Almost 40 per cent of Canadian girls and nearly 50 per cent of boys said they ate vegetables daily. By comparison, daily vegetable eating was reported by around one in three girls and one in four boys on average across OECD member countries in 2009-2010.

"Cuts in spending on preventing obesity, harmful use of alcohol and tobacco consumption are cases of 'penny-wise, pound-foolish' thinking," the report's editorial said.

At $701 US per capita, Canada spent significantly more on medicines than the OECD average of $483 US per capita, the report's authors noted.

Countries with a national pharmacare programs use their buying power to negotiate better deals, said Steve Morgan, a  professor at the University of British Columbia's School of public health.

"We pay somewhere on the order of about 30 per cent more for prescription drugs that are branded than countries like the United Kingdom do," Morgan said.

With files from CBC's Susana da Silva