New ranking looks at health of 10 Canadian cities

A new ranking looking at the health performance of 10 Canadian cities gives an "A" to Saskatoon, Calgary and Winnipeg.

Cities across Canada often have similar standards of living, but slight variations may impact health

A view of the Delta Bessborough Hotel in downtown Saskatoon. The city ranked highly on life satisfaction in a new report from the Conference Board of Canada. (Devin Heroux/CBC)

Saskatoon gets top marks when it comes to the health performance of the city and its citizens, according to a new ranking comparing 10 Canadian cities.

The Conference Board of Canada released its first-ever City Health Monitor report on Tuesday, assigning grades for the physical and socio-economic health of 10 cities based on 24 indicators in four categories:

  • Life satisfaction.
  • Population health.
  • Healthy lifestyle.
  • Access to health-care services.

"We want to  start a conversation about how healthy our cities are and where can we strive to make improvements," said Greg Sutherland, principal economist with the Conference Board of Canada.

Saskatoon, Calgary and Winnipeg each earn an "A" grade, with Saskatoon garnering the top overall spot due to its ranking on life satisfaction and relative strength in population health and healthy lifestyle.

"We certainly have everything you could possibly want, maybe other than warm weather," Saskatoon resident Ross Harwood said with a laugh.

It's not just about how healthy people are but also how healthy they feel, Sutherland said, such as how satisfied they are with their life in general and how much they feel part of a community. "Canadian cities for the most part rank really high in this."

Calgary's second-place ranking is attributed to its ranking in life satisfaction and healthy lifestyles, while Winnipeg rounds out the Top 3 by placing first in the access-to-health-care category and with relatively good results in the others.

Montreal finished in 10th place and was the only city to receive a grade of "D." (Charles Contant/CBC)

Montreal finished in 10th place and is the only city to receive an overall grade of "D." The city was assigned a "D" in three of the four categories: healthy lifestyle, access to health-care services and life satisfaction.

In previous research, Sutherland said Montreal ranked well in terms of being a great place to live. But smoking rates are higher, influenza immunization rates are lower and it doesn't fare as well as other Canadian cities on life satisfaction.  

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre disagreed with his city's grade.

"When I'm looking from at all other indicators, they're saying Montreal is No. 1. Where's that D coming from? Didn't do my homework?"

The remaining six cities earned a "B" grade. Vancouver was highest in this group by ranking first in population health and healthy lifestyles, but it suffered poor results in the other two categories.

Quebec City, Ottawa-Gatineau, Halifax, Edmonton and Toronto each showed "decent" results in one category, the report's authors said, but faltered elsewhere. 

The Conference Board of Canada cautioned that benchmarking is not an end onto itself, but is intended to highlight each city's strengths and weaknesses to determine what level of performance is possible and to investigate improvements.

With files from CBC's Karen Pauls

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