Poor health status 'urgent matter,' warns New Brunswick Health Council
Health-care system must shift to proactive, citizen-centred approach, report says
The poor health status of New Brunswickers is an "urgent matter" and if the health-care system doesn't shift to a more proactive, citizen-centred approach, many people will face a reduced quality of life, and even shortened lifespans, warns a new report by the New Brunswick Health Council.
Other government services, such as education, roads, tourism, environment and social service programs, will also have to be reduced to pay for increased health care costs, according to the report, released on Tuesday.
"The influence of an aging and a sicker population cannot be ignored in a fiscally challenging environment; proactive planning is necessary to manage, curb and mitigate current trends in population health."
New Brunswick needs to focus on primary health care, currently the "weakest link" in publicly funded health services, and preventing rather than treating, according to the NBHC's annual health system report card.
Citizens must also accept more responsibility and adopt healthier eating habits, as well as more active and tobacco-free lifestyles, the report suggests.
Chronic conditions on rise
As it stands, New Brunswickers are "again" among the unhealthiest in Canada, the report, entitled 'Recognizing and Focusing on Population Health Priorities,' states.
The number of people in the province suffering from chronic health conditions, for example, increased to 62 per cent in 2014, up from 59 per cent in 2011, and the conditions are now affecting younger people, the report shows.
In addition, obesity rates in New Brunswick continue to rise. About 26 per cent of people aged 18 and older were considered obese in 2013-14, compared to the national figure of 20 per cent.
All these indicators are moving in the wrong direction.- New Brunswick Health Council report
And while the number of smokers in New Brunswick has improved somewhat, the province still outpaces the national average with 21 per cent of citizens aged 12 and over being daily or occasional smokers, compared to 19 per cent.
New Brunswick also has the oldest population in the country, with 19 per cent aged 65 and older. The national figure is 16 per cent.
"All these indicators are moving in the wrong direction," the report states. The more unhealthy we are, the more we will need expensive health services … but the tax base needed to fund them may not be sufficient."
"This can also have significant implications for other government services as the money needed to fund the health services will have to come from reducing funding of other services."
Health priorities identified by the NBHC include:
- Achieving healthy weights.
- Lowering high blood pressure rates.
- Improving mental health.
- Preventing injuries.
- Achieving tobacco-free living.