Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. D-graded in health care

The Conference Board of Canada says Newfoundland and Labrador spends the most per capita on health of any province but has the worst overall performance.

Province may spend the most, but population remains unhealthy

Yoga instructor Kimberely Robertson says it's a challenge getting many people in N.L. to make healthy lifestyle changes. (CBC )

A Conference Board of Canada report on provincial health care systems says Newfoundland and Labrador spends the most per capita on health of any province, yet still has the worst overall performance.

The report ranked the 10 provinces in four areas connected to health: lifestyle factors, health status, health system resources, and health care system performance.

As for health system resources, Newfoundland and Labrador is one of four provinces which scored an A grade, with nearly twice as many nurses working in direct health care than in British Columbia. The category also includes medical equipment and the number of hospital beds.

However, in the three other categories, N.L. got D grades, putting this province at the bottom of the heap. B.C. scored an A rating in overall health performance. 

Commenting on this province's ranking, the report concluded that "spending more health care dollars does not necessarily lead to better performance."

However, the report also said "provinces which rank higher in lifestyle factors also perform better in overall health status, which highlights the importance of health promotion and disease prevention programs."

Newfoundland and Labrador got a D in lifestyle factors, which assesses heavy drinking, smoking and obesity rates, physical activity, and fruit and vegetable consumption.

"We're very concerned about ensuring that we direct money in the right area," said Susan Sullivan, the province's health minister. 

"Of course in health care there are all kinds of concerns that we have to take into consideration."

Sullivan said the province is always striving for straight As in health performance. 

Lifestyle changes a challenge

Kimberley Robertson, a yoga instructor in St. John's, said getting people in this province to incorporate more physical activity into their routine can be a bit of a battle.

"It's tough to change the mentality, it's hard to get those lifestyle changes in place," said Robertson. "Once you get started and on a roll it's easier to maintain them, but I think it is more of a challenge here to make that initial change."

Nutritionist Tara Antle said she encounters challenges in helping families serve healthy meals within their budgets.

"Because we're an island, a lot of times getting the food costs more compared to other provinces across the country."

Antle, like Robertson, added she's found that trying to change ingrained habits has been a problem.

"From what I've seen with my own clients, and just talking to people around the province, a lot of times we know what we have to do. However, we just don't know how to implement it into our day-to-day routine."