Health

Online tool compares health care in provinces to OECD

An interactive tool allows people to compare provincial results on health indicators such as quality of care and patient safety to OECD averages.

Obesity rate in Canada is higher than in most other OECD countries

What's good, bad and mediocre in Canada's health-care system compared with other developed countries 1:40

An interactive tool allows people to compare provincial results on health indicators such as quality of care and patient safety to OECD averages.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information web tool visually compare provinces and the national average on five indicators versus 34 OECD countries, with an emphasis on countries that are most similar to Canada.

A wide range of measures would be cost-effective in reducing obesity rates in Canada, according to an OECD report. (Canadian Obesity Network)

The indicators are:

  • Health status — how healthy are Canadians?
  • Non-medical determinants of health — are Canadians living healthy lifestyles?
  • Access to care — can Canadians get the health services they need?
  • Quality of care — are Canadians receiving high-quality care?
  • Patient safety — are Canadians receiving care that is safe?

An accompanying report from CIHI focuses on diabetes, saying Canada has one of the highest prevalence rates of diabetes among OECD countries, with 9.4 per cent, or more than three million people, estimated to have the condition in 2014.

Children, in particular, are a population with an increasing prevalence of diabetes, the report's authors say. Between 1999 and 2009, the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes nearly doubled in children and adolescents younger than 20. Increasing rates of people being overweight or obese are thought to be a key contributor.

A second report released Wednesday from the OECD, Health at a Glance 2015, said the obesity rate among children and adults in Canada is higher than in most other OECD countries.

More than one-fourth of Canadian adults (26 per cent) were obese in 2013. Obesity in Canada, as in other OECD countries, tends to be higher in low educated groups, especially among women.

"Obesity is a known risk factor for many health problems, and threatens the progress that has been achieved in recent decades in reducing mortality rates from cardiovascular diseases," the report's authors said.

Daniel Flanders, a pediatrician in Toronto was not involved in the reports, said the results are "really amazing and scary." 

"Fifteen or 20 years ago in medical school, we were taught that Type 2 diabetes does not exist in children. And now there are 1,000 new diagnoses of Type 2 diabetes in children every four years in Canada."

The OECD said its work has shown that a wide range of measures would be cost-effective in reducing obesity rates in Canada. These include:

  • Strengthening food labelling regulations.
  • Promoting greater counselling by doctors and dietitians.
  • Rising prices of unhealthy food or beverages through taxation.

Flanders pointed to how a typical child's meal now contains far more fat, sugar, salt and processing than two decades ago.

"It's a beast that any individual really can't conquer, so we need to make changes to our environment in addition to encouraging and empowering people to make positive changes for themselves," he suggested. 

Other highlights from the OECD report:

  • Life expectancy in Canada is one year higher than the OECD average and about three years higher than in the United States, but remains significantly lower than in leading OECD countries (Japan, Spain and Switzerland).
  • Tobacco smoking in Canada is among the lowest in OECD countries, but the harmful use of alcohol is rising. 
  • The quality of cancer care in Canada (as measured by the survival of patients following diagnosis) is generally good but not the best, and the quality of primary care (as measured by avoidable hospital admissions) can also be improved. 

The report also looked at health expenditure. The OECD said overall health expenditure continues to grow slowly in many OECD countries in line with GDP growth.

The closer the dot is to the centre 'target,' the better the country performs in this comparative graph of OECD health indicators. The countries in the inner circle are in the top quintile among the best performing OECD countries, while those in the outer circle are in the bottom quintile. (OECD Health at a Glance 2015)

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