Monday, January 20, 2014

Where You Live Matters: Report shows Canadians have different health care experiences

Health Council of Canada releases 2013 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey results

TORONTO, Ontario January 20, 2014 /Canada NewsWire/ - Today, the Health Council of Canada released results from the 2013 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey of the General Public. Where You Live Matters: Canadian views on health care quality is the eighth and final bulletin in the Canadian Health Care Matters series.

The report focuses on differences across the 10 provinces, comparisons among the 11 OECD countries that participated in the survey, and changes in Canada's performance over the past decade. These results show that where a person lives does matter. Canada shows largely disappointing performance compared to other high-income countries, some of which have made impressive progress. Also, there is considerable variation among provinces.

Survey results show that Canadians' views about the health care system have grown more positive in the last decade, and more than half (61 per cent) rate their health status as very good or excellent, putting Canada among the top three of the 11 countries surveyed. However, there remain large and concerning variations in patients' experiences in terms of access to care, coordination and integration of care, patient safety and preventive care.

"While this report indicates that Canadians' views on health care and their own health status appears optimistic, it raises important questions on the wide variations we see among provinces in a number of areas such as access to after-hours care, emergency department wait times, affordability of care, coordination among care providers, and the uptake of screening programs," says Dr. Mark Dobrow, Director, Analysis and Reporting, Health Council of Canada.

Among the major areas of concern for Canadians are cost and access to care. About one-quarter of Canadians are concerned they would not be able to afford needed care if they became seriously ill. In addition, between three per cent and 15 per cent of Canadians do not have a regular doctor or clinic where they go for care. Accessing medical care after hours (without going to the emergency department) is difficult for 62 per cent of Canadians (up to 73 per cent in Newfoundland and Labrador).

The report also found that wait times remain a concern for Canadians, as only 31 to 46 per cent of Canadians, depending on the province, could get a same-day or next-day appointment when needed (excluding emergency department visits). Canada is in last place among all countries surveyed in this regard, with no improvement since 2004.

In addition, screening activities vary across provinces. Between 12 to 34 per cent of women aged 40 to 74 state they have never been screened for breast cancer. Also 23 to 49 per cent of Canadians age 50 or older state they have never had a test to screen for bowel or colon cancer. "These provincial variations and complexities surrounding screening are the focus of an upcoming report on screening from the Health Council to be released in February," explains Dr. Dobrow.

Preventive care appears to remain a low priority, as up to 73 per cent of Canadians did not get a seasonal preventive flu shot last year. Also, about half of Canadians surveyed said they have not had a doctor or other clinic staff talk with them about healthy eating or exercise in the past two years, and 76 per cent have not talked about alcohol use.

According to Dr. Dobrow,

"our provinces and territories will need to dig deeper into the survey data and other sources to understand the reasons for their differences and consider what can be done to reduce inequities in health and health care for all Canadians."

To read the full report, visit

About the Health Council of Canada

Created by the 2003 First Ministers' Accord on Health Care Renewal, the Health Council of Canada is an independent national agency that reports on the progress of health care renewal. The Council provides a system-wide perspective on health care reform in Canada, and disseminates information on innovative practices across the country. The Councillors are appointed by the participating provincial and territorial governments and the Government of Canada. In April 2013 the federal government announced that it will be winding-up funding for the Council such that the Council will conclude its operations by March 31, 2014.

About the survey

The 2013 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey of the General Public reflects the perceptions of a random sample of the general public (age 18 years and older) across 11 countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States. Participants were interviewed by telephone (land line or cell phone) between March and June 2013.

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