Living well: An apple a day may keep health care costs away

OTTAWA, May 17, 2013 /Canada NewsWire/ - As Canadians head home for a holiday weekend, a new Conference Board of Canada report offers a reminder that healthy lifestyles have an impact on health care costs as well as on individual wellbeing.

The Conference Board of Canada's analysis of lifestyle factors among provincial populations finds that there is significant room for improvement in how Canadians take care of their own health. Its analysis is part of a major report, Paving the Road to Higher Performance: Benchmarking Provincial Health Systems, which will be released on Thursday, May 23.

"The provinces that rank higher in lifestyle factors also perform better in overall health status. These findings highlight the importance of health promotion and disease prevention programs to control demand for health care services," said Gabriela Prada, Director, Health Innovation, Policy and Evaluation.

"Our analysis is not meant to 'shame and blame' provinces that do relatively poorly on any given indicator," said Prada. "Our intention is to identify performance achievements and gaps so that all provinces are better equipped to make decisions that will improve health care systems and population health."

The findings released today are the second of four categories published by The Conference Board of Canada in its benchmarking of provincial health systems, produced under the Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care. In all, 90 indicators are assessed in the categories of Lifestyle Factors, Health Status, Health Resources, and Health Care System Performance.

The Lifestyle Factors category considers indicators that measure rates of health-related behaviours, which include:

...Heavy drinking
...Overweight or obese adults
...Fruit and vegetable consumption
...Physical activity

Almost all provinces show an increase in the proportion of Canadian adults reported to be overweight or obese since 2003. The trend is reversed when looking at daily smoking over the last few years. Canada has been able to decrease its smoking rates, and it shows relatively low rates of smoking compared with other OECD countries.

The Health Status segment was released on Thursday, May 16. The remaining segments to be released are:

Health System Resources and Performance - Wednesday, May 22
Overall Grades - Thursday, May 23

The overall findings will be revealed at The Conference Board of Canada's Western Summit on Sustainable Health, to be held May 22-23 at The Westin, Edmonton. This forum will provide an opportunity for all health stakeholders from across the West to connect, share ideas, and discuss how to transform the health care system and improve the health of Canadians.

Launched in 2011, the Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care is a five-year Conference Board program of research and dialogue. It will delve deeply into facets of Canada's health care challenge, including the financial, workplace, and institutional dimensions, in an effort to develop forward-looking qualitative and quantitative analysis and solutions to make the system more sustainable.