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Many Canadians feel their health care needs are not being met

November 2, 2009 Toronto

Canadians coast-to-coast are reporting having unmet health care needs. Researchers at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) have found nearly 12 per cent of Canadians report having unmet health care needs but access to health care varies by province and by type of access.

The analysis was based on a study of 111,258 Canadians who participated in the Canadian community Health Care Survey (conducted by Statistics Canada) between January and December, 2003 found:

  • In 2003, 11.7 per cent of Canadians report having had unmet health care needs in the previous 12 months. This was highest in Manitoba with 13.3 per cent and lowest in PEI with 7.8 per cent.
  • The most common reason for unmet need was problems of availability of services (54.9 per cent) followed by acceptability (42.8 per cent) and accessibility (12.7 per cent).
  • The most common complaint related to availability was long waiting times.
  • People who lived in rural communities, had lower levels of education, or were older were less likely to report having unmet health care needs overall or due to problems of availability and accessibility.
  • People who had poorer health, had lower income, were women, did not have a regular medical doctor, and did not have pharmaceutical insurance were more likely to report having unmet health care needs overall.
  • People who had low income or no pharmaceuticals insurance were more likely to report unmet need due to problems of cost or transportation.

“The main reasons for unmet need were different in each province, and no province was highest or lowest for any one reason. There was little provincial difference in unmet need due to problems of acceptability," says Lyn Sibley, lead researcher and PhD research fellow at ICES.

The study “Reasons for self-reported unmet health care needs in Canada: a population based provincial comparison” is in the current issue of Healthcare Policy.

ICES is an independent, non-profit organization that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of health care issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting health care needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy.

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