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Study sets health targets to make Ontario as healthy as British Columbia and Quebec

November 6, 2009 Toronto

Ontarians are not the healthiest Canadians according research out of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) but that can change if the province follows lessons from leading provinces and other leading countries.

“Quebec was identified as a leader, not because their health is better than Ontario but because their health is rapidly improving,” says Dr. Doug Manuel, principal investigator and ICES researcher. “Quebec's life expectancy will surpass Ontario's within the next 10 to 15 years, for the first time since life expectancy has been recorded in Canada.”

Compared to the leading provinces—British Columbia remains in the top spot—Ontario’s health behaviour is worse, health targets are lower and fewer resources are allocated to improving health behaviours related to smoking, physical activity, diet and obesity.

In order for Ontario to match British Columbia’s health targets by the 2015, the following must happen:

  • Less than 15 per cent of Ontarians use tobacco.
  • More than 73 per cent of Ontarians are physically active - that is, they take part in more than 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day.
  • Fewer than 32 per cent of Ontarians are either overweight or obese, according to Body Mass Index (BMI) calculations.
  • Government must invest at least an additional $165 million per year into programs aimed at improving health behaviours related to smoking, physical activity, diet and obesity.

“We identified what makes a leading province. Leadership was critical. The Premier should proclaim that a major government goal is for Ontario to become the healthiest province in Canada,” says Manuel.

What is happening in Ontario right now:

  • 21 per cent of Ontarians are daily or occasional smokers – That compares to 18 per cent in B.C. and 20 per cent in Manitoba.
  • Ontario ranks 4th for physical activity with 53 per cent of the population being active. That’s behind B.C., Alberta and the Northwest Territories/Nunavut/Yukon.
  • 14.6 per cent of Ontarians are obese with a BMI of 30 or higher. B.C. has the lowest obesity rate at 12.6 per cent, followed by Quebec at 13.4 per cent.
  • Ontario has the 2nd highest life expectancy at 80.7 years, that is behind B.C. at 81.2 years.

Author affiliations: ICES (Manuel, Creatore, Rosella, Henry); Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (Manuel); Canadian Institute for Health Research and the Public Health Agency of Canada (Manuel); Department of Public Health Sciences, UofT (Manuel); Institute of Medical Science, UofT (Creatore); The Centre for Research on Inner City Health (Creatore); The Keenan Research Centre in the Li Ka Shing, Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital (Creatore); Department of Public Health Sciences, UofT (Rosella); Department of Medicine, UofT (Henry); University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia (Henry).

The ICES Investigative Report “What Does it Take to Make a Healthy Province? A Benchmark Study of Jurisdictions in Canada and Around the World with the Highest Levels of Health and the Best Health Behaviours” was published in November.

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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