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People living in the poorest neighbourhoods in Ontario more likely to suffer avoidable deaths than those living in the richest neighbourhoods


Ontario residents living in the most deprived neighbourhoods had the highest risk of avoidable deaths compared to the most well-off neighbourhoods, according to researchers at ICES, a non-profit research institute that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of healthcare issues.

The study, published today in Canadian Journal of Public Health, found that there were 124,000 avoidable deaths in the most materially deprived areas of Ontario versus 66,000 avoidable deaths in the most well-off areas between 1993 and 2014. These rates were generally two to two and a half times higher than the least marginalized neighbourhoods, and these amounts increased through the study periods.

The researchers from ICES, The Ottawa Hospital, and Bruyère Research Institute looked at the trends in avoidable deaths in Ontario over the 20-year study period. They divided the deaths into those that are avoidable through:

  1. Prevention such as by curbing alcohol and tobacco use or increasing vaccination uptake
  2. Treatment of diseases like pneumonia, high blood pressure, and breast cancer

Between 1993 and 2014, avoidable deaths in Ontario decreased by almost half, mostly from advances in medical treatment of diseases.

“Despite our universal healthcare system, we were concerned to find that not everyone benefited equally from advances in treatment of diseases over the past 20 years,” says lead author Dr. Austin Zygmunt, family physician in Ottawa and Public Health & Preventive Medicine resident at the University of Ottawa.

The authors also found that avoidable deaths were highest for people living in areas of greatest material deprivation and residential instability. Material deprivation refers to income and education, as well as neighbourhood vulnerability which considers the number of single parent families, the number of people requiring government transfer payments, and the rate of unemployment. Residential instability includes factors such as low social supports and housing burdens like living alone, frequent moving, and overcrowding.

In addition, the researchers found that living in an ethnically diverse neighbourhood in Ontario was protective against having a death from an avoidable cause.

“Our research confirms that where Ontarians live and the conditions of their neighbourhood impact their health, which has implications for future public health efforts to reduce inequities in avoidable deaths,” says senior author Dr. Claire Kendall, adjunct scientist at ICES, clinical investigator at the Bruyère Research Institute, and family physician at the Bruyère Family Health Team in Ottawa.

The study “Neighbourhood-level marginalization and avoidable mortality in Ontario, Canada: a population-based study,” was published by Canadian Journal of Public Health.

Author block: Austin Zygmunt (Twitter: @AustinZygmunt), Peter Tanuseputro, Paul James, Isac Lima, Meltem Tuna, Claire E. Kendall.

ICES is an independent, non-profit research institute that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of healthcare issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting healthcare 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. In October 2018, the institute formerly known as the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences formally adopted the initialism ICES as its official name. For the latest ICES news, follow us on Twitter: @ICESOntario

About the Bruyère Research Institute
The Bruyère Research Institute supports investigators who contribute to a better, more responsive healthcare system that delivers the best care to patients, residents and families. The Institute is a proud partner of Bruyère Continuing Care, the University of Ottawa and others and provides solutions to improve the health and healthcare of aging and vulnerable Canadians. The Institute’s research focuses primarily on evidence, health system evaluation, brain health, geriatrics and rehabilitation, primary care, palliative care, and global health. www.bruyere.org/bri

The Ottawa Hospital: Inspired by research. Driven by compassion
The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s largest learning and research hospitals with over 1,100 beds, approximately 12,000 staff and an annual budget of over $1.2 billion. Our focus on research and learning helps us develop new and innovative ways to treat patients and improve care. As a multi-campus hospital, affiliated with the University of Ottawa, we deliver specialized care to the Eastern Ontario region, but our techniques and research discoveries are adopted around the world. We engage the community at all levels to support our vision for better patient care. See www.ohri.ca for more information about research at The Ottawa Hospital.


Deborah Creatura
Media Advisor, ICES
[email protected]
(o) 416-480-4780 or (c) 647-406-5996


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