BC gets good health grade

Beautiful British Columbia could also be aptly described as healthy British Columbia. According to a recent report put out by the Conference Board of Canada, BC boasts the healthiest population in Canada.

In its report, Paving the Road to Higher Performance – Benchmarking Provincial Health Systems, the Conference Board looked at 90 indicators of health and compared them across the country. BC came out on top in terms of overall health status.

Our lifestyle habits appear to have a lot to do with this top health status. BC residents are more physically active, less overweight and also drink and smoke less than those in other provinces.

While of course this is good news, we did not get top scores in all areas of health or health care services.

While we scored an A for our perceived overall health, we did not fare nearly as well in our perceived mental health – achieving a C grade in this report. We also had high levels of mood disorders and scored a D in the area of repeat hospitalizations for mental illness.

Not a lot of specific mental health information was included in this report so it is hard to tell exactly what areas were examined or in how much detail. It did seem that our overall continuity of care between professionals and regions etc was not as good as it could be – scoring a C grade.

When services and healthcare professionals can communicate and provide good continuity for the patient and family, managing chronic mental illness is a much easier task and often results in better treatment outcomes.

In BC, nearly 15 percent of the population is low income – much higher than in some other provinces such as Alberta where just 8.7 percent are low income. As I have discussed in other columns, poverty is a very big factor in overall health outcomes and mental health in particular. When we address issues of poverty such as access to affordable housing, health tends to improve as well.

I have written in the past about access to healthcare and mental health care in particular. In this report, BC scored an A for overall accessibility of healthcare and a B when it comes to wait times to see specialists. This is positive news in general although I question its accuracy when it comes to mental health care specifically. We have seen other relatively recent reports showing a real need for better, and timelier, access to mental health professionals.

What this report did show quite well was that healthier lifestyles show a direct link to overall health. Even though BC doesn’t spend the most on healthcare or perform the best in terms of our healthcare system, we still boast the healthiest population overall. It speaks to the ongoing need for healthy lifestyle education and disease prevention strategies across the country.

In addition to continuing the good work in promoting healthy living, our scores would likely reach the honour roll with some targeted and specific improvement in a few areas of our healthcare system.

If you’re interested in reading the whole report, visit the Conference Board of Canada’s website at www.conferenceboard.ca

 

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