There’s much hand-wringing about the results of a new Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey sponsored in part by the soon-to-be defunct Health Council of Canada.
While the media focus is on the bigger failures indicated by the survey, the question is, how much of it is even accurate?
Taken between March and June 2013, the survey includes a larger than usual sampling of Canadians thanks to the governments of Alberta, Ontario and Quebec paying to expand their sample sizes to more than 1,000 respondents each. That’s a good sampling for opinion accuracy, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to an accurate profile of Canada’s health system.
While the results may indicate some overall general trends, there are significant contradictions in the results that should throw up caution flags.
On the one hand Canadians have significantly more confidence in their health system than they did nearly a decade ago and give very high ratings to the quality of care. Fifty per cent of Ontarians believe the system works pretty well and only needs minor changes – that’s well above the national average of 42 per cent.
Obsesity is on the rise in Canada. From the Health Council of Canada Progress Report 2013.
Health prevention is one of those hands down winners. You ask people about health care reform, and almost everyone believes that moving health issues upstream has the potential to reduce costs for the health system.
In the Health Council of Canada’s progress report for 2013, they note that when it comes to public health, we have too few objectives and measures to evaluate our successes or failures. No kidding.
Health promotion was supposed to be a key narrative in the health accord signed between the provinces and federal government in 2004. That accord is about to expire in October of next year.
One measure they do have is the prevalence of obesity.
Clearly obesity is a major factor for public health, yet the results between 2003 and 2011 are disastrous. Almost every province and territory has seen a rise in obesity. Only the Yukon saw a decline.
The Health Council of Canada’s days may be numbered. A creation of the 2003 10-year health accord between the provinces and the federal government, the Harper government has indicated that the Council will go the way of the Accord itself – into history – unless someone else decides to fund it.
The question is: will the provinces see value in maintaining the Council after the Accord is complete?
If you are expecting to see your taxes cut or the federal deficit to be reduced by shuttering the Council’s offices, don’t hold your breath. The most recent Annual Report from the Council indicates expenditures of about $5.7 million. This is relatively small change given Canada spends more than $200 billion on both public and private health care. Having an actual roadmap is not an entirely bad plan.
The Council is very much the creature of its participants – each provincial and territorial government appointing their own representative. The Ottawa Hospital CEO Jack Kitts is Ontario’s appointee and serves as the Council’s chair.
The Council therefore tilts towards what the provinces want it to tilt towards. In recent years it’s been all about “health care renewal.”