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How healthy are people in Canada? An indicators dashboard

People in Canada generally live long and healthy lives, but not everyone has the same opportunity for good health. This dashboard explores the health of our population using more than 50 interactive indicators.

Dr. Theresa Tam

A message from Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer

This March 2023, the Public Health Agency of Canada is launching a new, interactive dashboard that will be an integral part of my annual reporting on the health of people in Canada. This collection of public health indicators helps us understand areas where we are doing well and where we need to improve. Ultimately, this dashboard provides a snapshot of the health of our population, while illustrating the wide range of health, socio-economic, and environmental factors that interact to keep us healthy and well.

There is no question that COVID-19 continues to have a significant impact on the health of people in Canada. However, the positive trends shown in the dashboard illustrate that we entered the pandemic from a place of strength.

People in Canada generally live a long time. Over the past decade, the incidence of some chronic conditions, like certain cancers, diabetes, and heart disease, has been decreasing, mainly because of improvements in prevention, screening, and treatment. Nonetheless, as a result of our aging population, the health system will need to meet the needs of an increasing number of people living with these conditions. Some social factors that underlie good health in Canada have also been improving. More people are achieving post-secondary education, and poverty rates, including childhood poverty, are decreasing.

There are also some worrying trends, many of which were exacerbated by COVID-19. Similar to other comparable countries, life expectancy in Canada decreased in 2020 because of the pandemic. Additionally, uptake of childhood vaccinations for vaccine-preventable diseases, like polio, have remained below national targets for over a decade. Although the majority of people in Canada report positive mental health, this measure has been decreasing since 2015 and has further worsened since the start of the pandemic. We are also seeing a rise in some infectious diseases, such as both infectious and congenital syphilis. Troublingly, opioid-related deaths reached record highs in 2021 and the substance use crisis continues to affect people and communities across Canada.

I remain concerned about persistent health inequities and the impact of stigma, discrimination, and socio-economic factors on health. For example, lower income neighbourhoods or neighbourhoods with higher ethnic and cultural diversity had significantly higher COVID-19 mortality rates. We need to continue to work together to reduce health inequities so all people living in Canada can enjoy optimal health and well-being.

The lack of socio-demographic information, such as Indigeneity, race, ethnicity, or diverse sex and gender data, in the dashboard is a reflection of the ongoing challenge of collecting and combining local level data through a trusted, coordinated system. We must urgently fast track initiatives like the Pan-Canadian Health Data Strategy to address these gaps in a secure and ethical way, which includes honouring principles of data governance for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples.

Moving forward, our public health systems must be better equipped to deal with new and concurrent challenges in an agile and timely way. In addition to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Canada is facing other complex health threats, such as climate change and growing antimicrobial resistance. Having a better understanding of the health of people in Canada helps public health authorities tailor interventions and respond to the health needs of local communities. The pandemic highlighted the importance of health data and exposed long-standing gaps in the way we collect and share these data. My hope is that this dashboard can be a stepping stone on our way to a modernized health data ecosystem and transformed public health systems in Canada.

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