Canada's public health care gives excellent value for money

New British study awards Canada high marks for preventing death from treatable conditions

Health AffairsOttawa (9 Jan. 2008) - Canada's health care system offers "excellent value for the money" according to a British researcher who has studied preventable deaths in 19 industrialized nations.

Entitled Measuring the Health of Nations: Updating an Earlier Analysis, the study assesses "amenable mortality" – deaths that would not have occurred if effective health care had been available. The results were published this week by Health Affairs: The Policy Journal of the Health Sphere.

The list of deaths assessed included conditions causing deaths associated with bacterial infections, treatable cancers, diabetes, some cardiovascular disease and the complications of common surgical procedures. The results are based on figures from 2002-03, updating a similar report using 1997-98 figures.

The study compares amenable deaths in the United States with 14 western European nations, plus Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. It also looks at how gaps in these countries have narrowed or widened. The figures are calculated on the basis of deaths per 100,000 population under the age of 75.

In the original study, researchers found amenable deaths in the U.S. stood at 114.74 per 100,000 population, exceeded only by Ireland, Portugal, Finland and the United Kingdom. In that time period, Canada's amenable mortality rate was 88.77 – the seventh-lowest after France, Japan, Spain, Australia, Sweden and Italy.

In the latest study, Canada's rate had dropped to 76.83, placing it sixth after France, Japan, Australia, Spain and Italy. Meanwhile, amenable mortality rates in the U.S. declined from 114.74 to 109.65 but the U.S. standing fell from 15th place to last.

"This study shows that Canada's health system has performed very well in its ability to prevent people from dying from treatable conditions," says Martin McKee, a researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and a co-author of the study. "While everyone has to die from something, sometime, in an ideal world, no one would die from the causes we have looked at, in the age groups we have included.... the bottom line is that the Canadian health system delivers outcomes that are substantially better than those in its southern neighbour."

Equally as important, the situation is improving more quickly in Canada than in the U.S. "Given that the U.S. health care system is far more expensive, this suggests that Canadians are getting excellent value for money," McKee says.


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring that our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

More information:

? Measuring the Health of Nations: Updating an Earlier Analysis

(Published as n09ja08a.htm)