Public Health in Canada: Not as bad as it looks

by sandrinedoucet on February 27, 2013 - 8:08pm

In Canada’s modern society, there are many social issues that prevail. One of the most concerning one regards public health and the public health care system. Canada offers free health care to all of its residents; those who wish to access private care have to pay for services. Attention to the field has been brought up by a recent study that focuses on how socioeconomic factors influence treatment of patients in the public system, hence discrimination. Sheryl Ubelacker, in the February 25thVancouver Sun, reports the findings of the study held by Dr. Stephen Hwang, a special of inner-city health in Toronto. Public health in Canada presents major gap holes; waiting time, lack of places in hospitals etc. In the February 13thGlobe and Mail, André Picard explores a positive side of the health system for Canada’s economy. He defends that the health sector, public and private, is a serious “economic driver”. For many of the bad sides of the health system there are positives outcomes. Both of the previous articles claims are supported by a study by the American Journal of Public Health of October 2009. This journal contains sources such as researches, research methods and evaluations, all regarding the field of public health. Its main goal is the advancement of public health policy, research, practice and education.  Doctors Kimberlyn N. Mcgrail, Eddy van Doorslaer, Nancy A. Ross and Claudia Sanmartin sign an article called “Income-Related Health Inequalities in Canada and the United States: A Decomposition Analysis” that outlines burdens in both of these North American health care systems.

Those short overview of the articles mentioned aren’t enough to discuss North American public health. To begin with, the study findings in the Vancouver Sun. The study presents evidence of discrimination of new patients; new patients who present themselves as being “financially better-off” have 50% more chances of getting appointments. The study was conducted over the phone to 375 family physicians, when the caller presented themselves as a bank employee they had 23% chance to get an appointment compared to 13% when presented as a welfare recipients. These results put the doctors methods under the spotlight since socioeconomic status isn’t a determinant in Canada’s public health system. It is unconfirmed if the person answering the call is under instructions to accept “better-off” patients or if it’s an unconscious bias. In both cases it remains discrimination based on socioeconomic class and is unacceptable. On the other hand, this study also found that physicians do not discriminate based on health standards, on the opposite, they are more likely to accept patients that present themselves with serious health concerns than healthy patients. This finding doesn’t support the fact that doctors would be “picky” but it shows that unhealthy patients represent a bigger priority, and that is positive.

People often feel free to criticize the public health care system, complaints on waiting times, doctor’s attitudes, anything they can basically. What the general population often forgets to realize is that the health sector generates major income for the country. Not only is it monetarily efficient it also creates jobs, more than 1.6 million direct jobs and 500,000 indirect jobs. The article found in the February 13thGlobe and Mail does great justice to show how health care helps the economy. During the recent recession, health care was the one steady source of income because people never stop getting sick, money flows in even in hard economic situations. This article is a great complement to the previous one as it gives a great upside to the negative sides of Canada’s health care system.

The academic source that relates to both of these articles on public health care in North America comes from the American Journal of Public Health. This journal is always studying various fields of public health in order to work for the advancement of many aspects, as mentioned before. The particular article is the perfect complement to the Vancouver Sun’s publication since it supports their argument that socioeconomic status plays a role in public health across North America. The study wants to see if the education level of the population changes their health status. It proved it does, people with less education (less than high school) are less healthy. There is a positive relationship between health and education in both Canada and the United States. This serious study matches the finding of the first article.

The subject of public health in Canada and the United States is a very touchy one. Often criticized and always under the spotlight, it makes it a perfect field to study for the purpose of this class. It’s easy to be biased when it comes to judging the public health care system, but these articles give a great overall view of the positive and negatives outcomes. Different academic sources such as the American Journal of Public Health and others such as the Social Science & Medical Journal, and the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, are all great academic sources that offer unbiased serious study and researches on the matter. They can all confirm or infirm opinions found in newspapers. I feel like there is a lot of room for improvement regarding public health, but I also acknowledge the positive sides of what the system brings and offers to this country. I hope that as I look deeper in this field of study I’ll be able to notice progress and report it to everyone so they can better appreciate what the health care system, all the while having all the information they need to make an educated opinion for themselves.




I relate to what you wrote, the Canadian government should not necessarily invest more, but should maybe invest it in more efficient ways. Check this out:

It is very interesting to see how they evaluate the health care system in Canada. However, your articles only explain some of the ways you can use and look at to evaluate it; not all the methods. What I mean by that, is that there exists other methods to value our health care system. In the article, "Crise dans les urgences: Sacré-Coeur demande l'heure juste à Québec", written by Sarah Champagne in La Presse, it explains different methods to look at the sytem we put in place in Canada. First, the waiting times in the hospital is a useful tool to look at, and we can easily compare this amount with other countries. Also, the condition of many rooms in Canada is terrible. A big amount of money should be invested to recondition some of the hospital rooms. In brief, if we evaluate the health care system using those two different views, it turns to be negative and not as good as you mentionned.