The Lancet Identifies Health Care Disparities

By Cheryl Jahn
February 23, 2018 - 9:05am Updated: February 23, 2018 - 5:56pm

UNBC factors prominently in a new report released by The Lancet, looking at Canada's universal health care system.

Two separate reports identified Medicare as "a source of national pride, and a model of universal health care coverage. It provides relatively equitable access to physician and hospital services through 13 provincial and territorial tax-funded public insurance plans."

However "relatively" is the keyword.

The report found that there are significant disparities between health outcomes of Indigenous people and Non-indigenous people. 

"What's close to home for me is the healthcare for Indigenous Canadians and the disparities in access, the disparities in utilization, the issues about culturally-safe health care," says Dr. Nadine Caron, one of the authors of the research and an Indigenous surgeon in Prince George. "The issues about the health status that emerges from that and the disparities there." 

And much of it is directly related to the social determinants of health.

"Three distinct and constitutionally recognised groups—First Nations, Inuit, and Métis—constitute 4.3% of the Canadian population and experience persistent health disparities relative to the non-Indigenous population, including higher rates of chronic disease, trauma, interpersonal and domestic violence, and suicide, as well as lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality rates," states the report.

Other social determinants of health include the fact First Nations face substantial wage gaps, while persistent racism and social exclusion creep into not only health care but education and the justice system.

To overcome those factors, the report urges the federal government to follow with the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

"At home, this improvement begins with full implementation of the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, including seven that are directly related to health, including funding for
Indigenous health centres, and implementation of the health rights of Indigenous people in international law, constitutional law, and treaties previously negotiated with the Government of Canada," the report states.

Finally, the report calls on all the parties to re-commit to universal health care.

"Take a step back and say 'Is what we are proud of, meaning the Canada Health Act and the criteria that mandate for universal health care in the sense that we understand it, is it eroding away? And then 'How do we make sure we re-commit to it?' And re-commit to it not just in words but with the money, the resources, the political will and the understanding that the responsibility lies with the partners, not just the government, but health care providers and of course the public," says Dr. Caron. "The public voice has to be there. But the public also needs to be responsible.

Dr. Caron is in Ottawa to present the report and its findings directly to the government.


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