A study finds that being in high-strain occupations may be linked with making more trips to see the doctor compared with those in less-stressed jobs. Men and women in high-stress jobs visited general practitioners 26% more and specialists 27% more compared with those in low-stress jobs according to the Canadian National Population Health Survey. But doctors are not the only ones that are being contacted.
In fact, 72% of almost 6,000 respondents to the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores survey indicated that they have talked to their pharmacist about health issues, beyond their prescribed medication. 96% of respondents surveyed believe that it’s important for their pharmacist to play an increased role and work closely with their doctor in order to receive the best care.
What Canadians are talking to pharmacists about:
- Of the 72% of survey respondents who said that they’ve talked to a pharmacist about one or more healthcare issues other than filling a prescription, the most common subject was the treatment of minor ailments (41%)—like mild burns or insect bites. Advice on vitamins and supplements (26%) and dealing with adverse medication reactions (24%) were also commonly discussed.
- Regionally, in Atlantic Canada—where Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have the nation’s lowest per capita ratio of family physicians—patients are the most likely to turn to their pharmacist for advice on minor ailments (47%). Quebec patients lead the way in seeking information on adverse medication reactions (33%).
- When it comes to managing diabetes, Canadians say they are taking some advantage of their pharmacy as an authoritative, accessible and convenient source of care. However, not as much as they could be.
In a time when many employers have implemented a number of cost-management techniques to help control rising prescription drug costs, including pay-direct card plans (71%), promoting the use of generic drugs (62%) and requiring participant contributions (59%), employers need to also consider the role that education can play in helping employees stay healthy. Doctors and pharmacists are a vital source of information that can be accessed to support the decisions and challenges that a person may be facing. Employers can equip employees with the tools to ask the right questions and explore all of the alternatives that may be available to them.
Canada’s aging population will have a profound influence on the cost of our health benefits, however, this portion of the population is not accustomed to questioning the advice of a professional like their doctor. By providing them with tips and tools on how to connect, document and explore various alternatives with their doctor and pharmacist, they will be in a much better position to get the appropriate help that they need.
How Do We Rate?
The Canadian Health Index reports that Canadians received an overall health index score of 68.5 out of 100, which placed them 10th among 17 countries. This means that on a health report card, Canadians would assign themselves a C grade. In addition, the Board gave Canada a relatively poor “C” grade on mortality rates due to cancer, diabetes and musculoskeletal system diseases (http://www.benefitscanada.com/benefits/health-wellness/chronic-diseases-taking-a-toll-on-canadians-26059)
- 81% of respondents believe that most diseases are preventable, which is in line with the World Health Organization’s report.
- 63% of those surveyed indicated that they demonstrate three or more unhealthy behaviours on a regular basis, such as low levels of physical activity, use of tobacco and lower consumption of fruits and vegetables, all of which are disease risk factors.
- 61% of Canadians surveyed rank a lack of willpower as the primary barrier, followed closely by a lack of time (46%) and a lack of money (39%).
- One in five Canadians smoke, and take an average of 60 minutes a day for smoking breaks. This equates to 30 working days per year. For someone on the average Canadian salary of $46,500 that’s about $6,000 for lighting up. Research from ASH UK suggests that the average smoker also takes five more sick days per year than the non-smoker and their expected lifespan is almost 10 years shorter than their non-smoking friends and family. http://www.hrdaily.ca/article/smokers-suck-up-6000-extra-a-year-123663.aspx
Did You Know?
The year 2014 will be an important one for Canadians. It is the year the federal-provincial health deal expires. The federal government has promised a comprehensive review of the Canada Health Act which came to be in 1984, and the Senate Social Affairs Committee is about to start hearings and will present a report to the federal Minister of Health immediately prior to the beginning of federal-provincial negotiations later this fall.
The primary objective of the act is to protect, promote and restore the physical and mental well-being of residents of Canada and to facilitate reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers. The Canada Health Act establishes five criteria or national principles that provincial governments must adhere to in the design, delivery and funding of provincial health programs. These criteria will be subject to much debate in the coming months and (at a high level) are detailed as follows:
- public administration – provincial health plans must be administered on a non-profit basis by a public authority;
- comprehensiveness – provincial health plans must insure all services that are medically necessary. This criterion defines the minimum basket of services that must be covered—most provincial plans cover additional services;
- universality – all residents must have access to public healthcare and insured services on uniform terms and conditions;
- portability – residents must be covered while temporarily absent from their province of residence or from Canada; and
- accessibility – insured persons must have reasonable and uniform access to insured health services, free of financial or other barriers.
It is clear that Canada will continue to struggle to meet its ongoing healthcare commitments. What worked before, will not continue to work now and in the future. There are some key differences between 1961 (which is what many of these principles were developed) and today with respect to health and healthcare spending.
- Since 1961, Canada’s population has come close to doubling (from 18.2 million to 34.5 million), but the per capita health spending has increased more than 50 times. In the early ’60s, healthcare spending was less than $100 per person. In 2010, per capita health spending was $5,614.
- In 1961, healthcare spending in Canada was approximately 5.5% of GDP. Today, that figure is approximately 11.7% of GDP.
- In 1961, healthcare was approximately 57% privately funded with the remainder funded by the government. Today, approximately 70% of healthcare is funded by government with only 30% funded privately.
- Canadians are living longer. Life expectancy at birth in 1961 ranged from 68 (male) to 79 (female) years old. In 2008, these figures had risen to 74 (male) and 83 (female).
- Infant mortality rates, which are considered to be an indicator of population health, have dropped from 27.3 per 1,000 in 1961 to five per 1,000 today.
- The rise in chronic disease in recent years has been staggering, with more than 70% of today’s healthcare costs related to chronic conditions. Obesity rates have more than doubled in the last 15 years, with obesity seen as a contributing factor to many chronic diseases
The Canada Health Act needs to be updated to reflect the realities of now and our ever-changing future. This undertaking is a shared responsibility, and the solution lies in greater collaboration between employers, government and individuals.