The system of healthcare in Canada is often regarded as a model for implementing administrative and care improvements in the United States. The Canadian healthcare system is funded publicly, being based on a single payer. The GDP per capita spent on health care in Canada is much lower than in the United States. Under the influence of the recent economic recession, health care spending in Canada will continue to decrease, while the system will face tough challenges with implementing innovative solutions and measuring health outcomes.
The history of health care in Canada dates back to the 1960s, when universal health insurance was implemented. Since then, the Canadian system of health care has been growing steadily to provide millions of citizens with quality medical support. Today, the amount of administrative costs in the health care system continues to decline, as well as the total health care spending per capita. According to CBC News (2012), total health care expenditures were going to reach $207 billion in 2012, making up 11.6 percent of the country’s GDP. In 2010, national health care spending in Canada hit the all-time record, making up 11.9 percent of the nation’s GDP (CBC News, 2012). In 2011, in Canada the total health expenditures per capita were $4,520, with the Gross National Product per capita accounting for almost $40,000 (World Health Organization, 2013). The system of health care in Canada is claimed to be one of the most efficient in the world, with only $22,205 spent on physician practices in 2010, compared with $82.975 in the U.S. (Morra et al., 2011).
Life expectancy and infant mortality serve as the two primary outcomes measuring the effectiveness of health care in Canada. Moreover, these two measures are used to reaffirm the superiority of the Canadian system over other systems (O’Neill & O’Neill, 2007). Life expectancy in Canada is 82.4 years for men and 77.4 years for women at birth (O’Neill & O’Neill, 2007). The risks of dying before five years of age are 5 per 1,000 live births (WHO, 2013). Unfortunately, the current state of outcome measurements does not create a valid picture of effectiveness and efficiency in Canadian health care. The problem with these two outcomes is that their measures are often influenced by factors other than the quality of medical care (O’Neill & O’Neill, 2007). For instance, infant mortality is closely associated with low birth weight and births in teenage mothers (O’Neill & O’Neill, 2007). Neither of these two factors can be controlled by physicians and the system of health care in Canada. Teenage births and low birth weight could explain the existing differentials in infant mortality measurements across several countries, including Canada and the U.S. Other behaviors and factors that are related to infant mortality but are unrelated to health care include smoking, substance abuse, obesity, and even education and culture (O’Neill & O’Neill, 2007).
No less complicated are the problems with life expectancy, which is not always related directly to the quality or provision of medical treatment (O’Neill & O’Neill, 2007). For example, obesity rates greatly influence the number of women and men who fulfill the promise of life expectancy and can live a long and healthy life. The percentage of homicides and accidents should also be considered (O’Neill & O’Neill, 2007). Not surprisingly, the system of collecting and exploring health care outcomes in Canada remains relatively new, compared to England and the United States (Canadian Institute for Health Information, 2012). A new system of measuring health outcomes could become one of the significant innovations in the history of Canadian health care.
Apparently, Canada is doing a lot to make its health care system more innovative and advanced. In 2013, a new national community-based primary health care initiative was proposed. According to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (2013), the government of Canada will spend $28,964,735 on the new project. Total funding will exceed $33,200,000 in the next five years (CIHR, 2013). The government of Canada and health care authorities recognize that the existing hospital-centric system no longer responds to the nation’s emerging health needs (CIHR, 2013). The project has the potential to improve the health and lives of Canadians and other citizens. Actually, the mere existence of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research indicates the government’s historical commitment to creating, disseminating, and translating scientific knowledge into effective medical practices.
The system comprises 13 research institutes with a total of 14,100 clinical researchers working across Canada (CIHR, 2013). Unfortunately, many innovations in health care bring questionable results or have no results at all. “The pursuit of radical systemwide change in the face of unfavorable circumstances has resulted in miss opportunities for cumulative incremental change” (Hutchison, Abelson & Lavis, 2001, p.116). Innovations in primary care have been numerous and diverse, but few of them had tangible effects at the system level (Hutchison et al., 2001). As such, the government of Canada must devise new systems to support research and innovation in health care in ways that would result in tangible positive shifts leading to greater efficiency and better quality of care for all citizens.
In conclusion, the system of healthcare in Canada is often presented as a role model for other countries and health care systems, including the United States. Canadian health care is claimed to be more effective and efficient than many other systems in the developed world. Yet, it is clear that even the best health care systems face considerable challenges. Health care spending per capita continues to decrease under the influence of numerous economic factors. Health outcomes measurements fail to create an adequate picture of quality and effectiveness in the health care system. Enormous resources are spent on research and innovation, but tangible results are yet to come. Apparently, the government of Canada should devise new systems of research and innovation to ensure timely provision of high-quality medical care to all citizens at the most affordable cost.
- Canadian Institutes of Health Research. (2013). Fact sheet – Harper Government supports
community-based primary care. CIHR. Retrieved from http://www.cihr- irsc.gc.ca/e/47019.html.
- Canadian Institute for Health Information. (2012). Health outcomes of care: An idea whose time has come. CIHI ICIS.
- CBC News. (2012). Health care spending slows. CBC. Retrieved from
- Hutchison, B., Abelson, J. & Lavis, J. (2001). Primary care in Canada: So much innovation,
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- Morra, D., Nicholson, S., Levinson, W., Gans, D.N., Hammons, T. & Casalino, L.P. (2011).
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