Transformation Lessons from Disease-based Strategies: An Environmental Scan

Full Report (PDF, 409 KB)

It is estimated that nearly 16 million Canadians, almost every other one of us, is living with a chronic condition. There are approximately nine million Canadians living with at least one of seven “high-impact, high-prevalence” chronic illnesses. As the population ages so does the increase in prevalence with a majority of Canadian seniors over the age of 65 reporting at least one chronic illness. Chronic illnesses have become a serious economic burden, with total direct medical costs and indirect productivity losses surpassing $93 billion a year. The importance of addressing these costs cannot be overstated. Even more staggering is the number of lives claimed by chronic illnesses–nearly three quarters of all deaths in Canada arise from only four types of chronic disease.iv Our international ranking when it comes to addressing chronic care delivery in primary care is no better–Canada ranked last out of seven countries.

Publicly-funded healthcare in Canada was largely designed to treat acute episodes of illness, not chronic conditions. Public health insurance plans, collectively referred to as medicare, primarily cover medically necessary hospital and physician services. Overall, the healthcare system in Canada is comprised of 14 healthcare systems – 10 provincial, three territorial and one federal. A recent assessment by the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences reported major gaps between the current functioning of the healthcare system and the needs of patients with chronic diseases. Simply put, healthcare in this country was not designed to meet the care needs of those living with a chronic condition, let alone of those living with multiple chronic conditions.

A more active and organized response for the management of chronic diseases in Canada is needed...

This backgrounder was written by Anne Brasset-Latulippe, Jennifer Verma, Gillian Mulvale and Kevin Barclay on behalf of the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation.