Premature death rate down sharply, study finds
Canada has made major strides in averting preventable deaths in the past 30 years, but much remains to be done, the Canadian Institute of Health Information says,
Its annual report on health statistics, Health Indicators 2012, suggests 72 per cent of premature deaths in Canada today could be avoided given timely and effective treatment, or through disease prevention altogether. That's 67,000 people dying in Canada every year prematurely, defined as before age 75. The good news is improvements and prevention efforts have had a dramatic effect on reducing avoidable deaths in the past 30 years, although "significant room for improvement remains," the report said.
"What you see is a significant decline in the rates of avoidable deaths, a 50-per-cent decrease," said Jeremy Veillard, vice-president for research and analysis at the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
The drop in untimely deaths, from 373 per 100,000 Canadians in 1979 to 185 per 100,000 in 2008, is similar to rates in other developed countries.
The report provides a break-down on deaths that can be avoided by treatment and prevention. For example, 70 per cent of deaths from lung cancer can be attributed to cigarette smoking. "So if you have stringent anti-smoking policies, it will have an impact over time on rates of mortality," Veillard said.
Deaths that can be avoided by preventing disease and injury have decreased by 47 per cent, from 225 per 100,000 to 119 per 100,000 in the past 30 years. Avoidable deaths linked to treatment - breast cancer, HIV, heart disease, digestive disorders - dropped by 56 per cent, from 149 per 100,000 in 1979 to 66 per 100,000 in 2008.
But the report also noted a reverse trend between 1999 and 2008: infant and maternal deaths increased by nearly 15 per cent, and deaths linked to infections by 30 per cent.
The biggest contribution to the decline in untimely deaths is related to circulatory illnesses such as heart and stroke disease, which decreased by 72 per cent.