HLTB03 Midterm Notes: Health, Illness, and Health Care in Canada
Chapter 4: Health Status in Canada
¾ The forces that shape health and illness are known as determinants of health. The state of knowledge surrounding
determinants of health is continually evolving as researchers increasingly engage with various understandings of what
forces shape health and illness.
¾ Health status refers to determinants of health such as: health conditions, human function, and deaths.
¾ Traditionally, the overall health of a population has been measured through key indicators of health status. These
include: life expectancy, mortality rates, and causes of death.
¾ The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) distinguishes between health status and non-medical
determinants of health.
¾ The latter (non-medical determinants) can also be described as social determinants of health and include: health
behaviours, living and working conditions, personal resources, and environmental factors.
¾ More commonly, specific social determinants of health include: income, employment, education, child care, and
¾ Each of the social determinants of health influences health status in Canada.
Selected Indicators of Health Status
¾ The overall health of a population may be determined through several indicators. One important factor is life
expectancy which has increased in Canada over the last century (life expectancy now reaching over 70 years for both
males and females).
¾ Females living, on average, approximately five to six years longer than males from 1991-2001. However, the gap is
narrowing as the difference in average life expectancy between males and females has declined steadily from 6.3-5.1
years between the years 1991 and 2001.
¾ Life expectancy is highest for males in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. In these
provinces, life expectancy for males is 75 years. The lowest for males is in P.E.I. at 73 years.
¾ Life expectancy for females is highest in Saskatchewan with 82 years. Life expectancy is lowest in Nova Scotia and
Newfoundland and Labrador at 80 years.
¾ Infant mortality rates are also considered a solid indicator of the overall health of a society. A dramatic decrease in
infant mortality rates accounts for much of the increase in life expectancy in Canada within the last century.
¾ Maternal death rates have also declined significantly. The decline can be attributed to improvements in the standard
of living over time, as well as medical advances and better access to health care.
¾ The leading causes of death in infants (children under 1 year of age) are perinatal conditions, which include factors
related to gestation and respiratory distress, congenital anomalies, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
¾ While congenital anomalies account for one of the leading causes of death in children who are 1-4 years of age.
¾ Child mortality rates have decreased over time.
¾ The leading cause of death in this age group is injury, with the leading cause being transport injuries.
¾ Congenital anomalies represent the second leading cause of death for children who are between 1-4 years of age,
while cancer is the third leading cause of death in this age group.
¾ Socio-economic status affects maternal health, infant mortality rates, and child mortality rates.
¾ Women with lower socioeconomic status have higher rates of maternal death.
¾ Within the country, cardiovascular disease rates vary, with the Atlantic provinces having higher rates than the
¾ Risk factors for cardiovascular disease include smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity.