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Fewer avoidable deaths suggest timely health care and disease prevention are having an impact

Download the report: Health Indicators 2012

May 24, 2012— The rate of deaths that could potentially be avoided through timely and effective health care and disease prevention dropped from 373 per 100,000 Canadians in 1979 to 185 per 100,000 Canadians in 2008. Health Indicators 2012, the most recent edition of the report produced annually by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) and Statistics Canada, includes updates on more than 40 measures for Canadian regions, including a suite of new avoidable mortality indicators.

“When we look into pan-Canadian results for avoidable deaths,” says Jeremy Veillard, Vice President, Research and Analysis, CIHI, “we can determine the respective impact of prevention efforts and of health care improvements.”

The report reveals that the rate of deaths that could be avoided by preventing disease from developing or an injury from occurring has decreased by 47% over a 30-year period. The rate for Canadians went from 225 per 100,000 in 1979 to 119 per 100,000 in 2008.

Meanwhile, deaths that could have been avoided through timely and effective health care intervention were reduced by 56%. This rate went from 149 per 100,000 Canadians in 1979 to 66 per 100,000 in 2008.

The drop in avoidable deaths between 1979 and 2008 was mainly due to reductions in deaths related to circulatory diseases such as heart disease, which decreased by 72%. If death rates for these illnesses had remained unchanged for the 30-year period, the overall reduction in avoidable deaths would have been only 19%, based on gains related to other conditions, and not the observed 50%.

“Declines in some areas of avoidable mortality, such as circulatory diseases, demonstrate that great results can be achieved through collaboration across the health care system and other sectors,” says Veillard. “But, there is still work to be done.”

Provincial and territorial variations were observed for both the rates and trends over time. While rates of avoidable deaths have declined in almost all jurisdictions, some experienced greater reductions than others. Moreover, provinces with lower avoidable death rates in 1979 were among those with the highest rates 30 years later. A relatively smaller reduction in deaths due to injuries was one of the key drivers of this finding.

According to Health Indicators 2012, Canada’s rates of avoidable mortality are the third lowest (behind Japan and France) of the G7 countries. Learning from the best, nationally and internationally, may provide insights on the successful strategies for reducing untimely deaths and help to identify areas for more detailed investigation.

Avoidable death rates vary greatly based on sex and income

Between 1979 and 2008, rates of avoidable mortality among men dropped by more than half (55%), compared with a 43% reduction among women. Men have higher rates of avoidable deaths than women, even after substantial reductions over the past 30 years. Circulatory diseases continue to be the number one cause of avoidable deaths among men, whereas cancers (such as lung and breast cancer) are the main cause of avoidable deaths among women.

Rates of avoidable deaths varied significantly by socio-economic group (as measured by neighbourhood income quintile). For example, people living in the least affluent neighbourhoods were twice as likely to die from preventable causes as those in the most affluent neighbourhoods.

About Health Indicators

CIHI’s Health Indicators annual report, produced in partnership with Statistics Canada, presents more than 40 comparable measures of health and health system performance by health region, province and territory. For the first time, this year’s report features a section on avoidable mortality that serves to focus attention on the influence of the health system on population health. In addition, the report introduces a suite of new acute-care readmission indicators, which will facilitate comprehensive evaluation of readmissions for all patient groups.

Media contacts: media@cihi.ca

Sandra Koppert


Cell: 613-297-7792


Crystal Mohr


Cell: 613-612-3808

The report and the following figures and table are available from CIHI’s website, at www.cihi.ca.

About CIHI

Established in 1994, CIHI is an independent, not-for-profit corporation that provides essential information on Canada’s health system and the health of Canadians. Funded by federal, provincial and territorial governments, CIHI is guided by a Board of Directors made up of health leaders across the country. Our vision is to improve Canada’s health system and the well-being of Canadians by being a leading source of unbiased, credible and comparable information that will enable health leaders to make better-informed decisions.

This entry was posted on Monday, May 28th, 2012 at 9:24 am and is filed under Longwoods Online.