One in 5 Canadians can't find a doctor: survey
Published Wednesday, June 18, 2008 5:53PM EDT
Canadians continue to suffer from a doctor shortage, according to a new report that found 1 in 5 people have not been able to find a physician to treat them regularly.
A Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) released Wednesday found that more than four million Canadians are without a doctor, either because they have not found a family physician to take them on, or because they have not looked for one.
This proportion was up by 3 per cent since the 1996/1997 National Population Health Survey.
"The overall picture of the study is that we're not doing as well as we need to do in the whole picture," said Dr. Brian Day with the Canadian Medical Association. "A 26,000 doctor shortage falls short of the average of other developing countries."
The survey also concluded that Canadians are not necessarily healthier than they were a couple of years ago. Then again, they're not worse off either.
Since 2005, obesity rates among Canadians have not changed, according to the report. Nor have the number of Canadians who smoke.
This is despite drastic changes in those health categories in previous years.
The report was based on a comprehensive survey of 65,000 Canadians throughout 2007.
Although four million Canadians reported not having a doctor, 78 per cent of those people --or $3.3 million individuals -- reported having somewhere to go when they fall ill.
The majority of people (64 per cent) went to a walk-in clinic for treatment, while others sought help in hospital emergency rooms or a community health centre. About 14 per cent of people chose to use telephone health lines or hospital outpatient clinics.
Almost one-quarter of rural residents said they would go to an emergency room compared with eight per cent of urban dwellers.
The study also found that more men than women reported not having a regular doctor.
Almost one-fifth of men (19 per cent) over the age of 12 are without a doctor and most of them admitted they have not looked for one.
However, as people get older the more likely they were to find a doctor.
Only five per cent of seniors aged 65 or older reported not having a doctor. Only two per cent had not looked for one.
The survey found that people who are in a low socio-economic brackets were most likely to not have a regular health resource.
"Individuals living in the households with the lowest incomes were less likely than those in higher-income households to have a regular doctor," the survey says. "Individuals in low-income households were also more likely not to have looked for a doctor."
Dr. Day called the situation a "medical crisis" on Canada AM Wednesday.
"There is a medical crisis in training of doctors here in Canada," he said. "We need to do a lot more. We're well short of being self-sufficient when there is a doctor shorgate."
Also, the survey found that aboriginal people were less likely to have a regular doctor than non-aboriginal people.
Smokers not quitting
Despite government-imposed smoking bans and a heightened social stigma, the number of Canadians who smoke has not decreased over the last couple of years, the report says.
The report, released by Statistics Canada on Wednesday, shows the number of Canadians who smoke has remained steady since 2005. This is despite the fact that there was a drastic reduction in the number of smokers from 2000 to 2005.
The survey showed that 22 per cent of people over the age of 12 smoked in 2007, either as a regular habit or on occasion. The numbers were the same in 2005.
While the numbers don't show an increase of smokers, doctors say this is a negative finding.
"The concern is that this number was going down," said. "It's a negative finding because previously the rates had been dropping."
Adults between the ages of 20 and 44 were the ones who more likely to light up as 28 per cent of the age group reported being habitual or occasional smokers.
Smoking rates for both men and women under the age of 20 were similar, the study says. However, for each successive age group, more men smoked than women.
Across the country, Ontario (21 per cent) and British Columbia (18 per cent) reported the lowest smoking rates -- below the national average in fact.
Smoking rates in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Quebec were significantly higher than the national average.
The threat of obesity
Maintaining a healthy weight continues to pose a challenge for many Canadians, though the rate of obesity has remained steady over the years.
According to the study, 16 per cent of the adult population or four million people reported data that put them in the obese category. Another eight million people or 32 per cent are considered overweight.
Rates of both obesity and overweight were similar to those in 2005 except for the fact that there was a slight increase in the number of women between 18 and 24 who are considered obese. There was also a decrease in the number of male seniors who were overweight.
However, Statistics Canada said Canada's obesity problem could be worse that it appears to be.
"Because of the tendency of respondents to over-report their height and under-report their weight, it is likely that these figures from the CCHS underestimate the actual prevalence of obesity and overweight," the report says.
Nonetheless, the study found that obesity rates were the lowest among adults between the ages of 18 and 24 however men aged 25 to 44 were more likely to be obese compared to women in the same age group.
The study didn't focus on childhood obesity rates but Day said that is where most of the concern lies.
"There is concern because obesity is associated with an increase in chronic disease but the other concern is that there's alarm because of an increase of obesity in young people and children," Day said.
Once again, B.C. residents are the healthiest Canadians when it comes to weight control as only 11 per cent of adults in the province are obese.
The highest rates of obesity were recorded in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Atlantic Canada. Newfoundland and Labrador residents were the worst off, reporting 22 per cent of adulthood obesity.
Obesity has been linked with a multitude of health problems including Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.