NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 2, 2006

Canadians are healthier than Americans, says the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH). The study comes less than a month after other researchers reported that middle-aged, white Americans are much sicker than their counterparts in England.

According to the researchers:

  • Americans are 42 percent more likely than Canadians to have diabetes, 32 percent more likely to have high blood pressure, and 12 percent more likely to have arthritis.
  • About 21 percent of Americans say they are obese, compared with 15 percent of Canadians, and about 13.5 percent of Americans admit to a sedentary lifestyle, versus 6.5 percent of Canadians.
  • However, more Canadians are smokers -- 19 percent, compared with about 17 percent of Americans.
  • Also, 92 percent of American women said they had a Pap test within the last five years, while 83 percent of Canadian women had; but Canadians have lower death rates from cervical cancer

Canada's national health insurance program is at least part of the reason for the differences found in the study, says Steffie Woolhandler, a coauthor of the Canadian study. Universal coverage makes it easier for more Canadians to get disease-preventing health services, she said.

James Smith, a RAND Corp. researcher who coauthored a similar American-English study, disagreed. His research found that England's national health insurance program did not explain the difference in disease rates, because even Americans with insurance were in worse health.

Woolhandler said her findings were different in at least one important respect: In the Canadian study, insured Americans and Canadians had about the same rates of disease. It was the uninsured Americans who made the overall U.S. figures worse, she said.

Source: Editorial, "Study: Canadians healthier than Americans," USA Today, May 30, 2006; based upon: Steffie Woolhandler, "Access to Care, Health Status, and Health Disparities in the United States and Canada: Results of a Cross-National Population-Based Survey," American Journal of Public Health, May 2006.

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