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Are Ontarians Healthy?

Dr. Arlene King Recommends Indicators to Track the Province’s Health

February 7, 2013 ~ Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

Ontario needs to track its health progress using meaningful, relevant health indicators, says Dr. Arlene King, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

In her 2011 annual report Maintaining the Gains, Moving the Yardstick, Dr. King identifies 12 priority indicators that measure the health status of Ontarians. The indicators highlight key health issues and provide baseline measurements against which Ontario’s progress can be monitored over time.

Dr. King acknowledges that there have been significant achievements related to improving the health of Ontarians, such as reducing tobacco use and managing communicable and infectious diseases, but there is still a significant amount of work to be done.

Despite Ontario’s gains in key areas, the indicators point to disparities that place certain groups at much greater risk of poorer health, disease and premature death. Dr. King says this reality must be acknowledged and addressed more directly in health policy and health service planning and delivery.

Dr. King advocates a multi-sector, multi-faceted approach. She is calling on governments and the health and non-health sectors to coordinate and combine efforts in order to maintain the gains that we have made while working to move the yardstick for the sake of all Ontarians.

The 12 health indicators are:

  • Smoking and alcohol use during pregnancy
  • Low birth weight
  • Healthy child development at school entry
  • Immunization coverage of school pupils
  • Smoking prevalence
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Preventable mortality
  • Compliance with low risk drinking guidelines
  • Self-reported positive mental health
  • The burden of infectious diseases
  • Hospitalizations for falls in seniors
  • Life expectancy at birth

Quick Facts

  • A baby born in Ontario in 2008 is expected to live to be 82 years old; however, there are significant disparities in life expectancy by socio-economic status. Ontarians in the most deprived neighbourhoods had a life expectancy nearly 4.5 years lower than those in the best socio-economic conditions.
  • Smoking is one of the leading risk factors for preventable disease and/or death. Nineteen per cent of Ontarians smoke while 35 per cent of First Nations, Inuit or Metis Ontarians living off reserve smoke.
  • Twenty seven per cent of Ontario youth, aged 12 to 17, are overweight or obese.
  • Falls in seniors cost Ontario $962 million annually. Most falls are predictable and preventable.


This report suggests the next steps toward building an even healthier province. This is not about spending more money. This is about getting better value for our money and making sure that all Ontarians have the same opportunities to lead healthy, productive lives. That’s why I’m recommending indicators to measure our progress and to advance the health of all Ontarians.”

Dr. Arlene King
Chief Medical Officer of Health

This report will help Ontarians focus attention on some of the key things that really matter to a truly healthy society, but are not always at the centre of public discussion. Dr. King’s report demonstrates the importance of the economic, social and environmental determinants of health and the impact they can have on the health of individuals and populations.”

Dr. Ben Levin
Professor and Canada Research Chair in Education Leadership and Policy, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

Measuring the health of the entire population is complicated but is an important step toward determining how healthy Ontarians are. In this report Dr. King has identified key measures that can be tracked to assess societal efforts to improve health and demonstrate if we are making progress over time.”

Dr. Vivek Goel
President and Chief Executive Officer, Public Health Ontario

Learn More

Media Contacts

  • David Jensen

    Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care