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CMA poll finds “worrisome” gap in income-related health status

August 13, 2012

The CMA says physicians are finding it “particularly worrisome” that a widening gap in health status appears to be separating Canadians in different income brackets.

“When it comes to the well-being of Canadians, the old saying that wealth equals health continues to ring true,” CMA President John Haggie commented as the CMA released poll results that were used to compile its 2012 National Report Card on Canada’s health care system.

The poll, conducted by Ipsos Reid, found that only 39% of respondents earning less than $30,000 a year described their health as excellent or very good, compared with 68% for those earning $60,000 or more.

It also found that the recent economic downturn has had a significant impact. Nearly half of respondents who had household incomes of $30,000 or less (46%) reported they were spending less time, energy and money sustaining their health as the economy slowed, compared with 19% of those from households with incomes of $60,000 or more.

“We as Canadians tend to think we have a fair society and an equitable public health care system when in reality there are vast numbers of Canadians who are forced to do without when it comes to health care,” Haggie said. “That is why the physicians of Canada are pressing for the transformation of health and health care – so that patient needs truly can be put first.”

The findings, released as the CMA prepared for its Aug. 12-15 annual meeting in Yellowknife, are topical because one focus of the meeting will be the impact social determinants of health – issues such as income and housing – have on Canadians’ health status.

The CMA poll also found:

• 59% of those earning less than $30,000 had accessed some form of health care within the past month, compared with 43% of those earning more than $60,000

• 24% of those in the lower income category had either delayed or stopped buying prescription drugs, compared with just 3% of those earning $60,000 or more

• tobacco use within the two income categories showed a sharp divide, with 33% of those in the lower income group reporting daily tobacco use, compared with 10% in the higher income group

In terms of grading the health care system, three-quarters of respondents (74%) gave it a mark of B or higher (39% A, 35% B), which represents a four-point improvement over the 2011 results. Respondents aged 55 or older were most likely to give the system an A grade (47%), while those aged 35 to 54 were least likely (32%).

NT3