Is Canada a better place to stay alive?

Anne-Marie Semke has offered us her opinion on the virtues of the American health care system versus her experience in Canada. Through a series of anecdotes she has assured us that we are all much better off not having to weather the vicissitudes of Canada’s universal coverage. However, anecdotal evidence can be used to prove almost anything. I have an X-ray photo of a man who had five large nails from a nailgun in his skull and walked away; doesn’t prove nails in the skull are harmless.

If we want a rational comparison of the two health care systems it would be useful to use some more carefully collected facts. The World Health Organization collects information from countries around the world and has a searchable database which allows us to do side-by-side comparisons in a huge number of categories. I would think most of us would consider mortality rates to be good indicators of overall national health so let’s look at a few.

Healthy life expectancy: Canada, 72 years; U.S., 69 years. Life expectancy at birth: Canada, 81 years; U.S., 78 years. Mortality rate from cardiovascular disease: Canada, 141 per 100,000; U.S., 188 per 100,000. Overall adult mortality rate for ages 15-60: Canada, 72 per 1,000; U.S., 109 per 1,000. Infant mortality rate: Canada, five per 1,000; U.S., seven per 1,000; Neonatal mortality rate: Canada, three per 1,000; U.S., four per 1,000. Maternal mortality rate: Canada, seven per 100,000; U.S., 11 per 100,000.

I suppose if you are lucky enough to have a lot of money or are lucky enough to have company-paid health insurance, a bit of waiting like they do in Canada seems unacceptable but if you look at the facts, in the big picture, Canada seems to be a better place to stay alive.

Robert DuChaine


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