Decade of Data Shows Prevention Can Save Lives and Costs


March 12, 2014 (Vancouver) – Today, the BC Alliance for Healthy Living (BCAHL) is releasing On the Path to Better Health,’ a report that examines BC trends in chronic disease over the past decade and outlines future opportunities for prevention.

It looks at factors that can either reduce or raise the risk for some of the most common diseases (cancer and diabetes, heart and lung diseases) – namely: diet, activity, smoking, obesity and poverty.

Compared to ten years ago, there has a rise in preventable conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in every part of the province. Better news is that the growth rate for some conditions is slowing.

“We are encouraged to see progressive declines in heart disease. The tide is also starting to turn for lung cancer rates. We believe that is the direct result of several decades of sustained effort in tobacco control, as well as other healthy living initiatives,” says Scott McDonald, Chair of BCAHL and CEO of BC Lung Association.

McDonald explains, “we can’t be complacent. There are still about 550,000 smokers in BC. From our experience in tobacco control, we know that a combination of regulation, taxation, education and the creation of healthier public places all helped reduce our smoking rates.  These same tools can boost healthy eating and physical activity and reduce childhood vulnerability and poverty.”

The report finds too many British Columbians are at risk for preventable diseases:

  • 59% don’t eat the recommended servings of vegetables and fruit;
  • 49% are overweight or obese;
  • 40% are not active enough;
  • 33% of children are considered vulnerable on one or more measure; and
  • 15% continue to smoke.

The report also flags the disproportionate burden of disease in some areas of the province and among low income British Columbians.  British Columbians who live in our poorest communities are between 24% and 91% more likely to die early from cancer (24%), respiratory diseases (53%), circulatory diseases (65%) and diabetes (91%).

“In addition to the human cost, chronic diseases are costly to our healthcare system. Excess weight costs $612M, smoking costs $670M and inactivity costs $335M in direct healthcare costs.” says Mary Collins, Director of the BCAHL Secretariat.  “There is the potential to save $2B in annual healthcare costs, if we really ramp up our efforts in prevention.”
Collins adds, “The work being done through the BC Government’s Healthy Families BC initiative as well by NGOs and local governments is a step in the right direction but we need to do more to nudge British Columbians to be healthy.”

BCAHL highlights opportunities for government and others to build on successes, such as those made in tobacco control, but warns that the status-quo won’t be enough.  Projections show that if nothing changes there could be over 768,000 British Columbians with Type 2 Diabetes by 2032 and in the next ten years the number of new cancer cases is expected to rise by 75%.


Rita Koutsodimos
Manager, Advocacy and Communications
T: 604-629-1630 /604-989-4546