Investing in Prevention Saves Lives and Costs

Over the past ten years, across BC there has been a rise in the number of people living with preventable conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in every part of the province.

But the good news is that the growth rate for heart disease is slowing. There are early signs that lung cancer rates are also starting to turn around especially for men.  This follows the pattern of quitting smoking in BC (there are declines in men now, but women started smoking and quitting later so we expect to see their rates falling in the coming years).

The path to better health lies in reducing the risk factors for chronic diseases. Some are obvious. 59% of British Columbians don’t eat the recommended servings of vegetables and fruit; 49% are overweight or obese; 40% are not active enough; and 15% continue to smoke.

But even more worrying and maybe less obvious is the health gap between the rich and poor in our province – there is a marked higher risk of chronic diseases for people with low incomes and less education and in certain regions of the province. In our poorest communities people are more likely to die early from cancer, respiratory diseases, circulatory diseases and diabetes.

So what do we do?

Investing in prevention keeps people healthier, longer, saves healthcare dollars and can lead to improved productivity, economic and other social benefits. Here’s just some of the points from our report On the Path to Better Health:

    • Ban flavoured products that appeal to youth
    • R-rating for movies with smoking
    • People are 2.5 times more likely to get recommended levels of activity in complete, connected communities
    • Tax sugary drinks by at least 20%
    • Mark calories and sodium on menus of chain restaurants
    • Poverty is detrimental to childhood development and bad for health (food insecurity, housing insecurity and high stress

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%.

I think we all want to take the path to better health – BCAHL and our many partners across the province are charting the course to get us there.

Rita Koutsodimos
Manager Advocacy and Communications
March 2014

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