British Columbia’s top doctor says instances of diabetes, mortality due to preventable causes, smoking during pregnancy and hepatitis C all continue to decrease in the province. Dr. Bonnie Henry released a report on Friday showing the overall health of British Columbians is pretty good.
“We have made important progress in many areas of health in recent years,” Henry said. “However, not all British Columbians are experiencing these improvements, and there remain important differences in health status based on region of the province, between sexes and by age. As well, there are some measures where we are actually losing ground.”
Henry did point out some trends that are concerning to her. The report recommends a focus on disparities in life expectancy between local health areas, fruit and vegetable consumption as a marker of healthy eating and hazardous drinking behaviours.
The report includes seven recommendations. One of the recommendations is developing and implementing a health-promotion strategy that recognizes sex-and gender-specific health needs, and supports all gender identities and sexual orientations through appropriately-targeted interventions.
Henry is also calling for an increase in support for government programs that focus on health among women, children, youth and families.
“More targeted health prevention and promotion programs will help close those gaps and reverse worsening trends,” Henry said. “Other social and economic factors, such as income, housing and early childhood education play an important role in people’s health and well-being. Collaborations across all levels of government, health authorities and other health partners will be key to achieving our goal of a healthier B.C.”
The report also includes a recommendations to increase the focus on illness and injury prevention, as well as health promotion, for people living in rural and remote areas.
The impacts of increased alcohol consumption and of the opioid overdose crisis were two challenge areas identified in the report. Henry said a review of the provincial alcohol policy and the impact of the opioid overdose crisis will be looked at in detail in another report.
“Understanding the health status of British Columbians is critical to effective program planning,” Public Health Association of B.C. president Dr. Gord Miller said. “The Public Health Association of B.C. welcomes the provincial health officer’s report. This population health report is an essential tool for addressing health inequalities and ensuring that health programs meet the real needs of our citizens.”