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Universal Love for Universal Health Care

It’s a joy to celebrate Canada’s 150th year. When we take stock of what makes us proud to be Canadian, our universal health care system is always in our top three list. A health care system where a CEO and a homeless person have universal access to the same care reflects that we value equity and diversity.

How healthy are Canadians? It’s difficult to define how healthy Canadians are. Definitions of health might only include whether or not we have certain diseases. Others might include risk factors, like obesity. Some indicators might look at life expectancy and others might look at access to cutting edge interventions for cancer and rare diseases. We do quite well in many respects with one of the highest life expectancies and lowest infant mortality rates compared to other industrialized countries.

Maternal and infant indicators Many studies look at maternal and child health as markers of how a health care system is doing. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has a system called the Canadian Perinatal Surveillance System. It monitors 52 markers of maternal and child health, like mortality, alcohol use in pregnancy, rate of C-sections, illness in early infancy, etc. Overall, we do quite well but Canadian first peoples fare poorly in many of these measures as do mothers who are teens or of low socioeconomic status.

How universal is our system? Services are covered for everyone but there are gaps. I’m proud that I can get the same access to tests and specialists for anyone. However, the social determinants of health – low income, poor housing, low education and membership in a marginalized group (homeless, mental health, First Nations) – make it difficult for people to get in the door in the first place.

Reason to celebrate We celebrate this momentous occasion but we must evaluate what still needs to be done. I’m proudly Canadian and, I could not imagine working anywhere else. Happy birthday, Canada!


Dr. Bhooma Bhayana is a family physician in London and the mother of two young men and grandmother of one lovely princess! She continues to find wonder and enjoyment in family practice despite more than 30 years on the job!


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