A strengthened provincial strategy and investment in prevention can improve the health of British Columbians and potentially avoid up to $2 billion in yearly health-care costs, according to a report released today by provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall.
The report, Investing in Prevention, found that focused prevention activities and a provincial, population-based, healthy living strategy could reduce the burden of disease on families and communities; delay the need for health-care services; and reduce the impact of disease, disability and premature death on the economy.
"While some have suggested that prolonging life through health promotion only results in increasing medical costs as people live longer in poor health, this argument is fundamentally unethical and unsubstantiated," said Kendall. "Currently, too many British Columbians consume too much of the wrong food and drink, have reduced access to healthy foods, get too little physical activity and live in environments that are less than fully supportive of active, healthy living opportunities."
The report also considers the economic burden of such risk behaviours and conditions as obesity, physical inactivity, tobacco use and the problematic use of alcohol.
"This report builds a comprehensive and compelling case for how effective public-health programming can help British Columbians get and stay healthy," said Minister of Healthy Living and Sport Ida Chong. "As the report recommends, the Province is already working to enhance its comprehensive healthy living strategy, and we expect it will be in place before the end of the year."
According to research, if all British Columbians had a normal weight (BMI between 20 and 24.9) and did not smoke, the cost avoidance for B.C.'s health- care system could reach $2 billion each year.
"We know that chronic disease treatment and complications cost the Province billions of dollars each year," said Minister of Health Services Kevin Falcon. "In order to keep our health-care system sustainable in the long term, we remain committed to finding new and better ways to give people the tools to take ownership of their health and to make healthier choices."
In releasing his report, Kendall acknowledged that B.C. has received Canada- wide acknowledgement for its investments, both with regard to research and in terms of resourcing in public health over the last decade.
A copy of Lifetime of Prevention can be viewed on the provincial health officer's website at: www.hls.gov.bc.ca/pho