Healthcare in Canada
Canada is a picturesque country famous for its maple syrup and hockey. This United States neighbor is also the second-largest country in the world, home to over 37.5 million people and 80,000 different animal species. Although tourists visiting Canada do not typically think about issues such as healthcare when visiting the country, this topic is highly controversial and important for most Canadian citizens. Here are five facts about healthcare in Canada.

5 Facts About Healthcare in Canada

  1. Canada’s universal healthcare does not cover prescription drugs. When people think about universal healthcare, they may mistakenly imagine free or very low-cost healthcare for every aspect of medicine. In reality, despite the country’s support of a universal healthcare system, only about 70% of health costs receive public funding. Canadians must cover the remaining expenses either directly or through private insurance.
  2. Chronic respiratory diseases are a significant part of many Canadian lives. As of 2012, over 1.9 million Canadians aged 35 and older —9.6% of the country’s total population — suffer Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). COPD is a condition that obstructs the airways, causing shortness of breath and inducing heavy coughing. Combined with the projected growth in the number of afflicted individuals over time, this figure indicates that many Canadians will endure COPD at some point during their lives. Doctors in Canada treat this disease with a variety of medications, including antibiotics and opioids.
  3. The majority of doctors are self-employed and not government employees. Doctors bill the government for their services since all Canadians have an entitlement to free care from a physician. However, Canadian doctors work for themselves, coordinating their hours and offices. Doctors in Canada are also personally responsible for paying for their employees and for the spaces in which they practice.
  4. Canada recognizes mental illness as a serious issue. Mental illness impacts approximately one in every five Canadians, or 6.7 million people, every year. In fact, 500,000 Canadians each week are unable to work as a result of mental illness. Given the volume of citizens struggling with mental health, Canada has developed a necessary appreciation for this issue by legally recognizing mental illness as a medical condition and requiring insurance to cover psychiatric care. This coverage is accessible to nearly all Canadian citizens, regardless of medical history or income level. Although Canada’s strong acknowledgment of mental health and coverage of mental illness often receive underappreciation, this country truly prioritizes mental well-being.
  5. Cancer is Canada’s main medical concern. A study by shows that cancer is the number one cause of death in Canada. The study further reveals that one in two Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime, and one in four Canadians will ultimately die from the illness. These statistics have concerning implications for the country’s citizens, as well as their friends, families and employers. Predictions determine that lung, breast and prostate cancers are will afflict the highest population of Canadians in 2020, with lung cancer yielding the highest death rate at 25.5%. Given the substantial risk throughout the country and the preventable nature of this disease, many Canadians argue that greater actions must occur to prevent citizens from dying of cancer.

While the natural beauty of Canada might mask the true complexity of the country’s healthcare structure for many tourists, citizens see value in understanding and improving this system. Although citizens receive coverage for a majority of medical expenses, governments are ultimately responsible for continuing to foster efficient, affordable and extensive health programs to guarantee the well-being of all Canadians.

– Kate Estevez
Photo: Flickr

In 2017, Australia’s medical system was ranked 2nd globally by The Commonwealth Fund. The country scored well on care, efficiency and health outcomes. However, the Australian health care system scored poorly on equity of care across the population.
Those largely affected by the healthcare discrepancy are members of the indigenous community. Australia is working to decrease the inequity in Aboriginal healthcare. 

Health Challenges for the Aboriginal Healthcare

The average lifespan for indigenous Australians is about 71.4 years, which is 10 years lower than the life expectancy of non-indigenous Australians. About two-thirds of the indigenous population die before the age of 65. Only 19% of non-indigenous people die before 65. Indigenous children under the age of four are also twice as likely to die than non-indigenous children. The common issue of chronic disease is a burden across all age groups of the indigenous population. Indigenous peoples are also over twice as likely to struggle with issues such as addiction and diabetes.  

 The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) reports that the problems facing the Aboriginal healthcare system come from five major health concerns. These five health factors are injury, mental disorders (including substance abuse), cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases and cancer. Many of these major health concerns are considered to be preventable

 Another discrepancy in Aboriginal healthcare is access to maternal health services. In 2016, 40% of indigenous women lived in very remote areas of Australia, where the access to hospitals equipped with a birthing ward is very low. Women were forced to travel long distances in order to access birthing services. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare cites that access to “culturally appropriate” care is a major barrier to women seeking maternal services. However, the Australian government has taken a new approach to bring healthcare to indigenous Australians.

The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services Initiative (ACCHS)

In Australia, healthcare centers operated by the local indigenous community have shown success in providing medical services to the Aboriginal population. ACCHS aims to provide healthcare to indigenous communities in a way that fosters ongoing medical relationships. These relationships between Aboriginal healthcare providers and the Aboriginal community have been 23% more effective in retaining patients when compared to other healthcare centers. NACCHO believes that a major factor in patient retention is that ACCH centers provide a sense of “cultural safety” within its healthcare practices.

In 1970, the first ACCHS was established and, as of the year 2020, over 140 ACCHS centers are now being operated around Australia. ACCHS centers currently address 61% of the healthcare demands of patients in regional communities. The use of ACCHS centers is continuously growing within the Aboriginal population, demonstrating the success of the initiative. Over a span of 24 months, the NACCHO reported an increase of 24,030 patients.

The Future of ACCHS and Indigenous Communities

The ACCHS initiative also provides opportunities for regional and remote Aboriginals to gain entry into the healthcare profession. The census in 2006 reported that 99% of healthcare workers out of all of the Australian medical workers are not of indigenous descent. Over half of ACCHS workers are indigenous, however, many of these workers are non-clinical staff members. NACCHO strives to create pathways for Aboriginal health care workers through the ACCHS centers. These pathways will allow indigenous community members to operate ACCHS centers, potentially increasing the relationship between patients and healthcare providers. 


The Australian government has developed Closing the Gap targets to help decrease the discrepancy of healthcare between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. The target states that Australia should have equity in Aboriginal healthcare by 2031. The NACCHO and the ACCHS centers are a key factor for Australia to reach the Closing the Gap targets.

– Laura Embry
Photo: Flickr