Despite the policy and research attention on ensuring equitable access--equal access for equal need--to health care, research continues to identify inequities in access to cancer services. We conducted a literature review to identify the current state of knowledge about inequity in access to cancer health services in Canada in terms of the continuum of care, disease sites, and dimensions of inequity (e.g., income). We searched MEDLINE, CINAHL, and Embase for studies published between 1990 and 2009. We retrieved 51 studies, which examine inequity in access to cancer services from screening to end-of-life care, for multiple cancer types, and a variety of socioeconomic, geographic, and demographic factors that may cause concern for inequity in Canada. This review demonstrates that income has the most consistent influence on inequity in access to screening, while age and geography are most influential for treatment services and end-of-life care, even after adjusting for patient need. Our review also reports on methods used in the literature and new techniques to explore. Equitable access to cancer care is vitally important in all health systems. Obtaining information on the current status of inequities in access to cancer care is a critical first step toward action.
This study uses data from the 1994 National Population Health Survey and applies the methods developed by Wagstaff and van Doorslaer (1994, measuring inequalities in health in the presence of multiple-category morbidity indicators. Health Economics 3, 281-291) to measure the degree of income-related inequality in self-reported health in Canada by means of concentration indices. It finds that significant inequalities in self-reported ill-health exist and favour the higher income groups--the higher the level of income, the better the level of self-assessed health. The analysis also indicates that lower income individuals are somewhat more likely to report their self-assessed health as poor or less-than-good than higher income groups, at the same level of a more 'objective' health indictor such as the McMaster Health Utility Index. The degree of inequality in 'subjective' health is slightly higher than in 'objective' health, but not significantly different. The degree of inequality in self-assessed health in Canada was found to be significantly higher than that reported by van Doorslaer et al. (1997, income related inequalities in health: some international comparisons, Journal of Health Economics 16, 93-112) for seven European countries, but not significantly different from the health inequality measured for the UK or the US. It also appears as if Canada's health inequality is higher than what would be expected on the basis of its income inequality.