The 1984 Canada Health Act (CHA) is the major piece of Federal legislation that governs health care accessibility in the provinces and territories. According to the CHA, all provinces and territories in Canada must uphold five principles in order to receive federal funding for health care (universality, comprehensiveness, portability, public administration, and accessibility). In Canada, there are competing views among policy makers and consumers about how the CHA's principle of accessibility should be defined, interpreted and used in delivering health care. During the 1990s, the health care perceptions of Canadians and their health care behaviours were measured through both public opinion polls and Statistics Canada's National Population Health Survey (NPHS). The goal of this paper is to examine perceptions of accessibility in public opinion polls and actual accessibility as measured through the NPHS. Public opinion polls demonstrate that while Canadians want to preserve the principles of the CHA, a majority of Canadians are losing confidence in their health care system. In contrast, the results from the NPHS reveal that only 6% of Canadians aged 25 years and older have experienced accessibility problems. Among those who report access problems, the barriers to accessibility are linked to specific socio-economic, socio-demographic and health characteristics of individuals. We discuss these findings in the context of the current debates surrounding accessibility within the CHA and the Canadian health care system.
The proportion of older persons is increasing in developed and developing countries: this aging trend can be viewed as a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it represents remarkable successes regarding advances in health care; and on the other hand, it represents a considerable challenge for health systems to meet growing demand. A growing disequilibrium between supply and demand may be particularly challenging within publicly funding health systems that 'guarantee' services to eligible populations. Rehabilitation, including physical therapy, is a service that if provided in a timely manner, can maximize function and mobility for older persons, which may in turn optimize efficiency and effectiveness of overall health care systems. However, physical therapy services are not considered an insured service under the legislative framework of the Canadian health system, and as such, a complex public/private mix of funding and delivery has emerged. In this article, we explore the consequences of a public/private mix of physical therapy on timely access to services, and use the World Health Organization (WHO) health system performance framework to assess the extent to which the emerging system influences the goal of aggregated and equitable health. Overall, we argue that a shift to a public/private mix may not have positive influences at the population level, and that innovative approaches to deliver services would be desirable to strengthening rather than weaken the publicly funded system. We signal that strategies aimed at scaling up rehabilitation interventions are required in order to improve health outcomes in an evolving global aging society.
Immigrants often lose their health advantage as they start adapting to the ways of the new society. Having access to care when it is needed is one way that individuals can maintain their health. We assessed the healthcare access in Canadian immigrants and the socioeconomic factors associated with access over a 12-year period. We compared two measures of healthcare access (having a regular doctor and reporting an unmet healthcare need in the past 12 months) among immigrants and Canadian-born men and women, aged more than 18 years. We applied a logistic random effects model to evaluate these outcomes separately, in 3081 males and 4187 females from the National Population Health Survey (1994-2006). Adjusting for all covariates, immigrant men and women (white and non-white) had similar odds of having a regular doctor than the Canadian-born individuals (white immigrants: males OR: 1.32, 95% C.I.: 0.89-1.94, females OR: 1.14, 95% C.I.: 0.78-1.66; non-white immigrants: males OR: 1.28, 95% C.I.: 0.73-2.23, females OR: 1.23, 95% C.I.: 0.64-2.36). Interestingly, non-white immigrant women had significantly fewer unmet health needs (OR: 0.32, 95% C.I.: 0.17-0.59). Among immigrants, time since immigration was associated with having access to a regular doctor (OR per year: 1.02, 95% C.I.: 1.00-1.04). Visible minority female immigrants were least likely to report an unmet healthcare need. In general, there is little evidence that immigrants have worse access to health-care than the Canadian-born population.
Access to health care services in Canada has been identified as an urgent priority, and chronic disease has been suggested as the most pressing health concern facing Canadians. Access to services for Canadians living with chronic disease, however, has received little emphasis in the research literature or in health policy reform documents. A systematic review of research into factors impeding or facilitating access to formal health services for people in Canada living with chronic illness is presented. The review includes 31 studies of Canadian populations published between 1990 and 2002; main results were analyzed for facilitators and barriers to access for people experiencing chronic disease. An underlying organizing construct of symmetry between consumers, providers, and the larger Canadian system is suggested as a relevant lens from which to view the findings. Finally, a discussion of the relationship between identified factors and the principles of primary health care is offered.
"Accountability" is the suitcase word in Canadian healthcare. As policy-makers, managers, researchers and providers, we pack accountability with meaning, carry it around with us and open it up to explain everything from the quality of our relationships with and expectations of one another, to our requirements for more transparency in the use of resources, to our diagnosis of problems and remedies for improving our healthcare system.