Blog: World Health Day
To underline the need for health equity, this article, on the 75th anniversary of World Health Day, describes the current situation of healthcare for Canadians in the Canadian system based on recent research and studies.
By Ankur Subedi, RSW, ESPC Volunteer
World Health Day is observed annually and draws attention to a specific health topic of concern to people all over the world. This April 7 commemorates the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948 (WHO, n.d.). The WHO theme of 2023 is “Health Equity, Health for All” to emphasize the need for addressing health disparities and ensuring that everyone has access to high-quality healthcare, regardless of socioeconomic background, geography, or other variables (Sharma, 2023).
In conjunction with the WHO theme for 2023, the Canadian Health Act ensures that every Canadian, regardless of their ability to pay, receives timely access to medically essential health services and that no Canadian experiences undue financial hardship as a result of having to pay medical expenses (Senate of Canada, 2003). The national principles of the Canadian Health Act include universality, comprehensiveness, accessibility, portability, and public administration (Senate of Canada, 2023). Instant and timely access to healthcare services is critical for Canadians’ health (Clarke, 2016). Difficulties in obtaining services may result in delays in seeking and receiving treatment, underuse, or lack of awareness of preventive health care. As well there is an increased risk of complications if a diagnosis is delayed, an increased financial burden on the health care system (e.g., if patients arrive sicker and/or require longer hospital stays), and/or decreased compliance with treatment (Clarke, 2016).
A major purpose of Canada’s national health insurance policy is to guarantee that all Canadians have free access to medically necessary treatments. Yet, circumstances, such as wait times, can limit access to health care services, causing people to struggle to obtain the care they require (Clarke, 2016). Age, gender, amount of education, immigrant status, location of residence, and perceived health all have a substantial impact on access to specialist treatments (Clarke, 2016). People under the age of 65, females, immigrants, and those who reported poor or fair perceived health had increased probabilities of experiencing difficulties accessing health care compared to the reference group (Clarke, 2016). Those residing in Quebec, or the western provinces (the Prairies and British Columbia) were similarly more likely to report problems receiving specialist services than those living in Ontario (Clarke, 2016). Several interconnected variables, including personal characteristics (e.g., job schedule, family commitments) and system issues, might impact one’s capacity to obtain healthcare services (Clarke, 2016). When healthcare services are used more frequently, there is a larger chance of experiencing problems (Clarke, 2016).
In recent months, Canada’s healthcare system has been under severe scrutiny as the public looks beyond COVID-19 to find long delays or outright closures at emergency departments, shortages of healthcare staff, a scarcity of family doctors, and high surgical backlogs (Korzinski, 2022). The healthcare system has been called “collapsing” or “collapsed” (Korzinski, 2022). Although various headlines define the situation as a “crisis,” the president of the Canadian Medical Association considers the present strain on the system “unsustainable” (Korzinski, 2022). Individuals who had needed health care in the previous months were questioned about how simple or difficult they found seeking care (Korzinski, 2022). Specialist visits and surgical procedures were found to be the most stressful for healthcare searchers, with more than half reporting difficulty or inability to receive this sort of treatment (Korzinski, 2022). Individuals who needed non-emergency care and diagnostic testing were less likely to face obstacles (Korzinski, 2022). At least two-in-five people who required testing (41%) or non-emergency care (44%), indicated that accessing them was difficult or impossible (Korzinski, 2022). When the reports of inadequate healthcare access circulated, Canadians’ faith in the system appeared to be low (Korzinski, 2022). Three in five people (61%) were doubtful if they or their family would have timely access to health care in an emergency, with one-quarter (24%) having no confidence at all (Korzinski, 2022).
Health Equity is important to achieve for Canadians and everyone all around the world, yet it has not been possible. As World Health Day has approached, the key message of the World Health Organization, that “Health For All” envisions a society in which all people have good health and may live happy lives in a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable environments. The right to health is a basic human right that everyone should have free access to whenever and wherever they need it (Pace Hospitals, n.d.).
Ankur Subedi is a Registered Social Worker (RSW), currently advancing her education in the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) at the University of Calgary. Having completed the Social Work Diploma from Norquest College, Ankur comes with a diverse background in community involvement. Ankur is passionate about working in social services and working with vulnerable populations to help them achieve their best possible levels of mental, social, and physical well-being.
Clarke, J. (2016, December 8). Health at a glance; difficulty accessing health care services in Canada health. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-624-x/2016001/article/14683-eng.htm
Korzinski, D. (2022, September 29). Access to health care: Free, but for all? Nearly nine million canadians report chronic difficulty getting help. Augus Reid Institute. Retrieved from https://angusreid.org/canada-health-care-issues/
Pace Hospitals. (n.d.). World Health Day 7 April 2023: Theme, history & importance. Retrieved from https://www.pacehospital.com/world-health-day
Senate of Canada. (2003, November 12). Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, science and technology (37th Parliament, 2nd session). Retrieved from https://sencanada.ca/en/content/sen/committee/372/soci/rep/repoct02vol6part7-e
Sharma, P. (2023, March 21). World Health Day 2023: Theme, history, speech, Hashtags. New
Hope. Retrieved from https://www.newhopephysio.com/blog/world-health-day-2023
World Health Organization (WHO). (n.d.). World Health Day. Retrieved from