Canada could extend life-expectancy and decrease premature deaths if they focused more on social services, a new study says.
Social services like child and family services, income assistance, assisted living – all these contribute to the country’s overall population health.
The study, co-written by Daniel Dutton of the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, says that even if we increase government spending a small amount, you can improve population health.
It looked at nine provinces’ spending over 30 years and compared it to their population health, and found that when the ratio of social services to health spending was more equal, life expectancy went up and premature deaths went down.
The study says an increase of one cent on social service spending per dollar of health-care spending could have as much as a five per cent increase in life expectancy.
It’s the same principle as preventative health: where exercise and diet are emphasized over the treatment of symptoms.
“When we talk about prevention, we’re talking about ensuring that people do not get cancer in the first place,” Dutton explained.
He says a classic example of this is income. Studies show that people with lower income have poorer health, and according to the World Health Organization, “poverty is the single largest determinant of health.”
“So if we have improvement in social services funding that might look like an increase in the generosity of welfare which means the income distribution won’t be as wide,” Dutton explained. “That’s an example of what social spending could do.”
While government spending for health care per capita has doubled over the past 30 years, government spending for social services has remained relatively stagnant, Dutton explained.
“I think the governments who are interested in improving health can look at this outcome and say we have more than one option in terms of what we can do with our money,” Dutton told Global News.
“Currently, when you see the discussion in the media or just in the public realm, there’s a lot of emphasis on health-care spending resulting in population health outcomes. And our study shows that it’s actually a richer story than that.”
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