insight & evidence



What the Data Tell Us

By Peter Nicholson

This document presents a statistical portrait of the pre-pandemic state of health care in Canada. The data are placed both in an international comparative context and also disaggregated by province.[1] The portrait is focussed on 2019 and the years immediately preceding, owing partly to the latest data that is available, and partly to avoid the exceptional conditions created by the Covid-19 pandemic. Those deserve separate treatment. The document is organized in two major Sections—I  The State of Health Care in Canada; and II How the Provinces Stack Up. Section I presents evidence relevant to the following questions:

  • Is Canada’s health care system a top-tier performer compared with other highly developed countries?
  • Do health care systems in other advanced countries provide relevant models for Canada? 
  • Is health care in Canada on a sustainable track?
  • Has federal fiscal support of Provincial health care delivery been declining?
  • Would increased federal cash transfers to the Provinces, beyond those already scheduled, encourage and enable improved delivery of health care?

Section II (page 16) provides a province-by-province perspective on health care under eight sub-sections:

  1. Spending on health care
  2. Factors that influence the health status of a population
  3. Selected indicators of health status
  4. Supply of doctors, nurses, and hospital beds
  5. Selected indicators of health system performance
  6. Public perception of the quality of health care provision
  7. Tabulated summary of indicator data
  8. Conclusions

[1] Data are sourced primarily from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI); from the OECD health indicators data base; and indirectly from the assessment of 11 advanced country health systems undertaken periodically by the Commonwealth Fund (as reported by CIHI). In some cases, international and provincial indicators could not be directly compared based on data from the foregoing sources.


About the author

Policy Wonks

The Policy Wonks are Dr. Peter Nicholson, Jeff Larsen, and Bernie Miller.

By Policy Wonks
insight & evidence