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Canadians Leading Longer, Healthier Lives Than Americans

U.S. study points to lack of universal health care, economic equality as reasons why

THURSDAY, April 29 (HealthDay News) -- Canadians live longer, healthier lives than Americans, likely due to the United States' lack of universal health care and lower levels of social and economic equality, a new study suggests.

U.S. researchers analyzed data from the Joint Canada/United States Survey of Health 2002-03 and found that Canadians can expect 2.7 years more of "perfect health" than Americans. That's more than half of the gap between the richest and poorest people in Canada.

The study was published online April 29 in the journal Population Health Metrics.

"Canada and the U.S. share a common border and enjoy very similar standards of living, yet life expectancy in Canada is higher than in the U.S. There are two distinct potential explanations for the gap: differences in access to health care and in the prevalence of poverty," study author David Feeny, from the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Oregon, said in a news release from the journal's publisher.

He noted that Canada has a universal "prenatal-to-grave" health system that is free at point of care, while access to health care in the United States is not universal, but typically dependent on employment, income (Medicaid), or age (Medicare).

"The difference in health between the two countries seems to be associated with substantial differences in access to care as well as substantial differences in social and economic inequality," Feeny said in the news release.

"Yet distinguishing among the potential explanations for the differences in health between the two countries would require longitudinal data. Perhaps it is time for Canada and the U.S. to contemplate a joint longitudinal survey," he added.

More information

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality offers advice on how to stay healthy.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: BioMed Central, news release, April 28, 2010

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