Saskatoon: Examining Inner City, Suburban Rural Health Status

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The report, authored by Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Cory Neudorf with support from the Public Health Services Public Health Observatory, examines by groups of neighbourhoods and rural areas the health status of residents, including life expectancy, disease rates, infant mortality and health-related behaviour. The report also examines social and physical environments as determinants of health, such as housing, income and education levels, water quality and air quality.

“The data and the trends over time provide evidence of areas where we need to focus our efforts to improve the health of our population,” says Dr. Neudorf. “Recognizing the breadth of issues that influence health, it also shows how important it is for all sectors to be involved as the health sector alone is limited in what it can achieve. We encourage administrators, physicians and staff in the health region as well as local community partners and organizations to use the report to support planning around policy and service delivery.”

The report indicates both positive and negative aspects of our health status. It provides a focus on the trends affecting Saskatoon’s core neighbourhoods of Meadowgreen, King George, Pleasant Hill, Riversdale, Westmount and Confederation Suburban Centre and underlines issues where rural area residents differ significantly from the region’s urban residents. Highlights include:

* Our overall life expectancy increased from 78.8 years in 1997 to 79.8 in 2004, but core neighbourhood residents’ life expectancy decreased from 74.7 years in 1997 to 74.4 years in 2004.

* Although the percentage of Saskatoon’s low income residents decreased from 19.7% in 2001 to 17.7% in 2006 and is 10.7% in rural areas, the percent of people in core neighbourhoods living in low income (47%) is more than double the city average (17.7%) in 2006.

* Infant mortality rates declined from 7.6 per 1000 live births in 1992 to 5.9 in 2006.

* Our exposure to second hand smoke in public places decreased dramatically from 24% in 2003 to 7% in 2007, yet our 2007 smoking rates were significantly higher than the national average (26.2% and 21.9% respectively) and have increased since 2003. In 2007, significantly higher percentages of inner city elementary school students said they tried smoking compared to other areas of Saskatoon (28.6% and 3.6% respectively).

* HIV rates have risen dramatically from 5.6 per 100,000 in 2004 to 25.8 in 2008. At 401.6 per 100,000 population, our chlamydia rates were twice the national average of 217.3 in 2007.

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* Diabetes is the only chronic disease examined in the report where both mortality and hospitalization rates increased between 2001/02 and 2006/2007.

* Transportation mortality rates are more than twice as high for rural residents as urban residents (14.0 vs 6.0 per 100,000 - 2004-06)

The 24 recommendations contained in the report are based on consultation and evidence and are those of the Chief Medical Health Officer. They are aimed at the health sector, governments and other decision-makers in Saskatchewan to help improve the health status of all residents of the region. The recommendations fall into five categories:

* Plan proactively for a larger, changing and aging population.

* Focus on improving the social determinants of health and reduce the gaps in health inequities through priority actions.

* Create the social and physical environments to optimize health and healthy lifestyles.

* Enhance efforts in health protection and illness and injury prevention in key risk areas.

* Take action to ensure a healthy, sustainable environment.

The recommendations have been shared with the Saskatoon Regional Health Authority and Saskatoon Health Region senior leaders, and will also be discussed throughout the year with a view to full regional endorsement so that they may help guide health planning decisions and priorities.

The 2008 health status report is produced by the Chief Medical Health Officer and the Public Health Observatory. The Public Health Observatory is a department of Saskatoon Health Region’s Public Health Services and monitors and reports on the indicators and determinants of health to encourage the health sector to consider their role in health planning and service delivery.

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