Health vs Social Services

The release of a new study today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal provides further evidence to what many of us have long knew to be true – investments outside of the health care system have an important impact on health: 

A 2009 Canadian Senate report suggested that the health care system accounted for only 25% of health outcomes, noting, “The socioeconomic environment is the most powerful of the determinants of health.”

What is notable is that this is Canadian research and it confirms that even a small shift in spending on social programs such as social housing and child care have a significant bearing on life expectancy and avoidable mortality: 

RESULTS: A 1-cent increase in social spending per dollar spent on health was associated with a 0.1% (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.04% to 0.16%) decrease in potentially avoidable mortality and a 0.01% (95% CI 0.01% to 0.02%) increase in life expectancy. ...

INTERPRETATION: Population-level health outcomes could benefit from a reallocation of government dollars from health to social spending, even if total government spending were left unchanged.

We welcome this rich Canadian evidence that we need a rebalance in spending between health care and social services more than we need increased spending within the health care system.