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Not as healthy as we think we are?

Posted on March 5, 2015 by Vauxhall Advance

There is an anonymous adage which states, “In order to change we must be sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

But what if we don’t feel sick and tired? What if we’re feeling pretty darn good? That’s a good thing, right? The author of a recent report for the Conference Board of Canada isn’t so sure.

Brent Dowdall, senior writer with the Conference Board’s Forecasting and Analysis Division, says the problem is that the way Canadians feel isn’t necessarily an accurate reflection of their actual health.

In the report “Canadians Not As Healthy As They Think They Are,” Dowdall notes that about 89 per cent of Canadians surveyed — “more than anyone else in advanced developed countries” — say they’re in “good” or “very good” health.

However, the Conference Board’s “How Canada Performs” report card on health outcomes only gives Canada a “B” grade overall, ranking the nation eighth among the 16 peer countries in the analysis.
It prompts Dowdall to ask, “Why do Canadians think they are so healthy, especially when many of the provinces and the territories perform poorly on key measures of population health?”

Dowdall offers one possible explanation by noting that self-reported health status could reflect health aspects not captured in the more objective measures of health status, such as disease severity and undiagnosed disease.

One might argue that if people identify themselves as healthy, they’re seeing the glass as half full, a positive outlook that would seem to be something to be desired. As the late comedian Redd Foxx once observed, “Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing.”
But Dowdall sees a downside to health optimism that isn’t a reflection of reality. “It may be a modest point in a relatively big picture, but if Canadians feel they’re in good or great shape even though they could be healthier, it makes improving public health even more challenging,” he says in the report.

That’s because people who don’t feel they need to improve their health are less likely to pay attention to public health efforts aimed at encouraging healthier lifestyles.

Dowdall makes a very good point. Some Canadians in the survey who identified themselves as being in good health might be either unaware or in denial about the actual state of their health. Some of the survey respondents might have been couch potatoes who lack aches, pains or other health issues that negatively affect their enjoyment of life, so by those standards, they’re in good health. It’s a little like claiming your worn-out old tires are still perfectly fine because they haven’t yet blown a sidewall.

It all depends on your definition of “good health.” The World Health Organization’s definition is: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Canadians’ positive perceptions of their health don’t match up with statistics pointing to rising rates of obesity, diabetes and related health issues. But until the perceptions are brought more into line with the realities, it will be a challenge for the health system to turn things around.

Not as healthy as we think we are?

There is an anonymous adage which states, “In order to change we must be sick and tired of being sick and tired.

But what if we don’t feel sick and tired? What if we’re feeling pretty darn good? That’s a good thing, right?

The author of a recent report for the Conference Board of Canada isn’t so sure.

Brent Dowdall, senior writer with the Conference Board’s Forecasting and Analysis Division, says the problem is that the way Canadians feel isn’t necessarily an accurate reflection of their actual health.
In the report “Canadians Not As Healthy As They Think They Are,” Dowdall notes that about 89 per cent of Canadians surveyed – “more than anyone else in advanced developed countries” – say they’re in “good” or “very good” health.

However, the Conference Board’s “How Canada Performs” report card on health outcomes only gives Canada a “B” grade overall, ranking the nation eighth among the 16 peer countries in the analysis.

It prompts Dowdall to ask, “Why do Canadians think they are so healthy, especially when many of the provinces and the territories perform poorly on key measures of population health?”

Dowdall offers one possible explanation by noting that self-reported health status could reflect health aspects not captured in the more objective measures of health status, such as disease severity and undiagnosed disease.

One might argue that if people identify themselves as healthy, they’re seeing the glass as half full, a positive outlook that would seem to be something to be desired. As the late comedian Redd Foxx once observed, “Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing.”

But Dowdall sees a downside to health optimism that isn’t a reflection of reality. “It may be a modest point in a relatively big picture, but if Canadians feel they’re in good or great shape even though they could be healthier, it makes improving public health even more challenging,” he says in the report.

That’s because people who don’t feel they need to improve their health are less likely to pay attention to public health efforts aimed at encouraging healthier lifestyles.

Dowdall makes a very good point. Some Canadians in the survey who identified themselves as being in good health might be either unaware or in denial about the actual state of their health. Some of the survey respondents might have been couch potatoes who lack aches, pains or other health issues that negatively affect their enjoyment of life, so by those standards, they’re in good health. It’s a little like claiming your worn-out old tires are still perfectly fine because they haven’t yet blown a sidewall.

It all depends on your definition of “good health.” The World Health Organization’s definition is: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Canadians’ positive perceptions of their health don’t match up with statistics pointing to rising rates of obesity, diabetes and related health issues. But until the perceptions are brought more into line with the realities, it will be a challenge for the health system to turn things around.

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