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Healthy Folks North Of The Border

The U.S. is less healthy than its northern neighbor Canada, according to a new study.

The study appears in July's American Journal of Public Health. The researchers included Karen Lasser, M.D., MPH, of Harvard Medical School and the medicine department at the Cambridge Health Alliance in Massachusetts.

Data was gathered by Statistics Canada (the Canadian census office) and the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, a branch of the CDC. Between November 2002 and March 2003, interviews were done by telephone with 3,505 Canadians and 5,183 U.S. residents.

The results: "With the important exception of having lower rates of cigarette smoking, U.S. respondents were less healthy than Canadians, with higher rates of obesity, physical inactivity, diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), arthritis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease," write Lasser and colleagues.

By The Numbers: U.S. Vs. Canadian Health

Here's a closer look at the gap between the U.S. and Canada on various health conditions:

  • Obesity: 20.7 percent of U.S. respondents; 15.3 percent of Canadian respondents.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: 13.6 percent of U.S. respondents; 6.5 percent of Canadian respondents.
  • Diabetes: 6.7 percent of U.S. respondents; 4.7 percent of Canadian respondents.
  • High blood pressure: 18.3 percent of U.S. respondents; 13.9 percent of Canadian respondents.
  • Arthritis: 17.9 percent of U.S. respondents; 16 percent of Canadian respondents.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): 1.9 percent of U.S. respondents; 1 percent of Canadian respondents
  • Current daily smoking: 16.8 percent of U.S respondents; 19 percent of Canadian respondents.

    Heart disease, depression, and overweight BMI that falls short of obesity were similar in the U.S. and Canada, the study shows.

    Health Care Findings

    The survey also covered health care topics including routine screening, access to medical care, and satisfaction with medical care. Canada has a universal health insurance program; the U.S. doesn't.

    "Compared with Canadians, U.S. residents are one-third less likely to have a regular medical doctor, one-fourth more likely to have unmet health care needs, and are more than twice as likely to forgo needed medicines," write Lasser and colleagues.

    They add that "problems accessing medical care are particularly dire for the U.S. uninsured," and that while both countries had racial gaps in health, those gaps were wider in the U.S.

    SOURCES: Lasser, K. American Journal of Public Health, July 2006; Vol. 96.

    By Miranda Hitti
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, M.D.
    © 2006, WebMD Inc. All rights reserved

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