Social investments are the missing link

Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) data show that Alberta’s medical system spends less than $3,000/year for those under age 25. That figure rises to around $4,000/year by age 45; $9,000 by age 65; and $30,000 by age 85. 

Alberta spends over $1,300 more per person age 65+ for medical care than BC and Ontario. Conversely, Alberta spends less per resident under age 45 for grade school than does Ontario, and less than BC for postsecondary.

Some Albertans may think that higher provincial spending on medical care is a point of pride, especially now, when so many Canadians are concerned about gaps in our medical system. But the data show this spending isn’t worth bragging about, because it does not routinely buy the province better outcomes. According to CIHI, Alberta ranks below BC, Ontario and the national average for infant mortality, heart disease mortality, cervical cancer mortality, rectal cancer mortality, avoidable admissions for COPD (lung disease), avoidable admissions for diabetes, and even lower life expectancy.

Alberta’s relatively poor health outcomes despite higher medical spending reflects that medical care accounts for only one-quarter of our health. Medical care was never supposed to go it alone to foster good health – it’s meant to be part of a wider system supporting people with the things they need to be healthy and well, like decent earnings, homes, child care, and a sustainable planet.

Read Generation Squeeze's full Alberta budget analysis