Monday 5 July 2010

Canada: We're #1! Er...30? 10? 9? 6?

This past weekend, the Toronto Star ran an article on their editorial page about health systems in various countries which reminded me that while Canada is a great country, we should not be complacent.

Per Capita Income: We're #30!

According to 2009 figures from the IMF (the International Monetary Fund) which show the per capita income based on GDP (Gross Domestic Product); Canada ranks #30 with $39,669 US. Luxembourg is first on the list followed by Norway (#2), Switzerland (#4), Denmark (#5), Finland (#12), Sweden (#13), Ireland (#6), Belgium (#14), France (#15), Germany (#16), Austria (#10), Australia (#11) and the United States (#9) amongst others. For comparison as we move down the list, we find China (#98), India (#139) and Burundi (#180).

The GDP is defined as "the value of all final goods and services produced within a national in a given year" converted to U.S. dollars. This is a measurement of a country's overall economic output and obviously the per capita number is calculated by dividing the GDP by the population. According to the experts there are caveats associated with using this number to make comparisons between different countries; nevertheless, we can at least say that this does give a broad measure of the overall wealth of a nation. I also note that other sources providing the same measurement such as the World Bank or the CIA World Factbook arrive at slightly different numbers and hence different rankings. I must also add that there are other measurements such as the PPP or the Big Mac Index which attempt to equalize currency exchange rates to arrive at a number which explains what people can purchase in each country. It's all confusing but the message is that Canada is not at the top of the list but we are still number 30 out of 180; that's pretty well right up there!

Life Expectancy: We're #9!

According to the CIA World Factbook with 2010 estimates, Canada comes in at #9 with a life expectancy of 81 years. Monaco is first with almost 90 years followed by the United States (#49, 78 years), China (#92, 75 years), India (#159, 66 years) and Angola (#224, 38 years).

Health System: We're #30!

In the year 2000, the World Health Organization ranked countries according to their health systems. Canada came in at #30. France was first of the list followed by such countries as Italy (#2), Spain (#7) and Luxembourg (#16). The United States ranked #37 with the distinction of spending the highest portion of its GDP in its health system of any country in the world. Further down the list, one finds Egypt (#66), India (#112), Pakistan (#122) and China (#144).

Health Care: We're #6!

The Toronto Star article I mentioned at the beginning, talked about a study conducted by an American organization called The Commonwealth Fund. This study compared 7 countries: Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The United States came last, #7 however Canada came in 6th. Yes, when we compare Canada with the U.S., we always seem to do better but that doesn't mean we don't have room for improvement. Other countries seem to be way better at health care than us. We need to take note!

Satisfaction with Life: We're #10!

Created by Adrian G. White, an Analytic Social Psychologist at the University of Leicester, this index is a subjective ranking of how people perceive their circumstances: how happy are they. This calculation ties together areas of health, wealth and access to education. Denmark was #1 followed by Switzerland (#2), Austria (#3), Finland (#6) and Canada at the 10th place. The United States ranked #23 on the list followed by India (#125), China (#82) and Burundi (#178).

I could continue ad infinitum with various rankings but my point is this. For July 1 to celebrate Canada Day, I "looked down" with the idea of talking about how good Canada as a country is. We should not, however, be complacent as there is much we could do better. We still need to "look up".


GDP per capita 2009

Life Expectancy

World Health Organization: Ranking of world's health systems

The Commonwealth Fund: 2010 update comparing U.S. Health Care internationally

Satisfaction with Life Index: 2006

I'm lucky to be Canadian


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