Using more than 400 maps, the Atlas shows a connection between “healthy, wealthy and wise”: the healthiest communities tend to be wealthier, better educated, have better diets, exercise more and smoke less.
In a recent report, we looked at how the determinants of health, for example, income, education, relationships, and housing, affect Canadians over the long term. We found that individuals with the lowest incomes are more likely to suffer from chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and heart disease, live with a disability, be hospitalized, suffer from mental distress, and to die earlier. Low income Canadians are twice as likely to use health care services as those with the highest incomes – which means addressing the determinants of health can play a significant role in health system costs.
Governments need to recognize that in order to reduce the burden on the health care system, we must achieve a better balance between investing in an acute care system and investing in factors like these that affect our health. Moreover, governments need to think and work differently, since health is not just the responsibility of health ministries – rather, it is the responsibility of governments and society as a whole. Our report spoke to how governments can and are moving towards a whole-of-government approach – that is to say, involving multiple ministries and levels of government and other sectors of society to improve health.
The first edition of the BC Atlas of Wellness was published in 2007. Both the earlier and current editions can be viewed online at www.geog.uvic.ca/wellness.
Key Words: Health Promotion, BC Atlas of Wellness