Alberta lays out wellness strategy for illness prevention

Mari-Len De Guzman
October 17, 2013
By
Oct. 17, 2013 — The Alberta government is releasing a wellness strategy to help make Alberta a healthier place to live, work and raise a family, a statement from the Ministry of Health said. The strategy aims to improve health outcomes for Albertans by focusing on preventive actions that can be taken to reduce illnesses like heart disease and diabetes. This will also save Albertans money as these preventable illnesses cost millions of dollars a year to treat.
Alberta’s Strategic Approach to Wellness is designed to start a proactive conversation with Albertans, community groups, businesses, industry and the private sector, other levels of government, and non-government organizations, the ministry said.

"We can choose to deal with increasing childhood obesity by building more hospitals to deal with diabetes, heart disease or kidney failure that they will develop or we can move upstream and change the factors that are causing the increase in childhood obesity. Prevention by increasing health and wellness is the better strategy," said Dr. James Talbot, Alberta's chief medical officer of health.

The cost for treating preventable illnesses is rising every year, according to the health ministry, and is a significant contributor to increasing health costs. Health care spending accounts for 45 per cent of Alberta’s budget.

"Wellness is something that we build with our families, schools, communities and workplaces," said Dave Rodney, associate minister of wellness. "It’s a shared responsibility. Alberta’s Strategic Approach to Wellness will allow government, partners and all Albertans to take collective action so we can all enjoy happy and healthy lives, without a need to go to the hospital to treat a preventable illness or disease." 


Cost of preventable illness:
• Almost 217,000 Albertans were living with diabetes in 2010, costing approximately $215 million in direct costs.
• In 2011, more than 162,000 Albertans were living with ischemic heart disease and almost 7,000 Albertans suffered a stroke.
• Heart disease and stroke costs the Canadian economy more than $20.9 billion every year in physician services, hospital costs, lost wages and decreased productivity.
• More than 10,000 Albertans were diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in 2011.
• Hospital admissions for this disease are for approximately 10 days, with a cost of almost $10,000 per stay.

Improving the health of Albertans is a primary focus of the government. More than half of Albertans are considered overweight or obese. About 19 per cent of the province's residents over the age of 12 misuse tobacco, and 13 per cent drink excessively. Preventable injury is the leading cause of death in Alberta, according to the Ministry of Health.

The Government of Alberta has undertaken a number of initiatives over the past few years to help improve the quality of life for Albertans and to reduce the burden that preventable illness puts on the health-care system.

Initiatives like the Social Policy Framework, Poverty Reduction Strategy, Early Childhood Development, Tobacco Reduction Strategy, an Healthy U initiatives like the 5&1 Experiment, UWALK and the Jr. Chef App will support Alberta’s Strategic Approach to Wellness and continue to move the wellness agenda forward in Alberta, the ministry said.

"Our government was elected to keep building Alberta, to live within its means and to fight to open new markets for Alberta’s resources. We will continue to deliver the responsible change Albertans voted for," the ministry statement said.

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