Physical health is not simply the absence of illness. However, it is important to know about the prevalence and trends of diseases and disorders that are associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Such knowledge helps guide action and investment across the full spectrum of health care services, from prevention to treatment and mitigation.
Many factors combine to affect the health of individuals and communities. Health services, covered under a separate heading, are of course important. Personal behaviours such as eating choices and levels of physical activity are also key. These behaviours, as well as other health factors, are influenced by social, educational, economic and environmental conditions — addressed under other Ottawa Insight themes.
Mental health is a critical component of overall health. Mental illness is characterized by thinking, mood-states and/or behaviours associated with significant distress and impaired functioning. While public awareness and understanding has increased, mental health disorders are still subject to significant stigma and secrecy. There are some population-level differences in types and severity of mental illness related to age, sex, income and other factors. But people of all ages, genders and backgrounds face mental health issues.
Health care frequently tops the list of issues of concern to Canadians. According to a 2015 national survey, 75% of Canadians believe Canada’s health care system is among the best in the developed world, but 64% are also worried that it is falling behind. This perception is likely shared by many Ottawa residents. Comparative and trend data on issues such as preventable hospitalizations, hospital wait times, and availability of family doctors can help shed light on the performance of the system.