rural canadians pay high price for good life

Here’s a good-news, bad-news item that recently came out of the health-care field. Yukoners, as a frontier people, should pay close attention…

Here’s a good-news, bad-news item that recently came out of the health-care field.

Yukoners, as a frontier people, should pay close attention to this.

But first a little background (prefaced by a wall of impressive-sounding titles).

The Canadian Population Health Initiative in partnership with the Public Health Agency Canada and the Centre for Rural and Northern Health Research (out of Sudbury’s Laurentian University) just issued a report.

It’s called How Healthy are Rural Canadians? An Assessment of Their Health Status and Health Determinants, and it provides a benchmark for our well-being.

The report used commuter flow to differentiate rural areas. That is, it divided Canada into urban dwellers and four types of rural communities — those where 30 per cent of residents commute to work and areas with “moderate,” “weak” and —last but not least — the ultimate rural town, one with “no commuting flow.”

OK, so what’s the good news?

Well, rural folk are less likely to be diagnosed with cancer, according to the report.

Rural men were, generally, slightly less likely to be diagnosed with the disease than those in cities.

And, in the case of specific cancers, death rates in rural areas were lower.

For example, fewer rural women between the ages of 45 and 64 died of breast cancer — 54 deaths per 100,000 women compared with 61 such deaths in urban areas.

As well, rural people had lower levels of stress and expressed a greater sense of community belonging.

OK, that’s the good news.

The bad: Rural folk die prematurely more often than city dwellers.

Those living in areas with no measurable commute had the highest death rate — 792 deaths per 100,000 people — compared to 695 per 100,000 people in urban areas.

(In an addendum to the good-news category, rural residents who commuted the most had the lowest mortality rate — 668 per 100,000.)

So, what’s killing rural folk?

Well, Canada’s most rural residents are in more vehicle accidents – two or three times higher than in cities, according to the report.

And they are fatter and smoke more than city dwellers.

“Our analysis shows that risk factors, such as smoking and obesity, are reported more frequently among rural than urban residents, and this may contribute to the higher risk of dying prematurely from circulatory disease among rural and remote residents,” said Marie DesMeules, in an interview quoted on Canada News Wire.

Also disturbing, the biggest split between urban and rural death rates was in rural children and youth between five and 19.

The Canadian average is five suicides per 100,000 people. In the most rural communities, the average was 20 boys per 100,000 and 30 girls per 100,000.

These are just statistics, but they point to profound problems in our rural communities.

“Canadians enjoy a very high standard of living compared to other countries,” said Elizabeth Gyorfi-Dyke, of the Canadian Population Health Initiative, told Canada News Wire. “Over 95 per cent of Canada’s landmass is rural and is populated by one-fifth of Canadians.

“This research shows differences between urban and rural Canadians for several health-related factors. The information in this report gives us a starting point to look at rural health issues, including potential areas for future research on the role of place in people’s health.”

Visit the Canadian Institute for Health Information website at www.cihi.ca. (RM)