Canada can learn from circumpolar neighbours to improve health care in the north

November 1, 2010

To improve health care in Canada's north, Canada would benefit from enhanced relationships with other circumpolar regions, states an analysis published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) .

The article looks at health and health care in Canada's north from a broader perspective across the circumpolar region which includes Alaska in the US, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Greenland and others.

Significant inequities in health care exist across circumpolar countries, where some such as Scandinavian nations have healthy populations in the north while others, like Nunavut in Canada's north and Alaska, have lower health outcomes despite high health expenditures. Per capita health expenditures in Nunavut are the highest in the world, with almost 30% of the territory's GDP going to health care expenditures.

"The current prominence of Arctic issues provides a window of opportunity for Canadian health policy-makers, service providers and researchers to strengthen circumpolar collaboration and partnerships, analyze our commonalities and differences, and adopt best practices to improve our northern system and the health of the population," writes Dr. T. Kue Young from the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, and Susan Chatwood , the Institute for Circumpolar Health Research in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

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