Recent Vital Signs Findings Reveal What Work Needs to be Done for a Healthier NL

Seems the only thing healthy about us is our sense of home!


Untitled-2The 2015 edition of Vital Signs was released last month, and it showed both progress made and work to be done in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Vital Signs is an annual provincial check-up on the quality of life in Newfoundland and Labrador, looking at everything from our population’s health issues to how our weather effects us, to specific stats like average income levels for seniors.

It’s compiled in collaboration between Memorial University’s Harris Centre and the Community Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador. In partnership with TC Media (The Telegram, The Packet, etc), printed copies of the report were distributed in newspapers across NL.

For the newest edition, the Community Foundation of NL and the Harris Centre spoke to community leaders from all over the province to determine which areas should be of highest priority. This year’s report had a nationwide theme: Sense of Belonging.

To deliver a provincial overview in an easily digestible format, the report breaks down its stats to be read as if Newfoundland and Labrador were a village of 100 people. If it were, that town would have 51 female residents and 49 males, and 6 of those women and 8 of those men would live in poverty.

Two of the hundred people would be immigrants, eight would be aboriginal,16 would be seniors, and 21 would be 18 or younger. More than two-thirds, or 68 of them, would be overweight or obese, and just 26 would get at least five servings of produce every day.

So the report clearly highlights some of the challenges faced in this province. For example, improvement must come in several health-related measures. People here are more likely than the general Canadian population to be diabetic, for example: nine percent of the NL population versus 6.7 in Canada.

We’re also more likely to smoke than those upalong (16.7 percent versus 13.5) or we’re significantly more likely to drink heavily (25.4 percent versus 17.9), and less likely to be physically active during leisure time (48.3 percent versus 53.7). This could be part of why public health care expenditure per capita in Newfoundland and Labrador, at $5,304, is higher than the Canadian average of $4,261.

But the news is far from all bad. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have a lower rate of mood disorders, at 6.6 percent versus a national average of 7.8. We’re also less likely than the Canadian average to not have a family doctor or to wait more than a month for non-emergency surgery.

And related to the Sense of Belonging theme, people here may be right in their strong feelings about home. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are far more likely than the general Canadian population to see their relatives daily, at 20 percent versus just 7.5 nationally.

They’re also more likely to see friends daily and to have three or more close friends. And 77 percent of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians report a strong sense of belonging, versus about two-thirds of the general Canadian population.

The full report can be viewed online at http://www.mun.ca/harriscentre/VitalSignsNL_2015.pdf.

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