Associate Professor Mehdi Ammi, along with Emmanuelle Arpin and Sara Allin, recently published a peer-reviewed journal article titled, “Interpreting forty-three-year trends of expenditures on public health in Canada: Long-run trends, temporal periods, and data differences” in Health Policy. This work is part of Canadian Institutes of Health Research funded research on the financing of public health systems and its impacts on population health led by Ammi.
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns around public health (PH) investments. Among OECD countries, Canada devotes one of the largest shares of total health expenditures to PH. Examining retrospectively PH spending growth over a very long period may hold lessons on how to reach this high share. Further, different historical periods can be used to understand how macroeconomic conditions affect PH spending growth. Using forty-three years of data, we examine real PH spending growth per capita, comparatively between thirteen Canadian jurisdictions and with other key publicly funded healthcare sectors (physicians, hospitals, and pharmaceuticals), as well as by four periods defined by macroeconomic conditions. We find a five-fold increase on average in PH spending since 1975, a growth above physicians and hospitals, but below pharmaceuticals. However, there is substantial variation in PH growth between periods and across the country. Because concerns have been raised over PH spending data in other OECD countries, we explore differences between spending estimates reported by the national agency and ten provincial budgetary estimates, and find the former is larger. The magnitude of the difference varies between jurisdictions but not much over time. Although these differences do not challenge the presence of growth in PH spending, they show that the growth may be below that of hospitals. A better categorization of PH financing data is warranted.