Province failing Northerners facing highest risk of heart attack or stroke, says MPP Mantha

Michael Mantha MPP for Algoma—Manitoulin. File photo.

QUEEN’S PARK—During question period on April 4, NDP Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha demanded that Premier Kathleen Wynne take the health care of Northerners more seriously after a shocking new study shows people in Northern Ontario have nearly double the level of cardiovascular risk than people in the Greater Toronto Area.

“Why isn’t the province delivering the same level of health care to people living in Northern Ontario?” asked Mr. Mantha.

“Yes, there is less care in cardiovascular services available in the community in Northern Ontario than other provinces in the country, and a higher chance of cardiovascular disease in Northern Ontario,” Mr. Mantha told the Recorder. “Why is that? Why are we being treated differently in the North and not receiving the same services and care as residents further south. We received no response from the premier or her government on that question.”

The new study, published on Monday of last week in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, showed a sharp divide in health outcomes between northerners and the rest of the province. It found the much higher risk of cardiovascular trouble, like heart attacks, may be a result of the fact that northerners have fewer preventative health care services-such as having an annual physical, seeing their doctor to have their cholesterol or diabetes checked, and having their blood pressure monitored and well controlled.

“This should be a wakeup call to the Wynne government, and one that’s coming too late for too many families,” Mr. Mantha said. “Two regions of Northern Ontario, including my riding of Algoma-Manitoulin, have some of the lowest health outcomes for cardiovascular health in the province.”

“So a father in my neighbourhood is twice as likely to suffer a heart attack as a father in a southern community. I think we all understand; that’s not acceptable,” said Mr. Mantha. “This government needs to make rapid improvements to preventive care in Northern Ontario. When will this Liberal government go beyond broken promises and invest in health care for Northern people?”

Mr. Mantha told the Recorder, “this is just another case of Northern Ontario being looked at as second class citizens. It is not acceptable; we are not asking for more than anywhere else, but we are not expecting less.”

A new study from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and the Sunnybrook Schulich Heart Centre points out where a person resides in Ontario appears to have much more to do with whether he or she will suffer a heart attack or stroke, or die of cardiovascular disease. The North East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) is among the four least-healthy LHINS, joined by the North West LHIN in the North and the North Simcoe Muskoka and Erie St. Clair LHINs. People in these LHINs, the study found, were  more likely to be obese, smoke and have the lowest dietary intake of fruits and vegetables. People in the highest cardiac event LHINs were also less likely to receive preventative screening tests, have an annual physical and visited a family doctor less frequently.

Dr. Jack Tu, the study’s lead author and senior scientist at ICES, told the Sault Star in its April 3, 2017 edition that findings show that the differences in patient and health-system factors accounted for nearly 75 percent of the variation in cardiovascular events between LHINs, suggesting that greater preventative health care contributes to lower cardiovascular event rates. He said the study wouldn’t necessarily put the blame on health-care providers in areas where there are higher degrees of cardiovascular disease but to bring awareness, encourage people to look at the data and look at possible solutions that work best within their region.

The study looked at 5.5 million adults, aged 40 to 75 as of January 1, 2008, in Ontario with no previous cardiovascular disease and followed them for five years, looking for heart attacks, strokes or cardiovascular-related deaths.