CancerCare Manitoba
News Item

September 14, 2010

The Cost of Apathy: Report Reveals Manitoba Taxpayers To Pay Billions for Unhealthy Living

A new Manitoba report finds that obesity, physical inactivity and smoking will cost Manitoba taxpayers $4.7 billion in increased health care expenditures and lost productivity by 2026.

Making the Case for Primary Prevention: An Economic Analysis of Risk Factors in Manitoba, a report funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Manitoba (HSFM), the Alliance for the Prevention of Chronic Disease, CancerCare Manitoba and Health in Common is the first report of its kind in Manitoba to provide solid economic data on the long-term cost of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity - risk factors which lead to chronic diseases like heart disease and stroke, cancer, diabetes, kidney and lung diseases.

"A $4.7 billion dollar economic burden is significant to Manitobans. It may mean less money for roads and infrastructure, higher taxes for working citizens to support medical care for ailing parents and grandparents, or fewer dollars for post-secondary institutions," says Dr. Elizabeth Ready, HSFM Board Member and Co-Chair of the Steering Committee that commissioned the report.

"This report is a wake-up call to all Manitobans that there is an urgent need for more money to be invested into primary prevention programs aimed at reducing risk factors for chronic diseases" says Mark McDonald, Chair for the Alliance for the Prevention of Chronic Disease. "If we do nothing, in 15 years our health care system may not be sustainable."

Risk factor prevalence in the province is high, with 55 per cent of the population being overweight or obese, while 45 per cent are inactive, and 27 per cent are smokers.

"While the numbers may seem overwhelming - the direction is clear. By working together, within and across sectors, we have the ability to positively impact people's lives and subsequently reduce the strain on the health care system," says Cathy Steven, Steering Committee Member and Executive Director of Health in Common.

The report illustrates that a 1 to 2 per cent reduction in the risk factors per year could save the Manitoba economy up to $3.5 billion in direct health care costs (ie. hospital stay, physician services, drugs, etc.) and indirect costs (ie. lost productivity due to short and long-term disability and premature death) and reduce deadly chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke and cancer by as much as 50 per cent.

"This is more than a health care issue - it is an economic priority," says Dr. Donna Turner, Committee Member and Epidemiologist/Provincial Director at CancerCare Manitoba. "The cost of doing nothing far exceeds the cost of implementing primary prevention programs within the province. It just makes better sense to address chronic illness before it starts by spending money on keeping people healthy rather than paying the cost of health care."

Report findings suggest that just a 1 per cent reduction in risk factors per year, starting in 2011, using a sample investment of $529 million would result in nearly $1.8 billion saved on direct and indirect costs, a better than 3-to-1 return on investment.

"This is a call to action for all of us to make prevention a top priority," says Ready. "We need to work together because not one entity can achieve this type of social change on its own. If governments, the private sector, non-profits, and others partners collaborate, we can reduce the risk factors that threaten our healthcare system and the Manitoba economy."

Ready says the report numbers can be used to aid decision makers as they garner further financial and strategic support into primary prevention research and initiatives. It can also function as a benchmark tool for setting goals and measuring progress in reducing risk factors across the province.

"It won't happen overnight, but we know population-wide change is possible. Aggressive measures are urgently needed to address obesity, physical inactivity and further reduce smoking in our province and now, with this report, we have the information we need to initiate measurable change," says Michelle Nelson, Steering Committee Co-Chair and HSFM Board Member.

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To view or download the complete report, visit

For more information, please contact:
Tammy Witko, Communications Manager
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Manitoba
Phone: 204.949.2023 | cell: 204.799.7337

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