Healthy people, healthy places

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The World Health Organization defined the health of individuals as "a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity"1.  This was later expanded to include the ability to realize aspirations and satisfy needs, and cope with or change the environment.  They define health as a positive concept that encompasses personal, social and physical resources1.

Building on these concepts, population health has been defined as "the health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group"2. Population health is influenced by "physical, biological, social, and economic factors in the environment, by personal health behaviour, health care services" and so on1.

Health Indicators are a wide range of measures used to assess and monitor the health of populations as well as inequalities among groups within the population. They facilitate comparisons across time and place at national, provincial, and regional levels.
This understanding informs the design and evaluation of interventions, prevention programs, and policy with the goal of improving the health of Canadians.

This report examines the health of the Canadian population using a selection of Health Indicators that focus on demography, health status, health behaviours, and the environment. First, demographic changes that have resulted in the aging of the population provide a context for the remaining report. Second, measures of health status are presented that reflect physical, mental and social well-being. This is followed by indicators of positive and negative health behaviours that are known to influence health status. Finally, indicators of the social and physical environments in which we live and work are presented. Taken together, these Health Indicators highlight the health of Canadians at a national and provincial/territorial level. They provide benchmarks for comparisons over time and place, from regional to international levels.


1. Last JM, ed. A Dictionary of Epidemiology, Fourth Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

2. Kindig D, Stoddart G. What is population health? American Journal of Public Health 2003; 93(3): 380-3.
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