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Manitobans living longer, but health gap widening between rich, poor

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Manitobans are healthier and living longer than they did a few short years ago, according to a study released this morning by the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy.

But the study also says that the "health gap" between rich and poor has increased.

"The results in this report show clearly that the health of Manitobans has improved significantly over time, despite the aging of the population," the MCHP said. "Life expectancy increased and death rates decreased."

Particularly important is that the rate of premature mortality — the number of people who died before reaching age 75 — has declined. It is considered the best single indicator of population health.

The 452-page report shows that between 2007 and 2011, the incidence of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease all fell in Manitoba, as did the rate of stroke.

Male life expectancy in Manitoba rose to 77.5 from 76.5 years and female life expectancy climbed to 82.2 years from 81.5.

However, the study found that while most Manitobans got healthier, not all did. The health status of northern residents and those in Winnipeg’s inner city did not improve like that of others.

Their health status did not actually decline — as has occurred in the past — but it didn’t improve or it improved at a slower rate than for wealthy Manitobans.

"There has always been a strong connection between health and wealth, and the results in this report confirm that this relationship continues," the MCHP said.

The report also found that each year, close to 80 per cent of Manitobans visit a doctor, while two-thirds have a prescription filled.

Nearly 12 per cent (11.9) per cent of Manitobans age 75 and older were in nursing homes in 2011, a slight decline from five earlier. But the overall numberof seniors is growing, and so will the number of people needing care in these facilities.

The study also found that fewer Manitoba seniors received the flu shot (56.6% vs 62.3%) than in the previous study period, which prompted the authors to suggest that health officials make a greater effort to promote immunizations.

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