Health in Commonwealth Americas

  • On average, the healthcare system in the member states of the Americas is well funded and well staffed in comparison to other continents in the Commonwealth. The majority of these countries have more than 80 doctors and 300 nurses and midwives per 100,000 members of the population; for every 100,000 members of the population, Canada has 191 doctors and more than 1,000 nurses (2006), while Barbados has the highest numbers in the Commonwealth Caribbean with 181 doctors and almost 500 nurses (2005). Canada has the highest public expenditure on health, with 7% of its GDP or $4,380 in per capita terms spent on health in 2009 – the highest of any Commonwealth member state. Within the Caribbean, Guyana also spends 7% of its GDP on health, but that equates to roughly $130 per capita, the lowest of the American member states. While The Bahamas has the second highest public spending on health per capita, at over $1,500, it only spends 3% its GDP on health. Jamaica, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago also only spend 3% of GDP on health, while Belize and Jamaica spend less than $300 per capita (2009).
  • Obesity is a major health issue for Commonwealth member states in the Americas. In all 13 American member states, more than 50% of the adult population is overweight, while more than 20% of adults are classified as obese. St Kitts and Nevis has the highest prevalence of both, with 75% of its population considered overweight and 40% obese (2008).
  • The prevalence of risk factors for non-communicable diseases, such as raised blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose, varies throughout the American member states. Both Dominica and St Kitts and Nevis have a prevalence of raised blood pressure (hypertension) of over 45%, while Belize has a prevalence of over 30%, amongst the lowest in the Commonwealth (2008). More than 55% of the adult population of Canada have raised cholesterol, compared to only 30% of adults in Jamaica (2008). Out of the four American member states with available information on prevalence of raised blood glucose, a key indicator in the presence of diabetes, 18% of Dominica’s adult population have raised blood glucose, while only 9% of adults in Belize have this prevalence (2008).
  • The prevalence of daily smoking in the adult population in the Commonwealth Americas is relatively low compared to the Pacific and Asian member states: the highest rate in the Americas is found in St Lucia, where just over 17% of adults smoke on a daily basis – this is in comparison to the highest rates of nearly 70% and 25% of adults smoking daily in some member states of the Commonwealth Pacific and Asia, respectively. Belize has the lowest recorded prevalence of smoking in the Commonwealth, less than 4% of the adult population (2008).
  • Guyana has the highest rate of infant mortality in the Commonwealth Americas, with 25 deaths per 1,000 live births, although this figure is significantly lower than the infant mortality rate found in Commonwealth Africa and some Pacific member states. Canada has the lowest rate of infant mortality in Commonwealth Americas, with only 5 deaths per 1,000 live births. Guyana also has the highest under-five mortality rate of the American member states, with 30 deaths per 1,000 live births, while Canada again has the lowest rate at 6 deaths (2010).
  • Jamaica has the highest reported maternal mortality ratio, with 95 annual government-reported deaths of mothers per 100,000 live births (2006-10); however, the adjusted maternal mortality ratio of Jamaica, which takes into account government figures, as well as World Bank and UN agency estimates, drops to 89 deaths. According to these adjusted figures, Guyana has the highest maternal mortality ratio of 207 deaths per 100,000 live births (2008). Canada has the lowest World Bank/UN agency adjusted ratio in the Commonwealth Americas, with 12 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2008.
  • Prevalence of HIV/AIDS among those aged 15-49 is less than 2% for most American member states. However, The Bahamas and Belize both have higher rates, with a prevalence of 3.1% and 2.3%, respectively (2009). While these figures are low compared to Commonwealth Africa, they are slightly higher than Asian, European and Pacific member states, based on available information.
  • Canada has the second highest income per capita in the Commonwealth at $43,270 for every Canadian (2010). Canada ranks third highest in the Commonwealth in terms of human development, ranking 6 out of the 187 countries on the UN’s 2011 Human Development Index. Amongst the Caribbean member states, The Bahamas has the highest income per capita at $21,984, while Guyana has the lowest at $2,870. Barbados ranks the highest of the Caribbean member states for human development, at 47, while Guyana ranks the lowest at 117 (2011). Canada has the highest life expectancy of the Commonwealth Americas, at 81 years, while all American member states have a life expectancy of 70 years or over (2010).