Our attributed population includes more than 100,000 residents in 21 municipalities spanning 32,000 km.
Algoma’s vast geography and sparse population can create challenges for access to and delivery of health and social services. Isolated communities, lack of public transportation in and between communities, staff retention, travels costs, and hazardous driving conditions are all significant factors.
Social determinants of health
Health in Algoma communities can be influenced by ethnic distribution, Indigenous status, household size and costs, education, employment, income, and access to health care (APH, 2018). In Algoma, several of these indicators are notable when compared to Ontario as whole. This includes a higher number of Indigenous and Francophone community members and a higher percentage of residents with low income. Because Algoma is a diverse and widespread community, these population characteristics help underpin the importance of taking an equity-focused approach and emphasize the value of culturally appropriate care.
Life expectancy at birth in Algoma is lower for both males and females than the provincial average. In Algoma, males are expected to live to around 76 years old (80 Ontario-wide), whereas females are expected to live to 82 (84 Ontario-wide).
The average age in Algoma is 45.5 – four years older than the provincial average.
Over 23% of Algoma residents are over the age of 65, compared with only 16% province-wide. One in four of these residents are living with frailty, a geriatric syndrome characterized by reduced strength, endurance, and physical function.
Falls in Algoma
Falls are the number one cause of injury-related hospitalizations and deaths in Algoma. Algoma residents ages 75 and older are most likely to be hospitalized for falls. In 2018/19, over 1500 patients aged 65+ registered at the Sault Area Hospital Emergency Department after a fall.
Improving coordination of care for older adults is one of our initial priority populations. Through our projects, we aim to contribute to the healthy aging of our older adults and enable them to continue to thrive – to learn, grow, make decisions, be mobile, maintain relationships, and contribute to society.
Peter Kindersley, Centre for Ageing Better
Conditions better managed in the community
Our second priority population includes residents living with conditions that are better served in the community than in the emergency department. Work for this priority population will focus on residents living with chronic conditions such as angina, asthma, COPD, diabetes, epilepsy, heart failure, hypertension, and mental health and addictions conditions.
One way to improve care for these individuals is to build a solid primary care foundation. Through our projects, we aim to improve access and attachment to primary care for residents living with chronic disease as a first step towards improved care in the community.
Chronic disease risk factors
There are several major risk factors for chronic disease that are high in Algoma and can be targeted as a prevention measure:
Algoma's smoking rate is almost double the provincial rate.
Almost 40% of Algoma residents aren't active enough.
More than a quarter of Algoma residents are heavy drinkers.
Most Algoma residents don't eat enough fruits and vegetables.
Providing support to reduce these risk factors is another step that will be critical in preventing further chronic disease in our community.
Many Algoma residents are living with one or more chronic diseases, and chronic diseases are a leading cause of death in older adults.
Algoma has higher rates of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), arthritis, asthma, and heart disease than Ontario as a whole. These are particularly prevalent among adults aged 65+.
Mental health and addictions
In 2018, Algoma Public Health reported the rate of hospitalization due to mental health and addictions as 554 per 100,000 residents, compared to only 184 per 100,000 in Ontario as a whole. Ongoing concerns with mental health and addictions include substance abuse (including opioid abuse), self-harm, and suicide.
When compared with all of Ontario, Algoma communities experience OVER 2x the rate of hospitalization due to: