Ontario’s Slow Death Data Process Hinders Public Health Response, Experts Say, Canada


Updated: 4:27 AM, Tue November 21, 2023

Ontario’s publication of death statistics has come under scrutiny as it has been found to be significantly slower than other Canadian provinces and international counterparts. Public health experts argue that this slow process hampers the ability to identify emerging public health issues promptly. The University of Toronto’s Colin Furness describes Ontario’s approach as an absolutely gigantic mistake.
Compared to other jurisdictions, Ontario falls significantly behind in terms of data timeliness. Furness points out that American mortality data, despite the country’s decentralized nature and larger size, is much more current due to the payment processes of U.S. doctors. Scotland, England, Wales, and some Canadian provinces, such as British Columbia, are also able to provide prompt mortality data breakdowns by cause or region.
Experts like Tara Moriarty and Colin Furness emphasize the importance of working with newer mortality data, even if it may contain some flaws and gaps. They argue that it is far better to have imperfect but timely data rather than more accurate data years after the fact. Furness suggests a transparent approach where data is released quickly, even if occasional revisions are needed.
Public health issues, such as the opioid crisis, rely on up-to-date information about deaths for effective response and prevention measures. However, Ontario’s slow data reporting limits the ability to address these issues promptly. To illustrate the problem, Furness mentions how the province’s chief coroner resorted to using cremation data as a proxy for all deaths during the early phase of the pandemic. While this provided some insights, it was far from an ideal approach.
The delayed reporting of death statistics also makes it challenging to understand excess mortality, as observed during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prompt reporting is crucial for quantifying the extent of the problem and formulating appropriate responses. Unfortunately, Ontario’s reliance on health care professionals and funeral homes for collecting death information, as well as the lengthy review process, contribute to the slow publication of mortality data.
In response to the criticism, the Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery spokesperson, Joey Wu, stated that Ontario’s process requires accurate death information from various sources, including municipalities. The province’s Vital Statistics Act mandates the publication of an Annual Report that includes all registered vital events, but this only occurs after the end of each calendar year. Preliminary figures are released sooner, but the delay in official statistics still remains a concern for public health experts.
The availability of timely and accurate death data is crucial for understanding and responding to public health issues. Ontario’s sluggish data reporting process may hinder the ability to identify emerging health threats and take appropriate action. Public health experts argue for the prompt release of data, even if some imperfections exist, in order to save lives and prevent serious outcomes. There is a clear need for Ontario to improve its data reporting practices to ensure a more effective public health response.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Related to the Above News

What is the issue with Ontario's data processing when it comes to publishing death statistics?

Ontario's data processing for death statistics is sluggish and delayed, hindering the quick response to emerging public health issues.

How does Ontario's data processing compare to other provinces and countries?

Compared to other provinces like British Columbia and countries like the United States, Ontario's data processing is much slower.

Why is Ontario's slow death data process seen as a significant mistake by experts?

Public health professionals emphasize the importance of spotting health trends early, and Ontario's slow data process hinders this ability.

What solution do experts suggest for Ontario's slow death data process?

Experts suggest that Ontario should prioritize working with newer mortality data, even if it has flaws and gaps, rather than waiting for more perfect data years after the events have occurred.

Why is accurate and timely data on deaths important for public health responses?

Accurate and timely data on deaths is crucial for effectively responding to public health issues, such as the opioid crisis, and enables agile real-time responses that can potentially save lives.

What challenges did the slow data processing pose during the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic?

The slow data processing resulted in delays and challenges in accurately quantifying excess mortality and understanding the reasons behind the increase in deaths beyond official COVID-19 numbers.

What is the stance of the Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery regarding the slow death data process?

The Ministry points out that Ontario relies on various entities like health care professionals, funeral homes, and municipalities to collect and review accurate death information before it is sent for registration, in accordance with the Vital Statistics Act.

What are the limitations of using proxies, like counting cremations, to estimate deaths?

Using proxies like counting cremations as a proxy for all deaths can have limitations and uncertainties, resulting in challenges in accurately quantifying the problem.

Please note that the FAQs provided on this page are based on the news article published. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, it is always recommended to consult relevant authorities or professionals before making any decisions or taking action based on the FAQs or the news article.

Rohan Desai
Rohan Desai
Rohan Desai is a health-conscious author at The Reportify who keeps you informed about important topics related to health and wellness. With a focus on promoting well-being, Rohan shares valuable insights, tips, and news in the Health category. He can be reached at rohan@thereportify.com for any inquiries or further information.

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