Canadians are very proud of their comprehensive health care system. Medical services are available to all citizens. Regular visits to the doctor and hospital stays are largely paid for by the government. Many employers sponsor additional health insurance plans for their workers.
Advances in preventive care, medicine and safety allow most Canadians to live long, healthy lives. Canadian girls born in 1995 can expect to live 85 years on average and boys can expect to live 75 years. There are public health programs for vaccinating children against diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, and polio, and programs to inoculate seniors against influenza. Public health programs also include health education for children and teenagers.
Canadians realize that the early years of life are important. There are government programs to help nursing mothers and babies. Most babies are born in hospitals. In some provinces, midwives, instead of doctors, may assist at the birth.
The government actively promotes a healthy lifestyle. It puts large warnings in black type on cigarette packages to remind people of the dangers of smoking. Stores are not allowed to sell cigarettes to people under 18, and many workplaces do not allow employees to smoke on the job. The law also requires everyone in a car to wear a seatbelt. Small children must be strapped into a car safety seat. These health and safety measures have decreased the incidence of death from vehicle accidents.
Many Canadians use alternative health care practices as a way to maintain good health. Treatments such as acupuncture, massage, homeopathy and chiropractic adjustments are not usually paid for by the government, but may be paid for by private health insurance. Indigenous people have their own health practices, such as healing circles, in which members of a community help a sufferer overcome illness.
Isolated and small communities present a challenge for the health care system. Injured or sick patients may be transported from isolated communities in small airplanes. Sometimes doctors, nurses and specialists transmit medical advice using high-tech communication equipment, a system known as telemedicine. Incentives are also offered to encourage doctors to set up practices in rural areas.