Avoidable mortality indicators provide additional insight into the Canadian health system. These measures can be used to assess the impact of prevention strategies and the outcomes of health policy decisions and health care provision.
The potentially avoidable mortality indicator includes premature deaths that could be avoidable through all levels of prevention.
Mortality from preventable causes focuses on premature deaths from conditions that could potentially be avoided through primary prevention efforts, such as lifestyle modifications or population-level interventions (for example, vaccinations and injury prevention). The indicator informs efforts aimed at reducing the number of initial cases, or incidence reduction, as deaths are prevented by avoiding new cases altogether.
Mortality from treatable causes focuses on premature deaths that could potentially be avoided through secondary and tertiary prevention efforts, such as screening for and effective treatment of an existing disease. The indicator informs efforts aimed at reducing the number of people who die once they have the condition, or case-fatality reduction.
Avoidable mortality indicators can serve to inform where Canada's health system has made gains and to point to where more work is needed. They can also help to quantify potential gains. For example, in an ideal world where all avoidable mortality in Canada has been eliminated, life expectancy at birth for the years 2006 to 2008 would have been 85.8 years—4.9 years longer than the actual life expectancy of 80.9 years. Three of the 4.9 years would be attributed to eliminating preventable mortality; the other 1.9 years would come from eliminating mortality from treatable causes.
Analysis of avoidable mortality highlights the need for prevention.