Population estimates: A new standard to deliver comparable and actionable data

For many years, CIHI has used the 1991 Canadian population estimates as the reference population when age-standardizing indicators in our products. The population’s age distribution has changed substantially over time, so CIHI, along with Statistics Canada, has updated the reference population from the 1991 Canadian population to the 2011 Canadian population. Calculating indicators using the 2011 Canadian population estimates will provide a more accurate picture of the current state of health care — in line with our commitment to stakeholders to deliver comparable and actionable data.

Improved accuracy and updated trending data

Age standardization is important when comparing indicators across the country. If variation in the age structure of different jurisdictions is not taken into account, crude unadjusted rates can be quite misleading for conditions or events that are associated with age.

This update will provide more accurate results to our stakeholders, particularly for indicators that are compared across the country. When implementing the new standard population, some indicator results may change slightly, while others may see a change of 20% to 22% in either direction. Where feasible, we will recalculate indicator results from the past 5 fiscal years using the new population. This will yield accurate and consistent data and enable trending over time, which is essential for supporting quality improvement.

What will be affected?

Some of the indicators that will be affected by the updated Canada reference population are found in Your Health System: In Depth, the Health Indicators e-Publication, the Health Inequalities Interactive Tool, Quick Stats and various annual reports. Examples of the affected indicators include the following:

  • Avoidable Deaths From Preventable Causes
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Hospitalization Among Canadians Younger Than Age 75
  • Fall Injury Hospitalization for Seniors (65+)
  • Hip Replacement Rate (All Types)
  • Knee Replacement Rate (All Types)
  • Injury Hospitalization
  • Inpatient Hospitalizations: Age–Sex-Standardized Rates
  • Potentially Inappropriate Medication Prescribed to Seniors
  • Self-Rated Mental Health

At CIHI, we believe that pan-Canadian standards are the cornerstone of high-quality, meaningful health information. Improving data and information quality is a collaborative effort. CIHI works with its data suppliers and users to support each of these activities.