Executive Summary

The Nova Scotia Health Survey 1995

The 1995 Nova Scotia Health Survey (NSHS95) was a population-based survey implemented by Heart Health Nova Scotia in partnership with the Nova Scotia Department of Health. Support was provided by the World Health Organization MONICA Project, the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology and the Population Health Research Unit of Dalhousie Medical School, and the Department of Psychology at Dalhousie University. Financial support was provided by Health Canada through the National Health Research and Development Program (NHRDP), the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and the Nova Scotia Department of Health.

Designed as a follow-up to the 1986 Nova Scotia Heart Health Survey, the NSHS95 was expanded to estimate the health status of Nova Scotians for selected health indicators and participation in preventive practices. The results provide baseline information about the current health of the population and describe changes in cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk over the past decade. This information will be invaluable to the process of health system renewal as policy makers attempt to direct limited resources wisely and plan effective policies and programs. A collaborative approach to public health research was undertaken and it combined the efforts of representatives from provincial and federal governments, academics, and leading experts in health research.

There were 3,227 men and women, age 18 and over, who participated in the survey from across the province. The data were collected by trained public health nurses during a home interview and a subsequent clinic visit.

Summary of Results

with Health

Personal and Social Well-being

Satisfaction With Health

Activity Limitation


Prevalence of Symptoms of Depression


Physical Health and Prevention


Blood Cholesterol

Blood Pressure

Smoking and Second-hand Smoke

Physical Activity

Alcohol Consumption

Multiple Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors

Chronic Illness

Prevention and Screening Practices

Comparison Between the Prevalence of Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors and Behaviours: 1986 - 1995

Discussion and Conclusions

The NSHS95 provides a comprehensive picture of the health of adults in Nova Scotia and this information is now available to all Nova Scotians interested in managing and improving the health of the population. The survey results provide an excellent basis from which to strengthen health policies and programs, and to identify priorities for future action. In addition, this baseline health information contributes to the selection of key health indicators which can be monitored to assess progress toward targets for improved health in the province.

The NSHS95 provides a clear picture of progress toward improved health in some areas and identifies areas where considerable collective and individual effort is still needed. Cardiovascular disease continues to be a key health concern, despite a slight decrease in the prevalence of some risk factors over the past decade. There have been modest reductions in the prevalence of high blood pressure and elevated blood cholesterol. As well, smoking rates have declined considerably in younger age groups.

However, too many Nova Scotians smoke, are overweight, are inactive, and have many of the risk factors that promote the development of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and chronic lung disease. In fact, 70% of Nova Scotians have one or more of the major risk factors for heart disease. Average weight (BMI) has increased since 1986, and the percentage of the population classified as overweight and obese has increased substantially. A measure of depression shows that young women have the highest rates of symptoms of depression in the population.

There is much that Nova Scotians can do collectively and individually to change this situation. All sectors at the provincial, regional and community levels must take responsibility for the creation of healthy physical and social environments. Governments at all levels have a responsibility to develop and support policies that make healthy choices the easier choices for Nova Scotians. Individuals can make personal changes which will greatly enhance their health. They can stop smoking, exercise on a regular basis, eat a healthy diet and choose lower-fat foods more often. These individual choices are made and sustained more easily in an environment that is supportive of health.

These survey results should be viewed as part of a future research and planning agenda. Clearly the problems identified in the survey require that individuals, communities, and a wide range of partners, such as non government organizations, the academic community, health professional groups, governments, and the private sector, be involved in an integrated and intersectorial approach to health promotion. A concerted effort by all Nova Scotians is needed to further reduce the prevalence of illness and disability in the province.

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