The use of potential years of life lost for monitoring premature mortality from chronic diseases: Canadian perspectives

Katerina Maximova, Shahriar Rozen, Jane Springett, Sylvie Stachenko


Given that chronic diseases account for 88% of all deaths in Canada, robust surveillance and monitoring systems are essential for supporting implementation of health promotion and chronic disease prevention policies. Canada has a long tradition of monitoring premature mortality expressed as potential years of life lost (PYLL), dating back to the seminal work by Romeder and McWhinnie in the late 1970s, who pioneered the use of PYLL as a tool in health planning and decision-making. The utility of PYLL for monitoring progress was expanded in the 1990s through the national comparable Health Indicators Initiative, following which PYLL has been monitored for several decades nationally, provincially, regionally and locally as part of health systems’ performance measurement. Yet the potential for using PYLL in health promotion and chronic disease prevention has not been maximized. Linking PYLL with public health programs and initiatives aimed at health promotion and chronic disease prevention, introduced starting in the 1990s, would inform whether these efforts are making progress in addressing the burden of premature mortality from chronic diseases. Promoting the use of PYLL due to chronic diseases would contribute toward providing a more complete picture of chronic diseases in Canada.


Potential years of life lost; chronic disease prevention; health promotion; Canada; burden of disease

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