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Canadians Unaware of Staggering Costs of Spinal Cord Injury and Paralysis

Survey Findings Released as the Rick Hansen 25th Anniversary Relay Enters Homestretch

VANCOUVER  (January 23, 2012) – Twenty-five years after the historic Rick Hansen Man in Motion World Tour to raise awareness about spinal cord injury research and care, Canadians vastly underestimate the costs of treating and caring for people with SCI and other chronic illnesses that result in paralysis.

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In a wide-raging survey conducted for The Rick Hansen Institute by Angus Reid Public Opinion, Canadians were asked to estimate the annual costs associated with spinal cord injury (SCI), the unemployment rate for Canadians with SCI, and their opinions on continued investment in related healthcare research and best practices. An estimated 86,000 Canadians have an SCI, with more than 4,300 new cases reported each year.

Despite the widespread lack of knowledge about SCI indicated by this poll, Canadians still attribute high levels of importance to healthcare and scientific research, acknowledge that continued investment in this research is important, and feel positively towards organizations working to improve quality of life of individuals while reducing healthcare costs.

“Several results from the poll are indicative of the general lack of knowledge about SCI in Canada and suggest we still have much work to do when it comes to education, research towards cures and advocacy for people living with paralysis from a spinal cord injury,” said Bill Barrable, CEO of the Rick Hansen Institute. “Few traumas are as permanently devastating and expensive to care for as SCI. Spinal cord injury continues to be one of the most expensive initial and ongoing health care costs in the entire medical system, yet most Canadians are largely unaware of SCI’s impact on individuals and society as a whole.”


  • The majority of those polled (87%) vastly underestimated the cost of SCI on our society and healthcare system, guessing the figure to be no greater than $100 million a year (around 3% of the actual figure of $3 Billion)
  • Only 7% were able to identify the approximate number of Canadians who develop paralysis each day from stroke and spinal cord injury (estimated at 60 Canadians each day).
  • More than half of Canadians (52%) underestimate the impact on employment for those who have spinal cord injuries. Chronic unemployment – estimated at more than 60% for people with SCI -- contributes to the overall cost of spinal cord injury.
  • Approximately 36% of respondents incorrectly believed that once a spinal cord injury was sustained, its effects were permanent. (While damage to the spinal cord can result in permanent paralysis, there are varying degrees of paralysis and recovery of function following a spinal cord injury.)

Click here to view the infographic


  • 89% of Canadians support continued investment to spur research that investigates new treatments applicable to multiple diseases and medical conditions.
  • 88% agree that Canada needs to promote best practices to reduce the delivery and costs of healthcare.
  • 86% agree that all Canadians should be treated with common procedures and treatments if they were to sustain a significant spinal cord injury, regardless of where they live.
  • 83% believe the knowledge gained through scientific research is improving healthcare
  • And, 88% of Canadians agree that they feel positive towards an organization that attempts to help improve the quality of life of patients while working to reduce healthcare costs.

Click here to view the infographic


“The survey shows that Canadians are undeniably supportive of scientific research, and are aware of the fact that many advances have arrived when science is supported by the public,” said Mario Canseco, Vice President at Angus Reid Public Opinion. “In fact, there is tremendous support for continued investment in healthcare research in general, and for the work of organizations and healthcare facilities improving the quality of life of the tens of thousands of Canadians with a spinal cord injury.”


“Government support has distinguished Canada as a leader in medical research, treatment and care for individuals with spinal cord injury,” said Dr. Marcel Dvorak, Professor of Orthopaedics, Head, Division of Spine Cordula and Gunther Paetzold Chair in Clinical Spinal Cord Research, University of British Columbia and Scientific Director for the Rick Hansen Institute.  “Continued support and funding is crucial to accelerating the pace and reach of the Institute’s work, and to develop the technology and innovation that will lead to a greater and more productive quality of life for all Canadians.”



From November 8 to November 16, 2011, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 1,206 randomly selected Canadian adults. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 2.8%.  The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire population of Canada.

For more details on the polling results, please visit

Click here to view the poll results.

Download high resolution infographics:

Infographic - full
Infographic - reality
Infographic - poll results



About the Rick Hansen Institute:

The Rick Hansen Institute’s goal is creating a world without paralysis after SCI. It works towards this goal by accelerating research and translating clinical findings into practical solutions to develop new treatments, improve care and reduce the cost burden on taxpayers. RHI’s work is highly applicable to other chronic illnesses and diseases, and will produce lasting impact beyond the Spinal Cord Injury population, saving government hundreds of millions of dollars in future healthcare costs.

About the Rick Hansen 25th Anniversary Relay:

Launched on August 24, 2011 in Cape Spear, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Rick Hansen 25th Anniversary Relay is retracing the Canadian segment of the original Man In Motion World Tour, traveling 12,000 kilometres, through 600 communities and concluding in Vancouver, British Columbia on May 22, 2012. This time, one will inspire many in motion; engaging 7,000 participants from across Canada who have made their own difference in the lives of others. Please visit



For more information please contact:
Dan Maceluch
Director, Marketing and Communications
Rick Hansen Institute
Tel: 604.707.2114