Objective: To examine health service delivery in a Canadian province (British Columbia) to consider how Canadian health care services might be developed to best address the large number of individuals with mildly to moderately severe depressive illnesses.
Method: We used provincial administrative data to describe patterns of medical services provided to individuals suffering from depression during 3 different time periods (1991-1992, 1995-1996, and 2000-2001) and to determine the frequency with which depression patients receive treatment from primary care physicians and psychiatrists. We then used these findings to consider the feasibility and potential applicability of the various approaches that have been described to decrease the burden of disease related to depression.
Results: In the fiscal year 1991-1992, the "treated prevalence" rate was 7.7%; in 1995-1996, it was 8.7%; and in 2000-2001, it was 9.5%. In each cohort over the 10-year period, the proportion of individuals who received a diagnosis of depression and who were then treated by primary care physicians alone (no psychiatric services were provided) remained constant at 92%.
Conclusions: Supported self-management is identified as a promising intervention that could be integrated into primary health care within the context of the Canadian health care system. It constitutes a feasible and practical approach to enhance the role of family physicians in the delivery of services to individuals with milder forms of depression and promotes the active engagement of individuals in their recovery and in prevention of future episodes.