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article imageUS Health Care the worst in 19 industrialized countries, France the best

By Chris V. Thangham     Jan 11, 2008 in Health
London researchers compared the preventable deaths due to treatable conditions in 19 leading industrialized nations and found France, Japan and Australia were rated the best, while the U.S. was ranked last.
Researchers Ellen Nolte and Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine tracked the deaths that they consider preventable (diagnosed and treated in a timely and effective manner) in various leading industrialized countries such as United States, France, Japan, Australia, Canada and 14 other countries.
Nolte and Mckee called such deaths an important way to gauge the performance of a country's health care system.
They were ranked as follows: France, Japan, Australia, Spain, Italy, Canada, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, Greece, Austria, Germany, Finland, New Zealand, Denmark, Britain, Ireland, Portugal and the United States.
The researchers have published their work in the journal Health Affairs. They say if the U.S. health care system were similar to ones in France, Japan or Australia, there would have been 101,000 fewer deaths in the U.S. per year.
Nolte said the biggest contributing factor in the large number of preventable deaths in the U.S. is that about 47 million people in a population of 300 million (nearly 1 in 6) lack health insurance.
She said in a telephone interview to Reuters:
I wouldn't say it (the last-place ranking) is a condemnation, because I think health care in the U.S. is pretty good if you have access. But if you don't, I think that's the main problem, isn't it?" In establishing their rankings, the researchers considered deaths before age 75 from numerous causes, including heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, diabetes, certain bacterial infections and complications of common surgical procedures.
Such deaths accounted for 23 per cent of overall deaths in men and 32 per cent of deaths in women, the researchers said.
France did best -- with 64.8 deaths deemed preventable by timely and effective health care per 100,000 people, in the study period of 2002 and 2003. Japan had 71.2 and Australia had 71.3 such deaths per 100,000 people. The United States had 109.7 such deaths per 100,000 people, the researchers said.
They also compared those rankings with lists from the same 19 countries between the period 1997 and 1998. France and Japan were first and second during that period also, and the United States was ranked 15th at that time. Since then, the U.S. rankings have dropped down four places.
Except for the U.S., other countries have made significant progress; the preventable deaths have declined further. For other countries, there was an average of 16 percent decline in the preventable deaths in the U.S. There was only a 4 percent decline.
The research was sponsored by the Commonwealth Fund, a private New York-based health policy foundation.
Commonwealth Fund Senior Vice President Cathy Schoen said in a statement to Reuters.
It is startling to see the U.S. falling even farther behind on this crucial indicator of health system performance…The fact that other countries are reducing these preventable deaths more rapidly, yet spending far less, indicates that policy, goals and efforts to improve health systems make a difference."
When will the government and the Congress will realize we have a serious problem with our health care system? None of the presidential candidates have a real health care plan in tackling this problem, so sadly this trend will continue.
More about Medical system, Worst, Industrialized nations
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