Tuesday, January 08, 2008


US health care sinks even farther—even behind Portugal

More info, from London’s Financial Times and Reuters, on the dreadful state of health care in America. Out of 19 industrialized nations—the usual suspects, Japan, UK, Eire, France, Portugal, Australia, and others—we’re number 19.

That’s shameful.

By Nicholas Timmins

Financial Times (London)
January 8, 2008


More U.S. patients die from diseases that could be treated by timely
intervention than in any other leading industrialized country, a study
by top health academics showed yesterday.

A decade ago, the U.S. had the fourth worst record among a group of 19
industrialized co untries in terms of deaths per 100,000 people from
diseases that are amenable to treatment. These include infections,
treatable cancers, diabetes, and heart and vascular disease, according
to Ellen Nolte and Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and
Tropical Medicine.

Over the succeeding five years, the number of such deaths in the U.S.
fell from 115 per 100,000 to 110. But other countries improved
faster, leaving the U.S. with the worst record, behind Portugal,
Ireland, and the UK, where the preventable death rate runs at 103 or
104 per 100,000.

"If the U.S. performed as well as the top three countries in the
study" -- France, with 65 deaths per 100,000, and Japan and Australia,
both with 71 per 100,000 -- "there would have been 101,000 fewer
deaths per year," the authors write in the journal *Health Affairs*.

The study looks at preventable deaths below the age of 75 and found
that while most countries had made big strides in reducing them over
the past decade, with an average fall of 17 per cent, the U.S.
experienced only a 4 per cent decline.

With the rising cost of healthcare and numbers of uninsured becoming
issues in the U.S. presidential campaign, the authors say it is
"difficult to disregard the observation" that the slow fall in the
U.S. preventable death rate "has coincided with an increase in the
uninsured population."

Cathy Schoen, senior vice-president of the Commonwealth Fund, which
supported the research, said: "It is starting to see the U.S. falling
even further behind on this crucial indicator."


By Will Dunham

January 8, 2008


WASHINGTON -- France, Japan, and Australia rated best and the United
States worst in new rankings focusing on preventable deaths due to
treatable conditions in 19 leading industrialized nations, researchers
said on Tuesday.

If the U.S. health care system performed as well as those of those top
three countries, there would be 101,000 fewer deaths in the United
States per year, according to researchers writing in the journal
*Health Affairs*.

Researchers Ellen Nolte and Martin McKee of the London School of
Hygiene and Tropical Medicine tracked deaths that they deemed could
have been prevented by access to timely and effective health care, and
ranked nations on how they did.

They called such deaths an important way to gauge the performance of a
country's health care system.

Nolte said the large number of Americans who lack any type of health
insurance -- about 47 million people in a country of about 300
million, according to U.S. government estimates -- probably was a key
factor in the poor showing of the United States compar ed to other
industrialized nations in the study.

"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?" Nolte
said in a telephone interview.

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 percent of overall deaths in men and 32
percent 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.

After the top three, Spain was fourth best, followed in order by
Italy, Canada, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, Greece, Austria,
Germany, Finland, New Zealand, Denmark, Britain, Ireland and Portugal,
with the United States last.


The researchers compared these rankings with rankings for the same 19
countries covering the period of 1997 and 1998. France and Japan also
were first and second in those rankings, while the United States was
15th, meaning it fell four places in the latest rankings.

All the countries made progress in reducing preventable deaths from
these earlier rankings, the researchers said. These types of deaths
dropped by an average of 16 percent for the nations in the study, but
the U.S. decline was only 4 percent.

The research was backed by the Commonwealth Fund, a private New
York-based health policy foundation.

"It is startling t o see the U.S. falling even farther behind on this
crucial indicator of health system performance," Commonwealth Fund
Senior Vice President Cathy Schoen said.

"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," Schoen added in
a statement.

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