GLOBAL HEALTH: U.S. Health Care System Lags Behind
Despite spending more on health care per person than any other country in the world, the United States still lags behind other nations in its overall health care system, the Washington Post reports. According to a new report by the World Health Organization, the United States ranks 15th, based on an overall health index. The index is based on five criteria: disability-adjusted life expectancy; infant and child mortality; a health system's responsiveness (reflecting the interaction between providers and patients); how well subgroups of a population are treated in terms of responsiveness; and the fairness of health care financing (Brown, 6/21). The United States' ranking drops to 37th based on inefficiencies in delivering health services and distributing costs, which can affect other categories. For example, Native American children have an adjusted life expectancy of 50 years, compared to some Asian minorities with a life expectancy of more than 90 of years healthy life (Hilts, New York Times, 6/21). In world life expectancy, the United States ranks 24th and 32nd in "degree of variation among the population in life expectancy." According to Julio Frenk, one of the chief authors of the study, the United States could improve its ranking by 16 percentage points if discrepancies were eliminated. He said, "It is clear that there is room for improvement, even without spending anything more" (Washington Post, 6/21). Princeton University health economist Uwe Reinhardt added that a poor system of low-cost preventive care also hurts the United States' health system (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/21). The countries with the best overall health systems, include: Japan, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg, France and Canada (Washington Post, 6/21). The worst-faring countries were in sub-Saharan Africa, where the AIDS pandemic has lowered the life expectancy rates for many Africans to 40 years or less (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.