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The Truth About Healthcare Around the World

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According to Reuters, “The United States spends more on healthcare than any country in the world but has higher rates of infant mortality and diabetes than many other developed countries.”

According to Reuters, “The United States spends more on healthcare than any country in the world but has higher rates of infant mortality and diabetes than many other developed countries.”

This is the common conversation today but as healthcare professionals we know what goes into getting and staying healthy. So, lets talk the truth about healthcare around the world, costs and comparisons.

Today’s Healthcare at a Glance

A report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, compared healthcare costs with 34 of its member countries. What we discovered is that several commonalities exist ::

Health at a Glance 2011 reports that obesity rates have doubled [even tripled in many countries] since 1980. In half of the OECD countries, 50% of the population is  overweight, if not obese!

Frontline recently interviewed Matthias Rumpf from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD] on why healthcare costs in the United States so much higher than any other OECD country.

“The United States uses a lot of expensive diagnostic tests [MRI and CT scans] and performs a lot of interventions where it is not always clear whether the procedure is necessary or not, such as in knee replacements.”

To qualify the use of these resources Rumpf stated that the United States does not have as many doctors relative to its population, not as many hospital beds and patients do not spend as long in hospital when they are admitted.

How American healthcare compares with other nations

Rumpf answered that the United States has the highest proportion of adults, 90% who reporting that they are in good health. This is far above the OECD average of 69%. [ Tweet this fact! ]

The cost factor

Rumpf states that contrary to popular belief, no country has brought down the cost of healthcare! He said healthcare costs are rising everywhere and identified the real issue as whether other countries are providing good quality care at lower costs than the United States.

Its not all bad news when we study the American healthcare system. The quality of cancer care in the United States stands out with excellent results. Screening rates for breast and cervical cancer are excellent, allowing problems to be diagnosed early on. The chances of living five years after being diagnosed with breast, or cervical cancer, are better in the United States than almost anywhere else in the world.

Lessons from high-performing healthcare systems

Frontline produced a documentary on the subject, “Sick Around the World” in 2008 which covers the topics we discuss in this article.

Editorial note from Nicola ::

As a product of socialized medicine I am very happy to receive my healthcare in America. Although healthcare was not on my mind when I emigrated from Ireland ten years ago, today I see the benefit and reward of living and working in a country that invests in science, translational research to cure tomorrows illnesses. I am also very fortunate to be married to a man who works on disease specific research every day. So, I want to take the opportunity to thank the silent  contributors who make tomorrow possible for the rest of us.


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