The first-ever global study on health outcomes and preventable deaths was published recently by Dr. Christopher Murray, Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle.
It found that there are great inequities in access to health care and the quality of health care provided that are leading to a high number of deaths from preventable causes. Not surprisingly, the US performed poorly overall, coming in 35th in the world.
Overall, the US scored a low B (81%) with 5 D’s and 9 F’s out of 31 conditions examined. The US performed particularly poorly in areas of maternal and newborn disorders, chronic diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney disease and certain cancers. The US had a very poor score on adverse reactions to medical treatment.
One critical way that the United States differs from countries that had better outcomes is that the US lacks a universal healthcare system. Tens of millions of people in the United States either have no health insurance or they have health insurance but still can’t afford the health care they need due to out of pocket costs and/or restricted provider networks.
Another study from 2008 compared the US to 18 nations that have high functioning healthcare systems and found that the US had the highest number of preventable deaths. If the US functioned as well as the top systems, more than 100,000 deaths would be prevented each year. Again, the countries that performed well have universal healthcare systems.
The United States spends twice as much as most other industrialized nations on health care. Those nations have universal healthcare systems with better health outcomes. This means that the United States is paying for a universal healthcare system, but isn’t getting it.