Sunday, September 14, 2008

“FRONTLINE: Sick Around the World”

Health care is one of the big issues in the US presidential election, and there's no shortage of differences in opinion when it comes to the question of how to improve the domestic health care system. It's true that the US health system is one-of-a-kind, but the issues that voters and politicians are grappling with – lowering costs, improving quality, insuring equal access – aren't unique to the US. By understanding the solutions developed by other systems, we might be able to find better ones for our own.

A few months ago PBS aired a documentary called, “FRONTLINE: Sick Around the World.” It examines the health systems in 5 developed countries: the UK, Japan, Switzerland, Germany, and Taiwan. All of these countries spend less per capita on health care, and still score better in terms of life expectancy and infant mortality.

graph graph

At one end of the spectrum is the UK's NHS, which is a classic example of the kind of “socialized medicine” that would be politically unfeasible in the US. The other 4 countries' health systems rely, in varying degrees, on private providers and insurers working in conjunction with a series of government mandates and regulations. Each offers a slightly different set of solutions to problems that every country's health care system has to deal with.

Here's the link to watch the documentary and access other related resources and materials (including the above graphs.

-Andy Pritchard


Bingyang Li said...

Hey folks!! I'm here :)

The high health care expenditure seems out of doubt...
But regarding the life expectance, and maybe infant mortality too, the result may be different after controling the demographic characteristics (e.g. ethnicity.) Intuitively, I'm just thinking the US has a greater portion of relatively high-risk population. (like African American, Hispanish in low income population etc.)


Andy said...

Hi Bingyang, Thanks for the comment!!

You're probably right. Still, it's important to acknowledge that part of what's bringing those numbers down in the US is that we aren't adequately addressing the health needs of these communities. The US population might be more diverse than it is in most European countries or Japan. I think the health system here needs to deal with that fact, but not just by controlling for it. :)