U.S. Ranks Last in Study of Preventable Deaths in Industrialized Countries



Michael Moore’s documented it in his 2007 film “Sicko”.  The 2008 presidential candidates expend copious airtime talking about it.  But the truth is that we all know the U.S. health care system needs a serious overhaul. 

To add fuel to the fire a new study has ranked the US dead last among 19 industrialized nations in numbers preventable deaths due to treatable medical conditions.  Such poor performance calls American’s failure to provide adequate health care to all citizens into even sharper focus.  Those who deliver health care in America know this reality all too well: clinicians, nurses, and other providers contend with it on a daily basis. 

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine compiled multinational statistics on preventable deaths as a way to gauge each country’s ability to deliver prompt and effective care.  They looked at deaths occurring before the age of 75 from various medical conditions including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and avoidable surgical complications.

Scoring high marks in the ranking were France, Japan and Australia.  In France, according to the study published in the journal Health Affairs, 64.8 deaths per 100,000 people could have been prevented had timely and effective services been in place.  Japan and Australia secured second and third place on the ranking with about 71 preventable deaths per 100,000 people.  Next in the list were, in order, Italy, Canada, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, Greece, Austria, Germany, Finland, New Zealand, Denmark, Britain, Ireland, and Portugal.  Researchers placed the United States at the bottom of the list with 109.7 preventable deaths per 100,000 people.  The study concluded that the difference between last place and first place was the equivalent of 101,000 preventable deaths in a year. 

Researchers also noted that the US has slipped 4 notches from its previous ranking a decade ago.  In the last 10 years, all 19 countries reduced overall numbers of preventable deaths.  The other 18 nations, however, were much more successful in decreasing their rates of preventable deaths.  The US reduced the number of preventable deaths by only 4 percent in contrast to an average of 16 percent cited for the other countries. 

While we Americans continue to pay for more for healthcare than our industrialized counterparts, we are dramatically slower in effecting improvements in the provision of that care.  Researchers suggest that if the ranking had included only insured Americans the US would not have placed last in the list.  They hypothesize that the critical contributor to the US’s poor showing is the startling number of Americans without health insurance, a number of Americans estimated at 47 million people.    

Once again Americans are reminded of the pressing need to narrow the margin between the haves and the have-nots, to address the healthcare concerns of all Americans.  The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine study informs us, both as nurses and as Americans, that such disparities can and do result in catastrophic delays in care and treatment. 




Reuters (8 Jan 2008).  France best, U.S. worst in preventable death ranking.

Copyright 2008- American Society of Registered Nurses (ASRN.ORG)-All Rights Reserved


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