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National Information Center on Health Services Research and Health Care Technology (NICHSR)

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Health Economics Information Resources: A Self-Study Course

Module 2 - Sources and Characteristics of Information Relating to Health Care Financing in the US  

OECD Health Data 2001

When you compare the U.S. health care system to that of other industrialized nations, you will see startling results not only in expenditures but also in outcomes. Data from OECD Health Data 2001 gives us comparative health status information on its 30 member countries.

Characteristic
US
OECD
Health Expenditure per capita, 1998, $US PPP
$4,165
$1700
Life expectancy at birth
Male: 73.9 Female: 79.4
Male: 73.7 Female: 79.8
Infant mortality
7.2 per 1,000 live births
6.7 per 1,000 live births


These data show that, in spite of ranking at the top of the list for health expenditures, the U.S. falls into the mid-ranges for some broad measures, such as life expectancy and infant mortality.

World Health Organization Report, 2000

Member StateHealth expenditure per capita in International dollars (Ranking)Overall health system performance

Chile

44

33

Costa Rica

50

36

Cyprus

39

24

Oman

62

8

United States of America

1

37

Source: Annex Tables 5-10
World Health Report 2000, WHO

What does this table tell you?

See if you can select the correct answer before reading on

This table tells me that:

A. Oman spends more on health care than the United States per capita
B. The US spends more on health care per capita but ranks very low with respect to overall health system performance
C. Costa Rica has a worse overall health system performance than Chile
D. The World Health Organization doesn't keep very good records of health expenditures and overall health system performance

The correct answer is B. The U.S. spends more on health care per capita - it is number 1 in spending - but ranks very low (37th) with respect to overall health system performance.

Current Population Reports

A Current Population Reports Special Study says it in a nutshell:

…the United States outspends the world on medical care, but three-fourths of developed countries have better health measures”.

Source of Quotation: Population Profile of the United States 1999, Current Population Reports Special Study, March 2000.

It is important to remember that medical care is just one factor that determines health. Some of the others, such as heredity, lifestyle, and preferences - diet, exercise, use of tobacco and alcohol, to name a few - must also be taken into account.

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