Wednesday, April 13, 2011

American exceptionalism

Herewith a couple of self-explanatory graphs from a recent issue of the journal Nature. Click to enlarge.

Canadians, for example, spend half as much per capita -- public and private -- on health care as Americans and live on average three years longer. We are also informed by Nature that in such measures as infant mortality, obesity, cancer survival rates, length of patient stays in hospital and the discrepancy between the care of high- versus low-income groups, the U. S. fares middling to poor.

The problem is not the science. American medical science and technology leaves little to be desired. Almost half of all Nobel Prizes in Medicine (Physiology or Medicine) have been awarded to Americans.

The author of the Nature article focused on reorganizing the National Institutes of Health to better link primary research to patient outcomes. There are, of course, other players in our healthcare fiasco. Politicians. Healthcare providers. Insurance companies. Pharmaceutical companies. Lawyers. Oh yes, and patients. In my lifetime there has been only one serious attempt (by the Clintons) to bring all the players to the table. It crashed in a storm of recriminations and suspicion. An unworthy outcome for so great a nation.