by Kirsten Hartil
The United States is the seventh-richest country in the world based on gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. It spends more money on health care than any other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) country (17.6 percent of GDP, compared with the OECD median of 9.5 percent). Yet, according to an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, Americans die sooner and experience more illness than residents in comparable high-income countries.
The report U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health draws on datasets from organizations including the OECD, WHO and UNICEF and commissioned studies. It compares mortality and health outcomes for the United States with 16 peer countries, (Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.)
The report, while acknowledging limitations, including a lack of harmonization of datasets across countries, convincingly demonstrates that the United States is experiencing a significant health disadvantage. It describes the major causes of death that contribute to the years of life lost (YLL), an estimate of the average years a person would have lived if he or she had not died prematurely, and discusses behavioral, social, environmental and political factors that may contribute to this disadvantage. Continue reading