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New Study Ranks U.S. Healthcare System Worst Among Industrialized Nations

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A new study from researchers writing in the journal Health Affairs rates France, Japan, and Australia as having the best healthcare with regard to preventable deaths due to treatable conditions and the United States last among 19 industrialized nations.

According to researchers Ellen Nolte and Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, if the United States were able to perform on par with the three leading nations surveyed in the study, a full 101,000 lives could be saved annually in the United States. Both Nolte and McKee believe that measuring the potential of saved lives is an important barometer in

determining how successful and effective a nation's healthcare system is to the public it serves.

They went on to cite the large number (47 million) of uninsured Americans who live without any type of health insurance as one of the dominant factors in why the American healthcare system ranked dead last in the survey.

Though many believe that the quality of healthcare for those who are covered in the United States is the finest available anywhere in the world, this new perspective puts the industry in a poor light, spotlighting the widespread shortages of a system based primarily on profit.

"I wouldn't say it (the last-place ranking) is a condemnation, because I think healthcare in the U.S. is pretty good if you have access. But if you don't, I think that's the main problem, isn't it?" Nolte added.

The main criteria used to determine the rankings were the deaths from 2002 to 2003 of individuals before age 75 from largely treatable medical ailments, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, bacterial infections, complications from surgery, and a number of different cancers.

According to the final data, these deaths accounted for 32% of the deaths of women and 23% of the deaths of men, with France recording the lowest number of preventable fatalities at 64.8 deaths per 100,000 people. Japan came in at 71.2 and Australia at 71.3 deaths per 100,000 of their citizens. The United States, ranked last on the list, had an average of 109.7 preventable deaths per 100,000 Americans.

Previous studies derived from data from 1997 to 1998 established that France and Japan were first and second in the world with the United States taking the 15th spot. The researchers are careful to note that all of the countries listed did in fact make progress in decreasing their numbers of preventable deaths from the last study, citing an average drop of 16%. The United States, however, registered only a 4% reduction in preventable deaths.

The full list is ranked from first to last as follows: France, Japan, Australia, Spain, Italy, Canada, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, Greece, Austria, Germany, Finland, New Zealand, Denmark, Britain, Ireland, Portugal, and the United States.

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