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US Has Highest Rate Of Preventable Deaths

Armen Hareyan's picture

Preventable Deaths

The U.S. has the highest rate of preventable deaths among 19industrialized nations, and although the U.S. rate has declined overthe past five years, it is doing so at a slower rate than othercountries, according to a LondonSchool of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine analysis published onThursday in the journal Health Affairs, BloombergNews reports.

The study examined preventable deathsin people younger than age 75 caused by 30 conditions that could havebeen treated with medical or surgical interventions, includingtuberculosis, thyroid disease, appendicitis, tetanus infections,abdominal hernia, colon cancer, measles and epilepsy. The analysisalso included deaths in people younger than age 50 caused byleukemia, cervical cancer and diabetes. The report focused on peoplewhose lives would have been extended with widely available medicaltreatment.

According to the study, if the rate of preventabledeaths in the U.S. improved to the average of the top three countries-- France, Japan and Australia -- 101,000 fewer U.S. residents woulddie annually.

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In 1997-1998, the U.S. rate of preventabledeaths was 15th of the 19 countries, with 115 preventable deaths per100,000 people, compared with 110 deaths per 100,000 people fiveyears later, a 4.4% improvement. The largest improvements were seenin Ireland, the U.K. and Austria, all of which have reduced smoking,improved diets and increased access to care. Ireland also hasimproved access to some heart disease treatments, such as bypasssurgery and anti-clotting drugs, study co-author Ellen Nolte said.

The other countries included in the study were Canada,Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, NewZealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. Of the countriesexamined, the U.S. is the only one without universal health carecoverage.


Nolte said, "There has been an increase in the past couple ofyears in the number of people in the U.S. who don't have access toinsurance coverage," adding, "People who don't haveinsurance tend to forgo, postpone or delay health care when they needit. It also leads to presentation at a later stage when less can bedone."

Catherine Hoffman of the KaiserFamily Foundation said, "Even if the death rate isoverestimated in this study by 50%, our country is still highrelative to the amount we spend on health care." She added,"Some other countries are homogeneous in ethnic composition andincome because they are more socialized in their tax structure andtheir middle class is bigger than our middle class. The U.S. is adiverse animal, and that plays out in many social dimensions"(Goldstein, Bloomberg News, 1/8).

Reprinted with permission fromkaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserDaily Health Policy Report, search the archives, andsign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report ispublished for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.