In the New York Times, another Headline as a question about a public health issue, which really seems to have caught on, no? So much so that this is only a question by intonation and punctuation, not syntactic structure? But Headlines can only be so long, right?
Many Americans are under the delusion that we have “the best health care system in the world,” as President Bush sees it, or provide the “best medical care in the world,” as Rudolph Giuliani declared last week. That may be true at many top medical centers. But the disturbing truth is that this country lags well behind other advanced nations in delivering timely and effective care.
This isn’t a recent conclusion though:
Seven years ago, the World Health Organization made the first major effort to rank the health systems of 191 nations. France and Italy took the top two spots; the United States was a dismal 37th. More recently, the highly regarded Commonwealth Fund has pioneered in comparing the United States with other advanced nations through surveys of patients and doctors and analysis of other data. Its latest report, issued in May, ranked the United States last or next-to-last compared with five other nations — Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom — on most measures of performance, including quality of care and access to it. Other comparative studies also put the United States in a relatively bad light.
Another source is Amartya Sen’s Development as Freedom in which he documents how several areas in the Third World (the Indian state of Kerala, for example) have consistently far better public health outcomes than parts of the USA.
So, armed with information about how the world’s richest country has health care outcomes that are slipping into nearly third world territory, my question is:
Why do so many Americans think we rank number one in healthcare? I think the NYT should run that story. Is it because there’s a lot of misinformation out there? For example, here are the bushies, suppressing public health information:
WASHINGTON, July 10 — Former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona told a Congressional panel Tuesday that top Bush administration officials repeatedly tried to weaken or suppress important public health reports because of political considerations….
Dr. Carmona said drafts of surgeon general reports on global health and prison health were still being debated by the administration. The global health report was never approved, Dr. Carmona said, because he refused to sprinkle the report with glowing references to the efforts of the Bush administration.
I think that’s only part of the story. There is not a substantial recent record of the media actually challenging assertions by Bush that, for example, we have “the best health care system in the world.” So the New York Times might find out that it is part of the problem, right?
There is much hand wringing in the media now about why there wasn’t more questioning by the media on the Iraq war, but exactly the same mistake is being made again: the media is giving the Bush administration a ‘free pass’ on an issue of great public concern. That has got to stop.