Monday Health Blog Roundup

*    The New York Times is reporting that a recent study of the American health care system, conducted by the Commonwealth Fund, has found that while the U.S. has the most expensive health system in the world, the quality it delivers is grossly inferior to other industrialized nations' health care.  The report highlighted the fact that many of the improvements made in the U.S. health care system over the years, such as decreasing the number of preventable deaths, dwarfed in comparison to the greater achievements other countries made:

Other countries worked hard to improve, according to the Commonwealth Fund researchers. Britain, for example, focused on steps like improving the performance of individual hospitals that had been the least successful in treating heart disease. The success is related to "really making a government priority to get top-quality care," [Karen] Davis, [president of the Commonwealth Fund] said.

The report also emphasized the inefficiencies in the U.S. health care system and the role they play in diminishing quality:
The administrative costs of the medical insurance system consume much more of the current health care dollar, about 7.5 percent, than in other countries...
Bringing those administrative costs down to the level of 5 percent or so as in Germany and Switzerland, where private insurers play a significant role, would save an estimated $50 billion a year in the United States, Ms. Davis said.

*    An article in Friday's Washington Post discusses the potential that community health providers have to save states millions of dollars in health care costs by shifting some of their health programs' emphasis to preventing illness.  A recent Trust for America's Health report found that nonprofit community programs could have an enormous role in developing health initiatives such as anti-smoking laws, healthy eating and physical activity programs.  However, despite the fact that many of these programs target at risk groups in impoverished areas, they face a serious lack of funding:
The researchers found that many such programs lack funding, a chronic problem for many preventive health initiatives.

"People think preventive health care pays off 20 or 30 years from now, but this shows you get the money back almost immediately, and then the savings grow bigger and bigger," [Senator Tom] Harkin [D-Iowa] said.


To learn more about the importance of community health programs, please see the previous posting on The State of Opportunity titled Local Progress in Tackling Health Disparities.

*    An opinion piece in yesterday's Chicago Tribune calls attention to the health disparities among women with HIV.  Black women have higher rates of HIV, despite the fact that studies have shown that they do not engage in "risky sex" any more than white women do:

A black woman in a poor neighborhood, for example, who engages in the lowest levels of risky behavior is dramatically more likely to acquire a sexually transmitted disease than higher-risk women in communities with low rates of infection, according to public health experts...
In short, who you are, and where you live and, consequently, the sexual partners you choose, matters when it comes to HIV prevention.

Tags: community, Health care, health equity, race (all tags)

Comments

2 Comments

Re: Monday Health Blog Roundup

The report from the Commonwealth Fund is a must-read. Here are some choice excerpts with emphasis added:

Even more troubling, the U.S. health system is on the wrong track. Overall, performance has not improved since the first National Scorecard was issued in 2006. Of greatest concern, access to health care has significantly declined. As of 2007, more than 75 million adults--42 percent of all adults ages 19 to 64--were either uninsured during the year or underinsured, up from 35 percent in 2003. At the same time, the U.S. failed to keep pace with gains in health outcomes achieved by the leading countries. The U.S. now ranks last out of 19 countries on a measure of mortality amenable to medical care, falling from 15th as other countries raised the bar on performance. Up to 101,000 fewer people would die prematurely if the U.S. could achieve leading, benchmark country rates

That's over 100,000 real lives lost because of lack of health care. No disrespect to our military, but the loss of American lives in Iraq pales in comparison to this preventable loss of lives back at home.

The U.S. spends twice per capita what other major industrialized countries spend on health care, and costs continue to rise faster than income. We are headed toward $1 of every $5 of national income going toward health care. We should expect a better return on this investment.

Performance on measures of health system efficiency remains especially low, with the U.S. scoring 53 out of 100 on measures gauging inappropriate, wasteful, or fragmented care; avoidable hospitalizations; variation in quality and costs; administrative costs; and use of information technology. Lowering insurance administrative costs alone could save up to $100 billion a year at the lowest country rates.

There is no disputing that the U.S. needs universal health care now. It will help our economy and save lives. We're paying twice what other countries pay and getting way worse results. $100 billion a year is being lost to administrative costs. With 42% of the non-Medicare people uninsured or underinsured, that means the 58% of us that are insured are covering the costs for everyone. Our current system is not fair to anyone, ends up costing too much and has terrible results. The time has come for universal health care.

by LakersFan 2008-07-21 03:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Monday Health Blog Roundup

AIDS advocates say it's no accident that people facing severe poverty, discrimination and stigma also have the highest rates of HIV: Black gay men; black and Latina women; intravenous drug users; communities with high imprisonment rates; gay men and other men who have sex with men; transgender women; undocumented immigrants; and people in the Deep South.

by Jeter 2008-07-21 10:19PM | 0 recs

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