Monday Health Blog Roundup
by The Opportunity Agenda, Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 01:57:46 PM EDT
* 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.