Stossel Hammers WHO

John Stossel is the latest to point out the obvious flaws in the over-reported WHO ranking of national health care systems:

There’s less to these studies than meets the eye. They measure something other than quality of medical care …

Like what?

The WHO judged a country’s quality of health on life expectancy. But that’s a lousy measure of a health-care system. Many things that cause premature death have nothing do with medical care.

And then there’s the WHO’s hopelessly subjective “fairness? criterion:

Another reason the U.S. didn’t score high in the WHO rankings is that we are less socialistic than other nations … The WHO judged countries not on the absolute quality of health care, but on how “fairly” health care of any quality is “distributed.”

Unfortunately, the “news? media reported the WHO study as if it was handed to the NYT on Mount Sinai. So, much of the public actually takes this nonsense seriously.

Comments 8

  1. Marc Brown wrote:

    You obviously have not a clue what the WHO report is all about – a health system is defined thus: “This report defines a health system to include all the activities whose primary purpose is to promote, restore or maintain health.”

    That means poverty, inequalities and public health too (which includes accidents etc). This is why the US fares so badly.

    Posted 22 Aug 2007 at 10:11 am
  2. Catron wrote:

    This report defines a health system to include all the activities whose primary purpose is to promote, restore or maintain health.

    Well, that’s precisely the problem, isn’t it? With such a flexible definition, they can produce any result they like.

    Posted 22 Aug 2007 at 12:47 pm
  3. Marc Brown wrote:

    ‘Well, that’s precisely the problem, isn’t it? With such a flexible definition, they can produce any result they like.’

    Are you suggesting the WHO is deliberately selecting criteria to make the US look bad?

    It’s hard to know where to go now – I suppose you think the huge relative poverty gap in the US (and the UK for that matter) either is a figment of a cabal of left-wing statisticians, or has no effect on health outcomes.

    Posted 22 Aug 2007 at 2:18 pm
  4. Catron wrote:

    The WHO has definitely stacked the deck to favor countries with socialistic governments.

    As to the poverty gap, it’s meaningless. It’s only being touted because all of the REAL economic indicators (unemployment, inflation, stock market, etc.) are in better shape than they’ve been in for decades.

    Posted 22 Aug 2007 at 3:32 pm
  5. Marc Brown wrote:

    ‘The WHO has definitely stacked the deck to favor countries with socialistic governments.’

    And your sources for this are?

    ‘As to the poverty gap, it’s meaningless.’

    Higher relative poverty correlates with higher inequality outcomes, especially in health. There is plenty of research on this, but I expect you’re not interested.

    Posted 22 Aug 2007 at 4:23 pm
  6. Catron wrote:

    Your sources for this are?

    They’re all over the place. Some can be found here, here, and here. If you want more, you’re welcome to do your own research.

    Higher relative poverty correlates with higher inequality outcomes …

    This is a meaningless tautology.

    Posted 22 Aug 2007 at 9:01 pm
  7. Marius wrote:

    why life expectancy is not a measure of a good health system? ideally, what is that anybody expects from his health care providers? that it will help him stay healthy and live longer. if we extrapolate this for a nation then the health care system should help make that nation live longer and healthier lives.

    of course we live in a far from perfect world, and some things are less influenced by the people involved in delivery of health care services. but does denying of the life expectancy (and the infant mortality) importance when judging the outcomes of such a system, excuse the system failure to convince more Americans to eat healthier, exercise more, smoke less, get the appropriate vaccinations and screening for chronic diseases in time?

    WHO ratings are fairly accurate and blaming them for not grading the US better seems so un-American ( because it implies more of a sore loser atitude).

    I’m not a supporter of ( exclusivelly) the socialized medicine but there are some advantages to it. in principle the capitalistic model alone does not apply very well in health care.

    I can come to countles example when bending to following just the profit does not lead to better care. only 2 examples: excessive testing because the physician can not afford to spend more time with the patient ( or the way he is compensated does not encourage the outcome but the number of billable items). or the insurance companies charging premiums that are unafordable to a 50 year old diabetic who lost his job?

    a blanket of social security (including health care security) is needed in any society. if the Americans agreed that people over 65 deserve universal health care coverage ( that’s what the Medicare scheme means)why not extend that to everybody? on top of a such a coverage anyone can add a supplemental insurance. the same is true for social security benefits to whom anyone adds their saving and investing.

    and it is an illusion that the honest hard working stiff does not pay the care for the poor and uninsured. because these unfortunate (and indeed maybe unwise) people go to the ER’s with diseases in advanced stage and get care for free. but the ER’s and the hospitals will then charge the honest working insured person more than it should to cover those losses. or it goes bankrupt and closes and moves the burden to the next hospital and ER.

    Posted 23 Aug 2007 at 7:51 pm
  8. Marius wrote:

    and to argue with Stossel argument ( he asks in his opinion when was the last time anyone has heard of Americans going abroad for care): there are over 200,000 Americans who travel annually to clinics in India, Mexico or Thailand to get medical care – knee and hip replacements, dental care and other procedures.

    just google “medical tourism” and one can find plenty about this.

    Posted 23 Aug 2007 at 8:31 pm

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