There is the essential assumption that modernity translates into better health. A corollary of this logic is that we can live our lives pretty much as we want because we can always buy a repair. You know, the car won't start, the TV is broken, the telephone is dead – no problem. Just call in an expert, spend some money and all is well.
People carry this over to their thinking about health. Our ticker falters, joints creak or an unwanted growth pops up – no problem. Buy some modern medical care. If that doesn't work, it's a problem of money, better insurance, more hospital funding, more research for the "cure," more doctors, better equipment and more technology. Right?
Don't take my word for it. Listen to the perpetrators themselves. The following is taken right from the pages of the Journal of the American Medical Association (July 26, 2000): "Of 13 countries in a recent (health) comparison, the United States (the most modern and advanced in the world) ranks an average of 12th (second from the bottom) … "
For example, the US ranks:
Last for low birth weight
Last for neonatal and infant mortality overall
11th for post neonatal mortality
· Last for years of potential life lost
11th for female life expectancy at one year, and next to last for males
· 10th for age adjusted mortality
The World Health Organization, using different indicators, ranked the US 15th among 25 industrialized nations. (If ranked against "primitive" cultures eating and living as humans were designed, the whole industrialized world would be at the bottom of the heap.)
Some might say these dismal results are because of smoking, alcohol, cholesterol, animal fats and poor penetration of medical care. Not so. Countries where these health risks are greater have better overall health according to epidemiological studies. It's also not due to lack of technology. The US is, for example, second only to Japan in the number of magnetic resonance imaging units (MRIs) and computed tomography scanners per unit of population. Neither can lack of medical personnel be blamed since the US has the greatest number of employees per hospital bed in the world.
So what is the problem? Here are some clues as revealed in the same journal cited above:
12,000 deaths per year from unnecessary surgery
· 7,000 deaths per year from medication errors in hospitals
20,000 deaths per year from other hospital errors
80,000 deaths per year from nosocomial (originating in a hospital) infections
106,000 deaths per year from adverse effects of medications
That totals 225,000 deaths per year, the third leading cause of death, behind heart disease and cancer. Another study – we're talking just hospital related deaths here – estimates 284,000 deaths per year. An analysis of outpatient care jumps these figures by 199,000 deaths for a new total of 483,000 medically related deaths per year. And this assumes doctors and hospitals eagerly report all their mistakes. Think so?
The poor health ranking in the US …