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Health Care: America vs. Europe

John on June 8, 2009 at 8:48 am

Der Spiegel has been running a series of articles on transatlantic comparisons between the US and Europe. All three articles were written by UCLA history professor Peter Baldwin, whose new book The Narcissism of Minor Differences: How America and Europe are Alike will be published in September.

In part two of the series, Dr. Baldwin has this to say about US health care:

[D]espite the too-large fraction of those who are not insured, if you judge by disease survival rates, Americans are relatively healthy and well-serviced by their health care system. For diabetes, heart and circulatory disease and strokes, the incidence rates and the number of years lost to sickness are firmly in the middle of the European spectrum.

For many cancers, incidence rates are high in the US. This could, of course, indicate noxious lifestyles, but it equally may suggest more vigilant diagnosis. Whatever the reason, cancer mortality rates are surprisingly low. The US has a higher incidence than any western European nation of breast cancer, for example, but the percentage of women who actually die of the disease is at the lower end of the European scale. And for the four major cancer killers (colorectal, lung, breast and prostate cancer), all European nations have worse survival rates than the US.

Here’s the related graph from the story (click for full size):


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