Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The Best Health Care in the World

The election campaign is not over.  It is just beginning.
CHENEY: Our nation has the best health care in the world and President Bush is making it more affordable and accessible to all Americans.

BUSH: Our health care system can provide the best care in the world and ensure more Americans have access to care.
The first quote is from Cheney's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention' the second is from the GeorgeWBush.com reelection site. 

<aside>The Bush reelection site also contains the following snippet:

 Health Care Endorsements will be announced soon. - Check back for updates...

The election was last week.  Exactly when are we to expect all those endorsements? </aside>

Back to the topic: The following is from Medscape News, reporting on the 132nd annual meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA).
Medscape Medical News 2004.
© 2004 Medscape

Nov. 10, 2004 (Washington) — After years of steady progress toward improved health in the U.S., there are signs of a downturn that may soon translate into movement in the wrong direction, according to a new report released here at the 132nd annual meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA).

The report, "America's Health State: State Health Rankings," uncovers three key troubling trends: the first rise in infant mortality rates in four decades, the rapidly increasing prevalence of obesity in all age groups, and the number of uninsured individuals, which increased in 38 states between 2003 and 2004.

Most disturbing perhaps is the big-picture finding that the health improvements of the 1990s, during which overall health improved at an annual rate of 1.5% for a total gain of 17.5%, is headed for reversal. Since the start of the millennium, health improvement has been a negligible 0.2%, a finding that should set off alarms, APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD, told Medscape.

"Despite the significant improvement in our nation's health over the last 15 years..., the trends we're seeing now — especially this dramatic slowdown in the rate of improvement — are not encouraging," Dr. Benjamin said.

In particular, he cited the increase in infant mortality from 6.9 to 7.0 births per 1,000, a statistic that puts the U.S. 28th internationally in infant mortality, as well as the finding that 14 states have preterm birth rates that exceed 13%. That alarming statistic is likely associated with the fact that 12.6 million American women of child-bearing age are uninsured.

"Clearly, there is a connection there that cannot be ignored, and this is something we must address as a nation," Dr. Benjamin said. "Prematurity has many factors, from poverty to inadequate prenatal care and infections, but for the clinicians who treat these women, this [increasing prevalence of preterm births] is clear evidence of a healthcare system in crisis," he said.

To put that infant mortality statistic into perspective, there are about 1,100 births each day in the USA.  This means that increasing the infant mortality rate from 6.9 to 7/1000 results in one extra infant death about every 10 days.  If infant viability is directly proportional to moral values, then the USA has the 28th best moral values in the world.