For all those people obsessing about the U.S. finishing fourth in the 2016 Olympics sweepstakes, here's a number that ought to be a little more troubling.
We rank last among 19 comparable industrial countries in preventable deaths.
The data which has been around a few weeks was reported again this morning in the Washington Post.
Here's the ugly breakdown:
HOW THE US STACKS UP ON PREVENTABLE DEATHS
- France -- 65
- Japan -- 71
- Australia -- 71
- Spain -- 74
- Italy -- 74
- Canada -- 77
- Norway -- 80
- Netherlands -- 82
- Sweden -- 82
- Greece --84
- Austria -- 84
- Germany -- 90
- Finland -- 93
- New Zealand -- 96
- Denmark -- 101
- UK -- 103
- Ireland --103
- Portugal --104
- US -- 110
The U.S. ranks at the bottom of 19 industrialized nations in the number of preventable deaths by conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy, stroke, influenza, ulcers, pneumonia, infant mortality and appendicitis. The number at the right represents the number of preventable deaths per 100,000 population in each country in 2002-2003.
It would be hard to put a very happy face on this data, or similar reports over the past decade.
Among the best known is the World Health Organization standings released earlier this decade that placed the U.S. 37th in overall rankings.
But did you also know that we stand a mere 54th in healthcare "fairness" according to the WHO, barely edging out the impoverished African nations of Chad and Rwanda, but still behind Bangladesh?
Those numbers, of course, infuriate rightwing policy wonks such as Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute who raged in testimony to the Senate Aging Committee September 30 that the 54th ranking should be thrown out for daring to take into consideration such factors as out-of-pocket costs (perhaps he is unaware of the more than half of Americans skipping needed medical care because of those costs).
Most comparisons don't place us astride Rwanda or Bangladesh, but nations that approximate our wealth and industrial status. You can even create your own tables on the World Health Organization website.
On the WHO site, for example, you might compare the U.S. to those same other 18 countries that beat us in preventable deaths in a broad array of stats. On some the U.S. is average or better. On others, not so good. On both life expectancy and infant mortality, the U.S. comes in last among the 19.
Contrary to the insistence of Sen. John Ensign that it can all be blamed on car and gun deaths (as if we should get bonus points for that), there are plenty of disturbing health numbers in the data. According to the WHO, for example, among those same 19 countries, the U.S. ranked 17th in years of life lost to communicable diseases, something to think about with the escalating H1N1 pandemic.
Opponents of health reform typically like to focus on Canada. Perhaps they missed recent findings by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which measures 30 industrial countries. Fox may have ignored the report, but it was picked up by Bloomberg news in mid-September.