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Of course the NHS outperforms the US system

Obama should look at the stats that count before he shies away from universal healthcare

By Richard Hoey

Obama should look at the stats that count before he shies away from universal healthcare


President Barack Obama is, apparently, weakening in his resolve to introduce some form of universal healthcare in the US, following that rather depressing onslaught from the Republicans on British-style 'socialized medicine'.

The NHS has always been a bit of a political football, but at least over here it tends to get kicked around, rather than at.

And of course, some of the stats quoted to hammer our mostly beloved health service have been on the wrong side of rubbish.

Like the prostate cancer five-year survival stats – 92% over there, 51% over here apparently… provided you're happy to accept that everyone diagnosed through PSA screening counts as a prostate cancer case.

And you're happy to ignore the fact that many poor black men - a group at high risk of prostate cancer - are apparently excluded from the US stats, since the survival data is only for those who actually undergo treatment.

The figures that matter tell a different story.

I was reading an account of a lecture by the enormously well-respected health inequalities expert Sir Michael Marmot the other day, and I stumbled upon some stats which throw the comparison into starker, and rather more instructive relief.

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It's a pretty simple table – life expectancy in the first column, GDP in the second (and not health spending, which is vastly higher in the US than in most other industrialised nations).

Pretty obviously, the US health system – and that includes public health of course – is hugely under-performing given the wealth of the nation.

Might be worth mentioning next time the NHS comes in for a hammering. And Barack Obama might want to keep it in mind as well.

By Richard Hoey, Pulse editor Life expectancy

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