Study Challenges Widely Cited Measures Used to Compare Health Care Systems


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: David Hogberg
(202) 543-4110 or [email protected]
For Release: July 25, 2006



Washington, D.C.
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The two most commonly cited measures of a health care system are misleading, concludes a new policy analysis paper from the National Center for Public Policy Research. 

"When comparing health care systems across the world, pundits and the media often use the statistics of life expectancy and infant mortality.  Neither of those measures tells us much about the efficacy of a health care system," said David Hogberg, senior policy analyst at the National Center, and author of the study.

The study, "Don't Fall Prey to Propaganda: Life Expectancy and Infant Mortality are Unreliable Measures for Comparing the U.S. Health Care System to Others," examines the shortcomings of life expectancy and infant mortality as measures of a health system.  Life expectancy reveals little about a health care system because it does not assume interaction with a health care system nor is there much that a health care system can do to affect life expectancy.  Rather, life expectancy is determined by factors such as genetics, diet, and lifestyle.  Infant mortality is a poor measure because it is measured inconsistently across different nations.

"One reason these measures are used so often is that they serve the agenda of those who wish to impose some form of socialized medicine on the United States," said Hogberg.  The U.S. usually ranks near the bottom on those measures when compared to the rest of the industrialized world.  "Advocates of socialized medicine use this as proof that market-based medicine is inferior and that we'd be better off with a government-run system," he added.  "Few conclusions could be more misleading."

The National Policy Analysis paper "Don't Fall Prey to Propaganda: Life Expectancy and Infant Mortality are Unreliable Measures for Comparing the U.S. Health Care System to Others," by David Hogberg, Ph.D., is available online at www.nationalcenter.org/NPA547ComparativeHealth.html.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a conservative, free-market think-tank established in 1982 and located on Capitol Hill.

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