Where would you rather be ill?

Why are the countries which achieve a high ranking in the World Health Organisation's (WHO) scale of performance in healthcare mainly found in Europe?
Healthcare services differ substantially around the globe and looking at the WHO reviews present quite a few surprises. For instance, Italy, ranked second best, has one of the most comprehensive and efficient healthcare systems on the planet. Russia, on the other hand, falls short of the performance results achieved in Pakistan, Albania and Bangladesh which have a far less developed economies.

The quality of healthcare, does not only depend on a country's wealth but on different factors and importantly the socio-political situation. The United States is also an under-performer when it comes to the WHO assessment. The reason for this is that, while services in the States are world class, there is no universal healthcare and so these services are only available to a minority of the people. Those people tend to be rich and they pay a high premium for their well-being. When the WHO looks into the cost of healthcare per patient compared to doctors pay levels, the US is a clear outlier because doctors and healthcare facilities are expensive and the number of beneficiaries is restricted. The opposite can be said for Italy where doctors are less well paid and available to serve the entire population.
France comes out top of the WHO list and this is associated with high government investment in patient care and in preventative medicine. Cubans also benefit from excellent and accessible health services and the costs are significantly reduced thanks to investment in preventative medicine. Apart from advertising campaigns on the importance of exercise, diet and hygiene, Cubans are subject to surprise home inspections by State GPs who are not in short supply.
The European States are generally considered highly by the WHO. This is in part because every citizen is guaranteed access to a basic level of health service. There are however surprises to note when looking and the ranking within Europe. Greece, Spain, Portugal and Malta perform better than all the Benelux States, Germany, Denmark, the UK and Ireland. The reason for this is probably linked to lifestyle choices and in particular to outdoor activities, diet and drinking. Therefore, if we can conclude that it is better to be ill in Europe, we should add that it is better not to be ill at all and to pay attention to living healthily. Prevention is always better than a cure.

by Marianna Romano

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