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Friday, December 14, 2012

The Global Burden of Disease study

National Public Radio has reported on a massive study, on the Global Burden of Disease, which attempted to answer the question "how many people are sick, disabled, or die, from what causes, at what ages, in each country of the world?"

Perhaps the most important finding of the study is that, as the world's population ages, more and more people will be living with serious disabilities, because people who are older are more likely to have such disabilities.

Another finding of the study is that "The U.S. ranked about 32nd in healthy life expectancy, behind both Canada and the U.K.," which is one of many indications that the US healthcare system is certainly not "the best in the world," as politicians have often claimed. (Speaker of the House Boehner said so in 2012. I think President Obama said it during his first campaign for the Presidency, but I can't find a reference to that.)

The original study was published as a group of reports in The Lancet, the most important medical journal in the United Kingdom (Investigators included scientists from the U.S., and other countries.) At least some of these original reports are freely available. Here's the table of contents, with links to the articles. The on-line version includes a remarkable interactive bar graph, which shows the effects of various kinds of problems (such as war and disaster, and cancer) on people, at certain ages, and the effects on males and females. Warning -- that bar graph takes some time to load.

The authors recognized that, for some countries, the data was far from complete, but the main conclusions are not affected by this.

To read a short list and discussion of the most important problems with healthcare in the United States, go here. (That post was written in 2009, before the adoption of "Obamacare," but the problems haven't changed much. There may be other serious problems caused by that law.)

Thanks for reading. Stay healthy!

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