Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Why the British are Healthier

A recent study has shown that the British are much healthier than we Americans. Across the board and across socio-economic lines, the Brits suffer from fewer diseases and live longer—despite smoking as much as we do, drinking more than we do and paying half of what we pay per-person for healthcare.

Even their fat people are healthier, so it’s not just our weight problem. And it’s not our larger numbers of racial minorities who generally have worse health—the study only used white people.

The English are simply healthier. And this bears repeating: they pay half of what we pay per-person for healthcare.

We have better doctors. We have better technology. But we pay more for worse health.

The recent study could not isolate any specific cause for our lower level of health but I have a layman’s theory: it’s about access. Our much more expensive system is much harder to access. If you don’t have health insurance, you’re probably not going to see the doctor until there is an emergency. And emergencies, in turn, add a lot more cost to the system.

The British, on the other hand, have free access to primary care. Health issues get caught sooner and the British people are healthier for it. Too simple? Probably. But it makes sense. Better access to healthcare=better health.

We can, of course, keep trying to improve our healthcare system by adding new layers of duct tape (and red tape). Or we can step back and recognize that the system we have built is not merely broken—it will never work. Never. What we need is free or at least incredibly affordable primary care for all citizens. That doesn’t mean we need to socialize medicine, but we need to subsidize primary care.

Until we make going to the doctor an affordable choice, too many Americans will simply wait until a health problem becomes a crisis.

I’m not recommending a specific method of providing subsidies—that is a post for another day. And I’m not talking about how we reform the critical care areas of the system. I’m just advocating making primary care an easily affordable option for all those who want it. I’m willing to bet we’d save trillions on healthcare if we caught more health problems earlier. It’s an idea whose time has come.

2 Comments:

Anonymous middleman said...

Two points come to mind (based entirely on my annecdotal investigation while in England last year).

(1) Most of England's population lives in London or other large population centers. People in metro areas tend to use mass transit. That means they walk more. Anyone who has been through the London Tube system can tell you, that adds a great deal of exercise to one's day.

(2) Their fast food includes fewer fried options. I know there are fish and chips, but there are a lot a sandwich shops throughout the city. Less grease in one's arteries is a very good thing.

I am not sure that England's better health is directly related to health care.

They probably also have less stress. US Capitalism is much more stressful than European models. There is much more vacation time and the Euros are much more laid back. Stress is a huge factor in overall health.

As for living longer, I think they are pickled. :-)

2:40 PM  
Blogger ADDeRabbi said...

duh.
how many americans have no medical insurance?
how does having better doctors help those americans?

3:38 PM  

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