Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Are Americans Less Healthy Than Brits?

That's what the NYT reports (hat tip New Economist), naturally implying that state-run healthcare is better than individual choice. Sadly for the lefties, the study on which this is based is flaky.
Americans 55 and over are much sicker than their British counterparts even though the United States spends more than twice as much per person on health care as Britain, researchers said Tuesday.

Writing in The Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers from University College, London, also seemed to confirm stereotypes tossed across the Atlantic, concluding that Americans are prone to obesity while Britons drink too much.

The conclusions followed an inquiry that used data from American and British health surveys to compare the relative health of people ages 55 to 64 and how their health varies as a result of social and economic status.

The researchers wrote that "health insurance cannot be the central reason for the better health outcomes in England because the top socioeconomic-status tier of the U.S. population have close to universal access but their health outcomes are often worse than those of their English counterparts."
There are two big problems with this study

Self Reporting

In my experience, Brits are much less aware of their state of health than Americans (or Germans, for that matter). I don't know one Brit male who knows his blood pressure or cholesterol & PSA levels. Plus Brits are much more stoical - as NL European Vacation authoritatively showed, they brush aside their injuries when you run them over in your rental car.

So asking Brits what's wrong with them produces the standard "mustn't grumble" response, even if they're at death's door. That's also a survival strategy - if you admit sickness in the UK and lack private health insurance, you could end up in an NHS facility. Which is often a death sentence.

For the study to be of any value, all of the sample needed to be given a complete exam by a neutral third party - for example the IAEA (kidding). That didn't happen, so this study simply confirms different Brit/US levels of health awareness and denial.

Excellent Brit Private Health Provision

All Brits who can afford it have private health insurance that gives them access to world class medical treatment. I get (even) better treatment in London than I did in anywhere the US, including the university hospitals at Stanford, Charlottesville & the Twin Cities. Admittedly, my problems were caused for running into things rather than actually being ill - but that's quite normal -accidents are a major cause of health problems.

Just about the only thing in this report that rings true is the finding that Brits drink too much (i.e. they drink more than their doctors), whereas Americans do not. But all that proves is that American doctors drink a lot.

I'm in London for the next two weeks, and will reconfirm the drinking allegations.