Sunday, February 28, 2010

A New Way of Seeing Data May Influence US Health Care Reform

Hans Rosling is a doctor and a Professor of International Health at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. He is also the Director of the Gapminder Foundation, which developed the Trendalyzer software system and is continuously working on making publicly funded data accessible to all. The Gapminder Foundation has made interesting fact-based animations of data that really help people see trends among countries over time. The data can also be used to analyze trends within a country, by state, as well.

I want to share this website with all of my readers, not only to disseminate great information, but also to spotlight and compare the status of health care in the United States with other countries by looking at life expectancy and infant mortality. When you look at the animations in the link below, you'll see that, although we have a high per capita income, our life expectancy is not as high as many other "first world" countries, and our infant mortality rate is not as low as theirs either. There is a definite need for improvement in US health care. Although we spend far more money on health care than most other countries, our results are not the best among "first world" countries.

The current state of our health care system is remediation of illness and dispensation of sick-care benefits and procedures decided upon by insurance analysts, rather than well-care, preventative medicine and dispensation of sick-care benefits and procedures decided upon by medical professionals. We have millions of un- and underinsured people who are literally dying for health care reform. They certainly do not believe our health care system works.

Doctors are going out of business. Those that remain in practice are unable to provide a high quality of medical care due to the forced necessity of seeing a high volume of patients in order to make enough money to live, because insurance payments per patient are so low. Some doctors are splitting their practices into cash-based cafe services in which they can spend more time with individual patients who can afford to pay, while their lower-income, medically-insured patients see a physician's assistant. Other physicians are totally cutting out their insurance patients in favor of those who can afford to pay cash.

When physicians are effectively reducing or eliminating their medically insured patients, this further increases the patient load on the remaining physicians who still see patients covered by insurance. As this happens, and they are able to spend less and less time with each patient, the quality of health care will be compromised. Our own health care providers do not believe our health care system works. The AMA endorsed the health care reform bill. The highest quality medical care in the United States is now based upon whether or not you are in the top income brackets. At this rate, I see our future statistics moving even further away from those of  "first world" countries.

If United States citizens spend more on health care than do those in any other country, then where are all the dollars we spend going? They go to the for-profit insurance companies and pharma industries who are only interested in their bottom lines, and will do what is necessary to maintain profits and defend their products.

Women are discriminated upon by the insurance industry as domestic violence and rape are still considered pre-existing conditions in some states. During the heat of the health care reform debate late last year, insurance companies conveniently and just in time to stir more controversy about the health care reform bill, pushed to revamp mammogram and pap smear testing in a way that would exclude millions of women, putting them at higher risk for cancer, while saving the insurance industry billions of dollars. The insurance industry will do whatever it takes to maintain profits and their position of power in the United States, no matter how many people they hurt, in particular women who already pay significantly more for their premiums than do men.

Putting peoples' health and lives in the hands of a business whose primary goal is increasing profits and saving money, not lives, is a huge mistake. A public option that is not-for-profit, as is found in countries with higher life expectancy and lower infant mortality rates, is a much more intelligent method of providing health care. Statistics don't lie. Just because something has always been done one way, doesn't make it the best or the most intelligent method to use in the future.
Here's a link to one of Hans Rosling's wonderful TED Talks:

Life Expectancy:$majorMode=chart$is;shi=t;ly=2003;lb=f;il=t;fs=11;al=30;stl=t;st=t;nsl=t;se=t$wst;tts=C$ts;sp=6;ti=2007$zpv;v=0$inc_x;mmid=XCOORDS;iid=phAwcNAVuyj1jiMAkmq1iMg;by=ind$inc_y;mmid=YCOORDS;iid=phAwcNAVuyj2tPLxKvvnNPA;by=ind$inc_s;uniValue=8.21;iid=phAwcNAVuyj0XOoBL%5Fn5tAQ;by=ind$inc_c;uniValue=255;gid=CATID0;by=grp$map_x;scale=log;dataMin=194;dataMax=96846$map_y;scale=lin;dataMin=23;dataMax=86$map_s;sma=49;smi=2.65$cd;bd=0$inds=

Infant Mortality:$majorMode=chart$is;shi=t;ly=2003;lb=f;il=t;fs=11;al=30;stl=t;st=t;nsl=t;se=t$wst;tts=C$ts;sp=2.9316129032258;ti=2006$zpv;v=0$inc_x;mmid=XCOORDS;iid=pp59adS3CHWfKPVb7dEexFA;by=ind$inc_y;mmid=YCOORDS;iid=pp59adS3CHWeR0Ufcou95MQ;by=ind$inc_s;uniValue=20;iid=pp59adS3CHWcajNS5Y44uLw;by=ind$inc_c;uniValue=255;gid=CATID1;by=grp$map_x;scale=log;dataMin=240;dataMax=152481$map_y;scale=log;dataMin=1.569;dataMax=211$map_s;sma=50;smi=2$cd;bd=0$inds


  1. Karin Brunn LundgrenMarch 1, 2010 at 6:22 AM

    Dear Palmer,

    I am really glad you like our material, just a quick comment; Karolinska Institutet is in Sweden.

    All the best,

    Karin, Gapminder Foundation

  2. Dear Karin,

    Thank you for your comment, Karin. The data visualizations your company produces are excellent. It would be interesting to use Gapminder software to visualize global as well as more detailed local statistics on human trafficking and rape/violence against women. I wish you continued success with your foundation.



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