WebMD Medical News
Louise Chang, MD
Jan. 8, 2008 -- The U.S. today finds itself last on a new list of countries
seeking to curb preventable deaths in people younger than 75.
Not only does the U.S. have the worst spot on that list, its rate of
improvement is also slower than the other 18 industrialized nations included in
The U.S. might have been spared an estimated 101,000 deaths annually if its
preventable death rate matched that of the top-ranked countries, according to
the researchers, who included Ellen Nolte, PhD, of the London School of Hygiene
and Tropical Medicine.
Their study appears in the January/February edition of Health
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Nolte's team defined preventable deaths as deaths in people younger than 75
with treatable cancers, bacterial infections, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and surgical
Using data from the World Health Organization, the researchers compared
preventable death rates among 19 countries during 1997-1998 and 2002-2003.
From 1997 to 1998, the U.S. had a high rate of preventable deaths, but it
wasn't the worst-ranked country on the list. By 2002-2003, preventable death
rates dropped in all 19 countries, including the U.S.
But the U.S. had had the mildest rate of decline -- 4% -- compared with a
16% average decline among the other countries. That's how the U.S. wound up
with the highest preventable death rate in 2002-2003.
Why did the U.S. lag in avoiding preventable deaths? The study doesn't
answer that question. But the slow decline in U.S. preventable deaths "has
coincided with an increase in the uninsured population," write the
Here is the full list of how the 19 countries ranked in their 2002-2003
preventable death rates:
SOURCE: Nolte, E. Health Affairs, January/February 2008; vol 27: pp
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