Plain Sense Economics

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Phone: 541-261-8501

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Measuring Health and Healthcare

We start our journey with some numbers and concepts - on health and healthcare. Measuring health involves some typical statistics - on things like mortality (death) and morbidity (illness). Health also includes our ability to engage in the activities of daily living, and our ability to participate in the labor force, should we choose to. Life expectancy is a summative measure of health.

We will use the term healthcare to refer to the provision of services to improve health. Measures here typically count the number and kind of services, and the cost of providing or getting those services. Many times these services result in improved health, but not always. Incorrect diagnostic tests leading to surgery is one example of where healthcare reduces someone's health. Hospital acquired infections or errors in treatment are obvious other examples. Sometimes healthcare services are benign, with no overt impact on health, but even here we worry about the use of resources for some service that doesn't improve health.

Health policy weighs these questions of efficacy of healthcare services, access to these services, financing, and ultimately the balance between national health goals versus other important goals. We look to other countries for some clues on the policy choices they made, and we can compare them to the United States.

Resources Used in This Session

  • US Health, 2010 - published by the National Center for Health Statistics, CDC
  • National Health Expenditures - published by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
  • World Health Report - published by the World Health Organization
  • OECD Statistics - published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • "The Choices We Make" PDF from Who Shall Live by Victor Fuchs
  • T.R. Reid, a foreign correspondent for The Washington Post and others, narrates an excellent video on different healthcare systems around the world. He has also written a book on the same subject. I have not read the book, but imagine it is very good.
  • Copies of the Slides - International Comparisons