U.S. falls behind on improving preventable deaths

The United States performs the worst in curbing potentially preventable deaths compared to France, Germany and the U.K., according to a report released yesterday from independent researcher the Commonwealth Fund. Moreover, the nation has the slowest rates of improvement, according to the study published online in Health Affairs.

Between 1999 and 2006/2007, American preventable mortality rates for men and women dropped 18.5 percent and 17.5 percent, respectively, while the U.K. saw more significant drops at 37 percent and 32 percent. Other European countries also beat out the United States with bigger reductions in preventable deaths. France saw a 28 percent decrease in men and 23 percent in women, while Germany saw a 24 percent and 23 percent drop, respectively.

With the United States lagging, the rates of preventable deaths isn't exactly good news considering how much Americans spend on healthcare costs compared to European counterparts.

"Despite spending about twice as much per person each year on healthcare as France, Germany or the U.K.—$8,400 in 2010—the U.S. is increasingly falling behind these countries in terms of progress in lowering the potentially preventable death rate," Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis said in a statement yesterday.

Nevertheless, an earlier study in study in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that Canadian hospitals that spent more on patient care had lower mortality rates and fewer readmissions. When looking at adult patients admitted to Ontario hospitals between 1998 and 2008 for heart attack, congestive heart failure, hip fracture and colon cancer, researchers found that the highest-spending hospitals had a 30-day mortality rate for congestive heart failure of 10.2 percent, compared to 12.4 percent at the lowest-spending hospitals.

The Commonwealth Fund report encouraged the nation to borrow strategies from certain regions of the United States that  perform as well as Europe. Minnesota, for instance, achieves outcomes as good as those in many European countries--half the rates in Mississippi and the District of Columbia, the report noted.

For more information:
- read the Commonwealth Fund announcement
- see the Health Affairs study abstract

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