US lags behind wealthy nations on improving health outcomes

Raising questions about whether higher healthcare spending means better health outcomes, a new study shows the United States has high expenditures and mediocre population health at the national level.

The United States spends the most per capita on healthcare across all countries but still trails behind other wealthy nations for life expectancy and many other health outcome measures, including death rates and diminished function and quality of life as measured by the authors, according to a study published yesterday in Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study shows the United States ranks last among Britain, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand for improving healthcare outcomes, Reuters reported.

"Despite a level of health expenditures that would have seemed unthinkable a generation ago, the health of the U.S. population has improved only gradually and has fallen behind the pace of progress in many other wealthy nations," the Institute of Medicine's Harvey V. Fineberg, M.D., Ph.D., wrote in an accompanying editorial.

The good news is the United States has made progress in improving health, with longer life spans and lower all-cause death rates at all ages. However, morbidity and chronic disability now account for nearly half of the nation's health burden.

The study echoes May research finding elderly Americans are living longer but with growing rates of obesity, diabetes and other chronic disease. Researchers warn diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's disease will lead to diminished quality of life and severe economic consequences if left unaddressed, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

For more:
- check out the JAMA study and editorial
- here's the Reuters article