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Michigan Universal Health Care Access Network

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Statistics and Sources

Infant mortality is one common measure of how good health care is. It counts the number of children born, and also counts the number who die in the first year of life.

The cause of death does not matter here. No child is uncounted because the death is somehow "excusable." The number does not tell you if children are dying because of genetic defects, or disease, or malnutrition. It does not count abortions or miscarriages. It just says that, out of every thousand children born alive, some number died. The lowest number reached shows what is possible. Any higher number indicates the system is not doing what is possible.

Life expectancy also indicates how good the health care of the society is. This is not 100% the responsibility of doctors and hospitals, of course. One country may be less polluted than another, and so have less cancer to deal with. The citizens may be more inclined to walk to work, or ride bicycles, which is less convenient and means less sales for the auto industry, but is certainly healthier. It may have to do with the availability of health care; for example, a diabetic might get early diagnosis and proper treatment, instead of neglecting the symptoms (because of no insurance) until the condition becomes life-threatening.

All these factors go into life expectancy. And perhaps all these factors should be the concern of a comprehensive system of health care, which should not be just a system of disease treatment. In the end, it should be fair to say that the average citizen will not live so long if the health care system is terrible, regardless of what other factors come into play.

All information on infant mortality and life expectancy comes from the U. S. federal government, specifically the "World Factbook" found at - and yes, this is a public service of the Central Intelligence Agency. If there is any error in these figures, or slant in favor of the United States, we can blame the CIA.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a measure, not directly of incomes, but of how much wealth is available to the society in a given year. Using this figure on a per capita basis tells us how much wealth is available for each person in the society, and allows fair comparisons between countries of greatly different sizes. All GDP values here are given in United States dollars.

The basic information of populations of countries other than the US, and the figures for per capita GDP, also come from the "World Factbook" mentioned above. Figures for what percentage of GDP is spent on health care come from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Health Data 2001 publication. Numbers for the population of various states and regions of the US is the latest available from the US Census Bureau 2000 Census.

Much of the commentary on the history and character of the health care systems of various countries comes from Physicians for a National Health Program. Some of the commentary on Cuba can be attributed to a paper, "Health Care in Cuba" by Jennifer Hamm, published on the web site of Tulane University. Information on Israel comes from the "National Health Insurance" page of the web site of the government of Israel.

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