“The U.S. health system spends a higher portion of its gross domestic product than any other country but ranks 37 out of 191 countries according to its performance, the report finds. The United Kingdom, which spends just six percent of GDP on health services, ranks 18 th . Several small countries – San Marino, Andorra, Malta and Singapore are rated close behind second- placed Italy.
“WHO Director-General Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland says: “The main message from this report is that the health and well- being of people around the world depend critically on the performance of the health systems that serve them. Yet there is wide variation in performance, even among countries with similar levels of income and health expenditure. It is essential for decision- makers to understand the underlying reasons so that system performance, and hence the health of populations, can be improved.”
“Dr Christopher Murray, Director of WHO’s Global Programme on Evidence for Health Policy. says: “Although significant progress has been achieved in past decades, virtually all countries are under- utilizing the resources that are available to them. This leads to large numbers of preventable deaths and disabilities; unnecessary suffering, injustice, inequality and denial of an individual’s basic rights to health.”
“The impact of failures in health systems is most severe on the poor everywhere, who are driven deeper into poverty by lack of financial protection against ill- health, the report says.”
“The poor are treated with less respect, given less choice of service providers and offered lower- quality amenities,” says Dr Brundtland. “In trying to buy health from their own pockets, they pay and become poorer.”
“The World Health Report says the main failings of many health systems are:
- “Many health ministries focus on the public sector and often disregard the frequently much larger private sector health care.
- “In many countries, some if not most physicians work simultaneously for the public sector and in private practice. This means the public sector ends up subsidizing unofficial private practice.
- “Many governments fail to prevent a “black market” in health, where widespread corruption, bribery, “moonlighting” and other illegal practices flourish. The black markets, which themselves are caused by malfunctioning health systems, and low income of health workers, further undermine those systems.
- “Many health ministries fail to enforce regulations that they themselves have created or are supposed to implement in the public interest.
“Dr Julio Frenk, Executive Director for Evidence and Information for Policy at WHO, says: “By providing a comparative guide to what works and what doesn’t work, we can help countries to learn from each other and thereby improve the performance of their health systems.”
“Dr Philip Musgrove, editor-in-chief of the report, says: “The WHO study finds that it isn’t just how much you invest in total, or where you put facilities geographically, that matters. It’s the balance among inputs that counts – for example, you have to have the right number of nurses per doctor.”
“Most of the lowest placed countries are in sub-Saharan Africa where life expectancies are low. HIV and AIDS are major causes of ill-health. Because of the AIDS epidemic, healthy life expectancy for babies born in 2000 in many of these nations has dropped to 40 years or less.
“One key recommendation from the report is for countries to extend health insurance to as large a percentage of the population as possible. WHO says that it is better to make “pre-payments” on health care as much as possible, whether in the form of insurance, taxes or social security.
“While private health expenses in industrial countries now average only some 25 percent because of universal health coverage (except in the United States, where it is 56%), in India, families typically pay 80 percent of their health care costs as “out-of- pocket” expenses when they receive health care.
“”It is especially beneficial to make sure that as large a percentage as possible of the poorest people in each country can get insurance,” says Dr Frenk. “Insurance protects people against the catastrophic effects of poor health. What we are seeing is that in many countries, the poor pay a higher percentage of their income on health care than the rich.”
“”In many countries without a health insurance safety net, many families have to pay more than 100 percent of their income for health care when hit with sudden emergencies. In other words, illness forces them into debt.””
World Health Organization Assesses the World’s Health Systems. Press release. World Health Organization: Geneva, Switzerland. June 21, 2000. https://www.who.int/whr/2000/media_centre/press_release/en/