Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, November 22, 2004

What this blog is about

As has been said by a million people, a million times each, the United States is the only wealthy country on earth that does not provide universal health care to all its people. We spend about twice as much per person on medical services as the typical industrialized country, but we obviously get less for it -- among the wealth countries, the U.S. has some of the worst indicators of population health. We also have substantial disparities in health among ethnic groups. And, as everywhere, but to a greater degree than most countries, we have large inequalities in health and life expectancy among rich and poor. (We also have large and growing inequalities in income in the first place.)

Here, we're going to cover the latest news in public health and health care policy. But we're also going to talk about the fundamental issues that are often misunderstood by the average person and misrepresented by the politicians and lobbyists. Health care policy in this country is controlled by pharmaceutical manufacturers, hospital chains, and insurance companies. The American Medical Association used to be extremely powerful but it's lost a lot of influence in Washington over the years and it's also lost the support of many physicians, although it still does have some influence.

My perspective is that of a medical and public health sociologist. I know a little about medical economics, ethics, epidemiology, and politics. But I sure don't know everything. So substantive comment, and suggestions for topics, guests, references and links are encouraged.

My next post will be about those fundamental issues. For now, I invite comment about what subjects others would like to discuss here, and also I invite people who may be interested in this project to introduce themselves.


Cervantes said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I linked here after your post at Atrios. Will look forward to this as it develops. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thanks - it works! I'm delighted to discover this blog. I am interested in all efforts to improve our healthcare. I have benefitted from excellent insurance which helped me survive a brain injury from a car crash ( which I could never afford), and have been seven years in the system. I'm quite capable of fighting for my rights and wonder why I have to, and how those less fortunate are coping when their money's gone. I hate the idea of insurance, though I keep plenty of it, I can't see a good healthcare system arising in a capitalistic society. I hope someone here will be able to enlighten me.

Cervantes said...

Thanks anonymous. Well, Western Europe and Canada are capitalist societies, basically, and they have better systems than ours in most respects, in my opinion. As a wealthy society, we should be able to do better. I hope we'll be able to work together to get there.

BTW, if people don't want to register with blogspot, go ahead and put your name or preferred handle in the body of your comment, as a signature. I'm going to look into Haloscan and other alternatives, but in the meantime, that wil work.

Anonymous said...

Okay Cervantes
Call me Stella. Can you explain to me how those other countries handle the political problems? I know that reproductive rights are a problem in Ireland. How's their health care? Okay unless you're a female of child-bearing age? How can we escape the paternalistic government and establish real 'liberty and justice for all?' Health care for all is as far away as those basic rights are now. I've been thinking about all this stuff for a long time, and can't find any answers. Hopefully, your blog will be a learning experience.

Cervantes said...

Thanks for stopping by Ms. Stella. Ireland has a national health service, like Britain, which basically means socialized medicine. Reproductive rights I would have to say are pretty much a separate issue, since abortion could be banned, or permitted, under any method of organizing health care, although certainly the specific ways in which the politics played out and the types of peripheral or surrogate issues which arose would be different. For example, under a system of socialized medicine it could be permitted but would have to be paid for privately, or it could be part of the benefits package.

As for concerns about government paternalism, they are certainly an important part of the rhetoric that surrounds this issue in the U.S. But in fact there are many ways of providing universal coverage, and solving many of the other problems of our current system, without any sort of government take over of health care. It can continue to be based on a system of private providers, as it is in Canada and most of Western Europe. Canada has socialized medical insurance, but not medicine; most of Europe has in fact done neither, although government has important roles (as indeed it does here).

Yes indeed, we will get into more of the details of all this, and I look forward to your continuing to visit.

Anonymous said...


I'm so glad to find your blog. I cover epidemiology and emerging threats, and the politics of the same, on my blog.

I'll bookmark you.

Just a Bump in the Beltway

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