The Cost of a Long Life

by Dave

Compelling graphic that demonstrates that throwing more money at problems does not always ensure better outcomes.

The Cost of a Long Life

Life Expectancy around the world

via UCSC

The chart highlights the sharp contrast between the US and Cuba. With a life expectancy of 76.9 years, Cuba ranks 28th in the world, just behind the US. However, its spending per person on health care is one of the lowest in the world, at $186, or about 1/25 the spending of the United States. There are other cases where high life expectancies are achieved with low spending on health care.

Another reason some countries achieve high life expectancy with low health spending is that clean drinking water and preventive health care can be provided with little spending. If there is near universal clean water and preventive care, life expectancy rates can be high. In the US, however, nearly 40 million Americans lack basic health insurance, and are therefore less likely to receive preventive care.  In contrast, Cuba has universal health care and one of the highest doctor-to-patient ratios in the world (See Physicians).  Although Cuba has limited resources and many economic problems, it has made health care a priority. It is not alone. Sri Lanka, China and the Indian State of Kerala are considered “low-income, high well-being” countries, which have adopted policies that not only reduce inequality but also increase overall health and well-being.

Money spent at hospitals and doctors counts towards ‘economic growth’, by getting included in GDP stats, but is terrible as an indicator for human well-being.

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