The well-being of global citizens relies heavily on the health of their health care systems. However, the type of medical attention you will receive when you go to the doctor, or even the likelihood you will attempt to seek care, varies vastly depending on where you live. Indicators like average life expectancy, infant mortality and obesity prevalence highlight the success of the health care systems. With this wealth of information, we can assess why certain nations’ health care systems are in better condition than others.

1. France

France had the best health system in the world in 2000, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) most recent assessment of world’s health systems. So what makes France’s method so successful? First, statistics on doctors and life expectancy are often on France’s side. France has less doctors per capita than second place Italy at 3.07 per 1,000 people, but more annual doctor visits than most of the top 10. It also has 3.43 hospital beds per 1,000 people, which is rivaled only by Japan and Italy of those in the top 10. Life expectancy is 81.66 and infant mortality rate is 3.31 of every 1,000 live births.

It falls on the government to negotiate doctor and hospital fees in an effort to keep costs low. In addition, a national insurance program flips 70 percent of the bill for everyone. The other 30 percent is picked up by private insurance. This means that out of pocket spending on health care is only $307 per capita.

2. The United States

The United States has one of the biggest economies in the world, yet it ranks 36 this year on the success of its health care system. Perhaps this is because the United States, while a wealthy nation, has an infant mortality rate of 6.17 per 1,000 births and a life expectancy of 79.56, neither of which are something to cheer over compared to other industrial nations where the average is higher. In addition, obesity prevalence has reached 36.5 percent, about three times as high as France. This signals that while the United States has the capability to provide good health care, it is falling far behind its peers. That being said, the United States is often considered the leader in medical research and cancer treatment.

In this country, insurance is provided mostly by for-profit private insurance groups, with some exceptions. Those over 65 years old qualify for Medicare and the disabled or low-income population qualifies for Medicaid, which are sponsored by the federal government and paid for by taxes. The number of uninsured is dropping, and in 2014, only about 15.6 percent of the population goes without insurance. However, citizens still pay a whopping $987 per capita out of pocket for health care. Changes will occur over the next few years with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, but it is still early to assess how recent patterns will change the ranking of the health care system.

3. Pakistan

Pakistan ranked 122 according to the WHO in 2000 and continues to struggle with health care and disease today. The average life expectancy is 67.05 in 2014, below that of Syria and Iran. In addition, infant mortality is a frightening 57.48 of every 1,000 births. Pakistan has only .6 hospital beds and .8 doctors per 1,000 people. All this indicates that the health care system in Pakistan is struggling, leaving its citizens in serious trouble.

There is much to learn from the health care systems of other nations, but changes can be made at different levels for different countries. For countries like the United States where some tweaking to the costs and the insurance sector would vastly increase the overall health of the citizens and the system, taking notes on France’s system would be beneficial. Changes would allow more people to get coverage for less money from the federal budget. But for places like Pakistan where the system is in shambles, a functioning health care system must be in place first. Overall, different nations stand in different positions, but health care systems across the world could use a restructuring.

– Caitlin Thompson 

Sources: CIA(1), CIA(2), Commonwealth Fund, Gallup Poll, NPR, The Patient Factor, PBS, WHO(1), WHO(2), World Bank(1), World Bank(2)
Photo: Telegraph