Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hsieh LTE on Health Statistics

The August 29, 2009 Denver Post has just published my LTE responding to some bad health care statistics they cited 3 days earlier in their article, "Fact Check on Health Care".

Here's my LTE:
Health care statistics

Life expectancy and infant mortality statistics are notoriously poor measures of the quality of a nation's health care system. For instance, more Americans are killed in car accidents and homicide than in Canada and Europe. According to ABC News, if one adjusts for these fatal injuries, then U.S. life expectancy is actually higher than in nearly every other industrialized nation.

International comparisons of infant mortality rates are similarly suspect. The U.S. counts any premature infant born with a heartbeat as a live birth even if it survives only a few hours. Many European countries count such children as "stillborn" if they weigh less than 1 pound even if they show a heartbeat. Japan doesn’t count such infants as "live births" unless they survive for more than 24 hours.

Flawed statistics make a poor basis for public policy.

Paul Hsieh, M.D., Sedalia
The writer is co-founder of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine.
For more information on life expectancy claim, see this column by ABC News reporter John Stossel, "Why the U.S. Ranks Low on WHO's Health-Care Study".

For more information on infant mortality statistics, see this column by former NIH director and former Red Cross president Dr. Bernadine Healy, "Behind the Baby Count".