Health care in the U.S. has improved in recent years but still lags behind other similarly wealthy countries, according to a new report.
The U.S. has seen declines in mortality, including infant mortality, as well as teen pregnancy, hospital-acquired conditions and the number of unvaccinated children, among other indicators, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation report released Sept. 10.
Two health indicators have stayed constant: the five-year survival rate for cervical cancer and the number of adults 50 and older who receive recommended screenings and preventative care.
Meanwhile, health-related quality of life has worsened and obesity has risen in recent years, researchers found.
Analysts compared the U.S.’s performance on the indicators with the average performance of comparable countries, including Switzerland, Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Canada, France and the United Kingdom.
On average, the other countries showed better performance on 14 of the indicators studied. They had lower mortality rates, longer life expectancy at birth, fewer cost-related access barriers, shorter wait times for primary care doctor’s visits and less use of the emergency room for non-emergencies, among other results.
The U.S., however, performed better on five indicators, showing lower hospital admission rates for uncontrolled diabetes, shorter wait times for specialist doctor’s appointments, lower 30-day in-hospital mortality rates for some strokes and heart attacks, and lower mortality rates and better five-year survival rates for breast and colorectal cancers.
Despite the improvements the U.S. has seen in recent years, gaps in the health care system appear to be growing and more research is needed, the report concludes.
“It is relatively straightforward to report each year how much health care spending is growing,” the study states. “Even with an improved set of quality metrics — which would take years to develop — the story will always be more nuanced.”