While the Ebola crisis may highlight healthcare problems in much of West Africa, the United States isn't exactly a beacon of light on healthcare itself, says Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University.
Indeed, "America’s largely private health-care system is failing," he writes on Project Syndicate.
"True, at the top end, the U.S. has some of the world’s leading hospitals, research universities, and advanced medical centers. But, though the U.S. spends more per capita and as a percentage of its GDP on medical care than any other country, its health outcomes are truly disappointing."
Life expectancy is shorter for Americans than those in other developed countries.
So what's the problem here?
"For starters, access to medicine matters," Stiglitz says. "The U.S. is one of the few advanced countries that does not recognize access as a basic human right." Childhood poverty is a big problem, he writes.
"America’s outsize inequality, too, is a critical factor in its health lag," Stiglitz says. Meanwhile, even the wealthy are less healthy in the United States than other advanced nations, he says.
As for Ebola, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, now a professor at Harvard, offers three lessons from the crisis.
- "First, collective action must be taken to build strong health systems in every corner of the globe," he writes in the Financial Times.
- "Second, the lack of investment in public health is a global emergency."
- Third, "when it comes to discovering and developing medicines, vaccines and diagnostic tests, we have been largely ignoring the infectious diseases that disproportionately kill the world’s poor."
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