In spite of the rising health care costs that provide the illusion of improving health care, the American people do not enjoy good health, compared with their counterparts in the industrialized nations. Among thirteen countries including Japan, Sweden, France and Canada, the U.S. was ranked 12th, based on the measurement of 16 health indicators such as life expectancy, low-birth-weight averages and infant mortality. In another comparison reported by the World Health Organization that used a different set of health indicators, the U.S. also fared poorly with a ranking of 15 among 25 industrialized nations. Although many people attribute poor health to the bad habits of the American public, Starfield (2000) points out that the Americans do not lead an unhealthy lifestyle compared to their counterparts. For example, only 28 percent of the male population in the U.S. smoked, thus making it the third best nation in the category of smoking among the 13 industrialized nations. The U.S. population also achieved a high ranking (5th best) for alcohol consumption. In the category of men aged 50 to 70 years, the U.S. had the third lowest mean cholesterol concentrations among 13 industrialized nations. Therefore, the perception that the American public’s poor health is a result of their negative health habits is false.
Even more significantly, the medical system has played a large role in undermining the health of Americans. According to several research studies in the last decade, a total of 225,000 Americans per year have died as a result of their medical treatments: