Welcome to Trust Me, I’m Going to Be A Doctor (hopefully). Once a week I’m going to post on various public health topics that interest me or catch my eye. A lot of the time, it will probably be one link or video that I will breakdown and/or discuss why it’s right or wrong. Usually, I’ll provide further links for people that want to know more. As always, I’m open for suggestions! If you have a topic you want discussed or are just curious about, let me know. (My email is firstname.lastname@example.org if there isn’t an easy way to do so on the page).
Anyways, I’m going to jump right in this week. This was one of the first videos that really got me thinking about public health issues. The video itself is a little long at 20 minutes, but definitely worth it and I highly encourage you to watch it at some point.
Hans Rosling is fairly well known, so you may have seen some of his videos before. I love this video for a number of reasons.
First, it’s a more positive view of the world. Most of what we see is negative news, and it’s nice to see evidence that things are generally improving in many areas. I also wanted to start off with a more positive video because so many issues in health these days seem to fall on the negative side of things and a lot of what I will be doing here is arguing against different things.
Rosling’s use of graphics and data is great at keeping the video interesting, and is of immense help too in showing the importance of contextualization. I think that he is absolutely correct when he says that we tend to generalize, especially in terms of Africa. We need a greater focus on the contextualization of individual cases. And I think this is applicable to the healthcare issues we face in the United States. We need different solutions for different situations. We need to look at each individual case.
However, in looking at the graphics, I feel like it is important to keep in mind the scales on the graphs. Rosling does mention that they are using logarithmic scales, but the difference is significant enough that I feel it bears keeping in mind. Yes, things are getting better. But there are still large disparities both between countries and within them.
The single biggest takeaway for me, though, is the discussion on health versus wealth in terms of investment. Looking at most U.S. aid to foreign countries (and even more so, IMF’s ridiculously political loan requirements), most of the focus on helping these countries is to improve their economic situations. The general thinking, and I believe this applies to how most people view developing countries, is that improving a country’s economy will help to improve all the other aspects of the country. Or at the very least, the health of the country’s population.
And while this is does appear to happen, based on the data, Rosling brings up the interesting idea of investing in health instead. If you look into more talks by Hans Rosling, he delves more deeply into this. But the basis is that a healthier population means more people working, and therefore a more robust economy, driving increasing development. And the data, to some extent, backs this idea up. I think that it creates interesting and important implications, for the development of countries but also for how we view investing in health in the United States.
Yes, we spend too much on healthcare and a lot of areas need to be dealt with. But healthcare is viewed as a burden on our economy–part of the problem weighing it down right now. Maybe we need to flip our view and see healthcare investment as a driving force behind our economy. Obviously the healthier people, more people working idea doesn’t work great right now with the limited amount of jobs available. But smart healthcare investments could not only help to make costs less of a burden on the economy, they could help improve the economy by increasing productivity and decreasing the amount of money diverted away from the market to pay for health problems.
There are two other comments on the video I wanted to make. The data doesn’t extend to show what kind of effects the global recession has had over the last 5 years or so, and I’m very curious to see how much it hindered progress, especially in the context of the different investment strategies (health or wealth). The other thing I wanted to point out: the U.S. has the highest GDP shown in the data set…and one of the lowest child mortality rates of the OECD. It’s rather disappointing. (I’ve also read, but don’t have on-hand to link to, that the U.S. spends more money on healthcare for less results than anywhere else in the world. We definitely need to get smarter about how we approach healthcare).
[I apologize that this is being posted on Friday, not Wednesday/Thursday as was promised. Internet is still down so I’m doing what I can to keep with the schedule. Should have the last post for the week up by tomorrow, staying on time.]