• Need more information? Ask an information specialist at rc@aha.org

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 333 other subscribers
  • Note:

    Information posted in this blog does not necessarily represent the views of the American Hospital Association
  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Top Posts

  • Top Rated Posts

The weight of the world: the obesity epidemic in OECD countries

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (www.oecd.org) has released Obesity Update 2012, a policy brief updating an earlier study on the economic impact of obesity in the 34 OECD member countries, including the United States. 

  • Before 1980, fewer than 1 in 10 people were obese.
  • Today, the majority of the population are overweight or obese in 19 of the 34 OECD countries.
  • Some countries – Korea, Switzerland, Italy, Hungary, England – have stabilized the growth of the epidemic.
  • Korea and Japan have the lowest prevalence rates, at 3.8 and 3.9 percent of the population, respectively
  • The U.S. edges out Mexico as the most obese country: 33.8 percent of the total population is overweight or obese
  • Estimates allocate 1-3% of health expenditures to obesity-related problems; in the U.S., the estimate is 5-10%

The paper includes brief discussions on child obesity, the social disparities of obesity, and what governments can do to combat the problem, including a lengthy sidebar on “fat taxes” – special taxes on foods and beverages that are considered to be unhealthy.  Some countries that have imposed fat taxes include Denmark, Hungary, Finland and France.  The sidebar analysis includes brief descriptions of what food and/or beverage groups incur the additional tax.

Source: Sassi, Franco, and Devaux, Marion.  Obesity Update 2012.  Paris, France: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, February 2012.  http://www.oecd.org/document/55/0,3746,en_2649_37407_49715511_1_1_1_37407,00.html

Obesity and the Economics of Prevention: Fit Not Fat.  Paris, France: OECD, 2010.  This is the original 265-page report published in September 2010.  An executive summary, background notes, and additional ancillary material is available at http://www.oecd.org/document/31/0,3746,en_2649_37407_45999775_1_1_1_37407,00.html#Executive_Summary.  The entire report is for sale through the OECD online bookstore.

Comparative National Health System Data for 40 Countries

OECD has released its annual report comparing health systems in its 34 member countries and, when information is available, 6 major non-OECD countries.

Data is provided for 8 broad categories:

  1. Health status [life expectancy, mortality, disease incidence, etc.]
  2. Non-medical determinants of health [tobacco and alcohol use, obesity]
  3. Health workforce [health sector employment, number and average income of physicians and nurses, etc.]
  4. Health care activities [hospital beds, discharges, average length of stay, medical technologies, pharmaceutical consumption, etc.]
  5. Quality of care [avoidable readmissions, patient safety, cancer care, vaccinations, etc.]
  6. Access to care [unmet health care needs, waiting times, inequalities, burden of out-of-pocket expenses, etc.]
  7. Health expenditure and financing [per capita and percent of GDP expenditures, expenditure by function, financing, etc.]
  8. Long-term care [a newly added section on LTC workers, beds, expenditures, etc.]

Also included is hard-to-find data on trade in health services, or medical tourism, showing both imports and exports [inbound and outbound medical travel] expenditures by country as a share of the nation’s total health expenditures and how that has changed from 2004-2009.

The member countries covered in the OECD report include:

  1. Australia
  2. Austria
  3. Belgium
  4. Canada
  5. Chile
  6. Czech Republic
  7. Denmark
  8. Estonia
  9. Finland
  10. France
  11. Germany
  12. Greece
  13. Hungary
  14. Iceland
  15. Ireland
  16. Israel
  17. Italy
  18. Japan
  19. Korea
  20. Luxembourg
  21. Mexico
  22. Netherlands
  23. New Zealand
  24. Norway
  25. Poland
  26. Portugal
  27. Slovak Republic
  28. Slovenia
  29. Spain
  30. Sweden
  31. Switzerland
  32. Turkey
  33. United Kingdom
  34. United States

The non-OECD member countries included when data is available are:

  1. Brazil
  2. China
  3. India
  4. Indonesia
  5. Russian Federation
  6. South Africa

If connected to the web when viewing the report, click on the StatLinks on individual tables and graphs to download the data to Excel.

Source: Health at a glance 2011; OECD indicators. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Dec. 2011. http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/6/28/49105858.pdf

Posted by the AHA Resource Center, (312) 422-2050, rc@aha.org

How the U.S. Health System Compares to Those in Other Industrialized Countries

In a new report from the Commonwealth Fund, the U.S. health system is compared to those in 11 other developed countries: Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.K.

The U.S. far exceeded the other developed countries on national health expenditures, both on a per capita basis and as a percentage of GDP. Hospital spending per discharge, adjusted for differences in the cost of living, was $16,708 in the U.S. compared to $4,566 in Germany, with a median cost of $5949 for all the countries in 2008. All 12 countries are facing health cost containment issues, however.  Other comparative factors discussed include:

  • supply and utilization of doctors and hospitals
  • hospital spending per discharge
  • supply, use, and price of pharmaceuticals
  • supply, use, and price of diagnostic imaging
  • hospital mortality rates and other quality performance indicators

The U.S. ranked highest in both pharmaceutical and diagnostic imaging supply, use and prices. U.S. performance was mixed on quality issues, ranking high on cancer survival but comparatively poor on hospital admission rates for chronic diseases.

The analysis , based on data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD], was done to identify areas where the U.S. might learn from other countries to improve overall performance of the nation’s health system.


Squires D. The U.S. health system in perspective: a comparison of twelve industrialized nations. Issues in international health policy. Commonwealth Fund, July 2011. http://www.commonwealthfund.org/~/media/Files/Publications/Issue%20Brief/2011/Jul/1532_Squires_US_hlt_sys_comparison_12_nations_intl_brief.pdf

OECD StatExtracts: Health. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, accessed Aug. 1, 2011 at http://stats.oecd.org/index.aspx?DataSetCode=HEALTH_STAT

Posted by the AHA Resource Center, (312) 422-2050, rc@aha.org