Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I Wish Our Line Went the Other Way

Here's one of the best data visualizations I've seen in a long time, from National Geographic (click on the image to see it significantly larger):

Graph showing U.S. spends much more than other countries and has lower life expectancy than many
The left side lists countries in order of how much they spend per person on health care. Countries shown with a turquoise line have some type of universal health coverage. Countries with an orange line (U.S. at the top, Mexico at the bottom) do not.

The right side of the graph is a range of ages reflecting life-expectancy at birth, from 73 to 84 years. Each country's line goes from its amount spent annually at left to its life expectancy at right, so -- in terms of "value" for the money spent on health care -- a line that goes uphill is good, and a line that goes downhill is not so good, or in the case of the U.S., pretty damned bad.

One of the most interesting parts of the graph is the way its designer used the thickness of the lines to indicate the average number of doctor visits per year. A heavy line (e.g., Japan or the Czech Republic) indicates heavy use of doctors (if my line-width-assessments are correct, they both have more than 10 visits per year), while a thin line (as in the U.S., Switzerland or Sweden) indicates an average of around 1 visit per year.

Remember how we're sometimes told Americans use too much medical care, and that we need health savings accounts so economic reality can control our unreasonable desires to go to the doctor all the time? I guess that wasn't true after all. Huh.

And Mexico, which spends 11 percent of what we do on health care, has only a 4 percent lower life expectancy.


1 comment:

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I wish everyone could see this!