Strange Medicine: How American Health Care is Different Than the Rest of the World

The quirks of our health care system

January 2023

Script

How does American health care compare to the rest of the world?

Well, we’re … different. Really different.

Americans are more likely to get annual physicals than patients in other wealthy countries. While it’s common for even healthy Americans to visit the doctor once a year,i Germany recommends patients get a checkup every 2 years while doctors in the U.K. recommend physicals only every 5 years.ii

The United States is also an outlier when it comes to prescription drugs.

America is 1 of just 2 countries that allow pharmaceutical ads on TV.iii (The other is New Zealand.)

But Americans also get access to new drugs faster than anyone else in the world.

89% of new drugs approved between 2011 and 2018 were for sale in the United States, while just 62% were available in Germany and only 48% in France.iv

The U.S. is also an outlier when it comes to health.

For instance, while the United States has the highest obesity rates of any developed nation,v we also have one of the lowest mortality rates from cancer.vi

Another big difference: wait times.

In 2022, American patients had to wait around 17 days to schedule orthopedic surgery vii — which may seem like a long time but is quick compared to Canada, where patients had to wait an average of 48 weeks for the same procedure.viii

So, whether you think American health care is better or worse than the rest of the world … it’s definitely unique.

 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

  1. New prescription drugs become available in America much faster than in other wealthy nations.
  2. The U.S. has the highest obesity rate of wealthy nations, but also some of the best cancer survival rates.
  3. America is unusual in allowing prescription drug ads on TV and encouraging annual physicals.

Sources

Shownotes

SOUND: "King of Swing" (Rob McAllister)

FOOTAGE: National Cancer Institute (Unsplash) // CITED SOURCES AND NEWS OUTLETS ARE NOT AFFILIATED WITH AND HAVE NOT ENDORSED OR SPONSORED ANY PORTION OF THIS PRODUCTION.

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