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WHO gives Swiss health system only average marks

The report says Switzerland is failing to provide efficient healthcare, given the available resources


The World Health Organisation has issued its first-ever report ranking health systems around the world. The Geneva-based WHO placed Switzerland 20th, in the middle of industrialised countries.

The WHO based the results on the general health of countries' populations, their access to medical services, and the cost and efficiency of those services.

The report found that "virtually all countries are under-utilising the resources available to them. This leads to large numbers of preventable deaths and disabilities, unnecessary suffering, injustice, inequality and denial of an individual's basic rights to health."

Switzerland received high marks in every category but did poorly (38) when comparing the percentage of a household's income available for health care. The only health system more expensive is that of the United States.

Dr David Evans, one of the authors of the report, told swissinfo that "Switzerland could do even better than it has done for the resources that it has committed to health".

"It's not a matter of reducing expenditure. It's a matter of making the current expenditure more efficient," Evans added.

The Swiss federal and cantonal authorities, the medical profession and health insurance companies have been at odds for years over how to bring down costs while maintaining high standards. Reto Dürler of the Federal Health Office says that decentralisation makes it difficult to shape a common policy.

"There are many players in the health field and they are very good at representing their interests," Dürler said. "And the increasing technology in medicine has led to higher costs virtually everywhere."

The interior minister, Ruth Dreifuss, has launched a plan for a national health policy, which, Dürler said, is designed to bring spiralling costs under control.

The authors of the WHO report want it to form the basis of a comprehensive database to help countries formulate better health care policies. The WHO places the emphasis on the responsibility of the state to ensure efficient health care systems.

The report says that effective government stewardship is key to ensuring efficiency. It says governments must do a better job interacting with both the private and public sectors. It accuses many states of "losing sight of their most important target: the population".

by Dale Bechtel


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