Thursday, January 07, 2010

Ringing in the New Year

I'm suffering from post-holiday let down. Or rather, benefitting from it.  I was finally able to get enough R&R last weekend to get a hold on this crazy cold & sinus infection we all seem to be passing back and forth.  It's not completely licked, but getting closer than a hoot owl taste-testing a Tootsie Pop.  If I don't relapse I may get away with not needing antibiotics.  There's a novel approach!  As it turns out, it's also one those innovative Norwegians have been using successfully for the last quarter century to earning them bragging rights to be the most MRSA infection-free" country in the world.
snip: "OSLO, Norway – Aker University Hospital is a dingy place to heal. The floors are streaked and scratched. A light layer of dust coats the blood pressure monitors. A faint stench of urine and bleach wafts from a pile of soiled bedsheets dropped in a corner.

Look closer, however, at a microscopic level, and this place is pristine. There is no sign of a dangerous and contagious staph infection that killed tens of thousands of patients in the most sophisticated hospitals of Europe, North America and Asia this year, soaring virtually unchecked.

The reason: Norwegians stopped taking so many drugs.

Twenty-five years ago, Norwegians were also losing their lives to this bacteria. But Norway's public health system fought back with an aggressive program that made it the most infection-free country in the world. A key part of that program was cutting back severely on the use of antibiotics.

Now a spate of new studies from around the world prove that Norway's model can be replicated with extraordinary success, and public health experts are saying these deaths — 19,000 in the U.S. each year alone, more than from AIDS — are unnecessary.

"It's a very sad situation that in some places so many are dying from this, because we have shown here in Norway that Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) can be controlled, and with not too much effort," said Jan Hendrik-Binder, Oslo's MRSA medical adviser. "But you have to take it seriously, you have to give it attention, and you must not give up."

The World Health Organization says antibiotic resistance is one of the leading public health threats on the planet. A six-month investigation by The Associated Press found overuse and misuse of medicines has led to mutations in once curable diseases like tuberculosis and malaria, making them harder and in some cases impossible to treat."
Important take-aways from that article: "Norway's PUBLIC HEALTH SYSTEM... made it the most infection-free country in the world.  Here in the U.S. where the, pro-profit, pro-corporate folks claim we have the BEST (PRIVATE) healthcare in the world, we kill 19,000 people annually (insured, uninsured, doesn't matter - MRSA doesn't do wallet checks) .  More than die from AIDS.  And these deaths are absolutely and totally preventable. Or at least so a government run system has proven elsewhere.

I'd like to know how this phenomenon is explained by the tea-baggers/Republicans/Independents who believe *anything* government-run is doomed to be incompetent.   Maybe, since gov't is actually run *by* the people (of the U.S.), *for* the people, it's just we Americans who are incompetent?

Granted, Norway is swimming in oil revenue which helps pay for their welfare state.  They're actually much wealthier per capita than the U.S.  But still - it's another great example of how a non-profit, public based health care system can be extremely effective. Here's an excellent article from the Harvard Business Review that discusses the wide divide between right and left on discussions of health care reform:  How Effective Is American HealthCare

When we swallow that huge chunk of Patriotic Pride and are completely honest with ourselves, we find out that "The United States gets the smallest bang for the buck in terms of life itself amongst developed countries: it realizes the lowest level of "life returns."  United Kingdom healthcare system delivers life returns more than twice those of the American healthcare system.  The Canadial system, THREE times more returns.

You know, it's not that Progressives are necessarily anti-capitalist.  We're kind of like the old lady from that vintage Wendy's commercial - "Where's the Beef?"  When we're forced to pay Filet Mignon prices we want to be sure we're going to get Filet Mignon, dammit and not hamburger.  Or give us the option of paying what a hamburger's actually worth!.  But right now, our only options seem to be a) pay outragous prices and get screwed; or b) starve. 


Amanda said...



Korea's further up there than I would have guessed!

Mustang Sally said...

Mock my typos if you must but I think I'll leave it. My version is kind of cute and may end up on John Stewart some day.

The Korean & Irish comparison to the U.S. was facinating, since IIRC both have experienced phenomenal economic growth in the last few decades. I'm sure a large part of why they've been so dramatically successful is the fact that they had so far to go. Ireland went from being one of the poorest countries in W. Europe to one of the wealthies. And S. Korea, of course was nothing but rubble following the war.