Re: Healthcare (was Re: John in Alaska)

From: steve (
Date: Wed Jan 23 2002 - 05:12:40 MST

----- Original Message -----
From: <>
To: <>
Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2002 12:15 AM
Subject: Re: Healthcare (was Re: John in Alaska)

> Here are some old posts by Robin on health care.
(several URLs)
> - "The US polio death rate was ~1/500 of the total US death rate when
> the vaccine was introduced." (Hence polio vaccine did not make a
> major contribution to longevity.) "I'd guess that Medicine of all
> forms probably contributes less than 1 year to that 40 year increase
> in lifespan. Since sanitation also doesn't seem that important,
> it is a big puzzle why exactly lifespan has increased so." Also
> see which has
> many links on the question "How Much Does Medicine Help Health".
I think much of the confusion here is because the term "health" is being
used to cover several things that ought to be distinguished. Sometimes
people talk about "life expectancy", sometimes about preventable death and
its incidence, sometimes about general well being and functioning, all of
which are different. One important point is that there hasn't been a "forty
year increase in lifespan" - at least not in the way people commonly
imagine. What has happened in the last 200 years is a big decrease in infant
mortality which has the effect of sharply raising life expectancy *at
birth*. This is due mainly to the supply of potable water, education of
women, and improved childhood nutrition (because poor nutrition markedly
increases the likelihood of children dying from diseases such as mumps,
measles, rubella etc). However average age at death for people who have made
it past the age of 5 has gone up by a much smaller ammount, and current
research into things like the average age of adults in Roman cemeteries
indicates we may still be overestimating it. So it's not that people are
actually living longer *in general* rather the number making it past the age
of 5 has gone up. Death rates at every age have declined but not by a
substantial figure. The role of medicine in this does seem to be much less
than one would imagine, and quite simple comparisons indicate that a lot of
the money spent on medicine in the U.S. and elsewhere is producing little
discernable result. Steve Davies

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Fri Nov 01 2002 - 13:37:36 MST