A new report released Wednesday by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reveals encouraging figures about the healthcare situation in Israel.
Israeli life expectancy is among the highest in the world, and fifth among OECD countries, infant mortality rate is among the lowest in the world, and a significant improvement has been recorded in the treatment of chronic diseases.
And yet, Israel's situation is not so good when it comes to the treatment of asthma and lung diseases.
According to the report, most OECD countries recorded a significant rise in life expectancy rates in recent decades thanks to the improvement in living conditions, public health interventions and the improvement in medical care.
Israel has one of the world's highest life expectancies, standing at 81.6 years in 2009 – about two years more than the OECD average of 79.5. Japan had the highest life expectancy in 2009 – 83 years.
The difference between male and female life expectancy in Israel in 2009 stood at 3.8 years in favor of women. Men live 79.7 years on average; women live 83.5 years. This difference is relatively low compared to the OECD average, which stood at 5.5 years in favor of women.
Why is it so? The answer may be found in the report's other data. Infant mortality rates in Israel, like in all other OECD countries, have dropped in recent decade. The Israeli rate is relatively low, standing at 3.8 deaths per 1,000 births, compared to a 4.4 average in OECD countries.
A significant drop has been found in mortality from heart disease. While in 2000 some 8.1% of heart patients died in Israeli hospitals within 30 after being hospitalized, the average in 2009 stood at only 4.1%. According to Israeli figures, heart disease mortality rates fell from 7.1% in 2000 to 4.5% in 2009.
A drop was also recorded in mortality from stroke: The death rate at Israeli hospitals within 30 days after hospitalization due to a stroke fell from 5.1% in 2000 to 3.5% in 2009, compared to a more moderate drop in OECD countries (from 6.2% to 5.2%) over the same period.
Additional encouraging figures can be found in cancer survival rates, thanks to early diagnoses and improved treatment over the years.
For example, women's survival rate five years after the diagnosis of breast cancer increased in OECD countries from 79% in 2002 to 84% in 2009. In Israel, breast cancer survival rates are even higher – up from 80.5% in 2002 to 86% in 2008.
The survival rates for colorectal cancer five years after diagnosis are higher in Israel compared to the OECD average, up from 58.7% in 2002 to 64.7% in 2008.
An improvement has also been recorded in the treatment of diabetes: In OECD countries, 50 out of 100,000 adults are hospitalized every year for uncontrolled diabetes. In Israel the rate is particularly low, standing at only seven out of 100,000 adults despite a 6.5% diabetes prevalence rate among the population, similar to the OECD average.
Nonetheless, the report's authors rebuke all countries, including Israel, for the community treatment of different chronic diseases like asthma. This disorder should be efficiently treated by a family doctor or pediatrician (in other words, in HMOs), and yet 52 out of 100,000 adults aged 15 and up were admitted to hospitals for asthma in OECD countries in 2009.
Hospital admission rates for asthma in Israel are even higher, standing at 68 per 100,000 adults. Hospital admission rates for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are also higher in Israel, standing at 229 per 100,000 adults compared to the OECD average of 198.
When it comes to obesity, Israelis have a reason to be proud. According to the report, obesity rates have doubled and even tripled in many countries since 1980. In more than half of the countries, more than half of the population is overweight, with the United States ranking first.
The lowest obesity rates were recorded in Japan and Korea, while the Israeli average stood at 14% in 2009 – lower than the world average of 17%.
In light of the encouraging figures on life expectancy and mortality from diseases in Israel, the public and private spending on healthcare make comes as a surprise. The country with the highest healthcare spending in 2009 was the US, with $7,960 per capita, 2.5 more than the OECD average.
In Israel, on the other hand, healthcare spending per capita is 30% lower than the OECD average, totaling $2,164 in 2009. In addition, the per capita spending in fixed prices from 2000 to 2009 increased by only 1.5%, less than the average growth of 4% in OECD countries.
The national healthcare spending in Israel was also relatively low in 2009, totaling 79% of the GDP, compared to a 9.6% average in OECD countries. The highest rates were in the US (17.4%), Holland (12%) and France (11.8%).
And who funds healthcare spending in Israel? According to the report, only 58% of healthcare spending in 2009 was financed by the State – lower than the OECD average of 72% that year.