Reducing Preventable Deaths Through Improved Health System Performance

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<p>Research shows that the U.S. is not reducing its rate of "mortality amenable to health care" as quickly as other industrialized nations. In fact, in a recent study, the U.S. came in last among developed countries on this measure, which includes only deaths under age 75 and excludes deaths that are likely not preventable. Other studies reveal declines in the U.S. in life expectancy, as well as rises in infant mortality rates.<br><br>In a <a href="/aboutus/aboutus_show.htm?doc_id=709581">new column,</a> Stephen C. Schoenbaum, M.D., M.P.H., executive vice president for programs at The Commonwealth Fund, says that poor performance on these measures points, in large part, to flawed preventive care--instances where the health system has failed to identify underlying conditions that can lead to potentially fatal diseases, or failed to help people with chronic disease stay as healthy as possible. For example, Fund research has found that, as of 2005, adults in the U.S. received only half of the recommended screening and preventive care for their age group.<br><br>These data underscore the need for health care reform, to ensure that all Americans have excellent access to excellent care, says Schoenbaum, who also serves as executive director for the Fund's Commission on a High Performance Health System. As outlined by Schoenbaum, the Commission's key strategies for achieving broad performance improvement include: extending affordable health insurance to all; aligning financial incentives to enhance value and achieve savings; organizing the health care system around the patient to ensure that care is accessible and coordinated; meeting and raising benchmarks for high-quality, accessible care; and ensuring accountable national leadership and public/private collaboration.<br><br>"Our poor performance on these measures should urge us to start work to improve health system performance as soon as possible," Schoenbaum says.</p>