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BMJ News Examines Outcomes Of U.N. Human Development Index

BMJ News examines the results of the recent U.N. Human Development Index, which documents “people’s wellbeing in 182 countries and territories around the world.” The 2009 report reveals the wide disparities between developing and wealthy countries in the investment in health and health outcomes. “For example, a child born in a country that ranks low on the index,” like Niger, “can expect to live just over 50 years—17 years less than in a medium ranked country and 30 years less than in the highest ranked countries,” the journal writes.

“Public spending on health per capita (measured in purchasing power parity in dollars in 2006) in the top 10 countries listed in the index (Norway, Australia, Iceland, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, France, Switzerland, and Japan) ranged from $3,780 in Norway to $2,067 in Japan” compared to “per capita public spending in the 10 lowest ranked nations ranged from $50 in Burkina Faso to only $7 in the war torn Democratic Republic of the Congo and $8 in Afghanistan.”

However, the report also found “that the nations that have recorded the biggest gains in the index in the past few decades have been from the poorer end of the spectrum—namely, China, Iran, and Nepal—with advances made particularly in education and health,” the journal notes (Zarocostas, 10/7).

“The index was released as part of the UNDP’s annual Human Development Report, which this year highlighted migration,” the Associated Press writes. “Most migrants, internal and international, reap gains in the form of higher incomes, better access to education and health and improved prospects for their children,” the report said(10/5).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.