28 October 2016

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Bloomberg: America is not the greatest country on earth, it's No. 28

Iceland and Sweden share the top slot with Singapore as world leaders when it comes to health goals set by the United Nations, while the U.S., the country with the biggest economy ranks No. 28 overall, between Japan and Estonia, according to a report published in the Lancet, Bloomberg reported. 


Using the UN's sustainable development goals as guideposts, which measure the obvious (poverty, clean water, education) and less obvious (societal inequality, industry innovation), more than 1,870 researchers in 124 countries compiled data on 33 different indicators of progress toward the UN goals related to health, Bloomberg writes. 

Eradicating disease and raising living standards are lofty goals that have attracted some of the biggest names to philanthropy. Facebook Inc. founder Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, his wife and a pediatrician, yesterday pledged $3 billion toward the effort. The new study itself was funded by (but received no input from) the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals themselves are a successor to the Millennium Development Goals, a UN initiative that from 2000 to 2015 lifted a billion people out of extreme poverty, halved the mortality of children younger than five years old, and raised by about 60% the number of births attended to by a skilled health worker. 

The research team scrubbed data obtained on dozens of topics from all over the world. For example, to make sure they had adequate data on vaccine coverage for each region, they looked at public surveys, records of pharmaceutical manufacturers, and administrative records of inoculations.

"We don't necessarily believe what everybody says," says Christopher Murray, global heath professor at the University of Washington and a lead author of the study.

"There are so many ways they can miss people or be biased." 

The U.S. scores its highest marks in water, sanitation, and child development, according to the report.

Unsurprisingly, interpersonal violence takes a heavy toll on America's overall ranking, the report said. Response to natural disasters, HIV, suicide, and alcohol abuse all require attention in the U.S. Also noteworthy are basic public health metrics that the U.S. doesn't perform as well on as other developed countries. The U.S. is No. 64 in the rate of mothers dying for every 100,000 births, and No. 40 when it comes to the rate children under age five die.

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