Saturday 16 December 2017

Numbers don't add up when tackling health system's ills

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Brendan Keenan

Brendan Keenan

WE have been warned. At a conference last year, experts from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) said international health statistics must be interpreted with care. It was dangerous to draw lessons, they said, and worse to devise policies "at a glance".

That could mean only one thing. So, wearing full protective gear, I waded into the clotted cream of data contained in the OECD's annual "Health at a Glance" - all 200 pages of it. Glance? Never make eye contact with an OECD statistician would be my advice.

One can certainly see the difficulty. At a glance, it seems impossible to draw any firm conclusions from the wealth of information. There appears to be little or no connection between how health services do things, how much money they spend, and the outcomes they achieve.

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