Academic journal article Social Development Issues: Alternative Approaches to Global Human Needs

Health Survey Comparison: Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States

Academic journal article Social Development Issues: Alternative Approaches to Global Human Needs

Health Survey Comparison: Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States

Article excerpt

As a result of increased access to clean water, sanitary facilities, vaccines, medical technologies, and the collaboration of international health organizations, the world has witnessed unprecedented health improvements in the recent century. By 1977, smallpox was eradicated, and polio is targeted to be eradicated shortly (Foege, 2000; UNICEF, 2010). In large part, the old and emerging diseases are now more effectively managed by the world health community than ever before. This is especially true in advanced industrialized countries. On several health measures, people in developed countries enjoy longer and healthier lives. For instance, according to world health figures, Canada and the United Kingdom (UK) have some of the highest life expectancies and lowest child mortality rates in the world, closely followed by the United States (WHO, 2010). These three countries all have developed highly advanced health care systems, and a significant number of resources are invested to provide the best care available.

Despite the high level of health care enjoyed by people in Canada, the UK, and the United States, their health care systems are a frequent target of controversy and dissatisfaction. This is an indication that regardless of the great advancements in health care in the last century, more can be done to better meet the health care needs of people today. This study examines what people in the three countries say about the need for health care reform, accessing care, quality of care, and waiting time; then this paper examines social work policy implications for improving health care systems.

Background

The health care systems of Canada, the UK, and the United States are compared because these three countries have been historically and culturally entwined over many generations. Among other things, they are highly advanced economies, English is the common language spoken, and the structures of political institutions are largely democratic. Canada and the United States even share the same geographic boundary. Although no two countries share the same sociopolitical and economic values, traditions, and practices, it is important to confine the comparison to countries that are substantially similar to ensure a more reliable conclusion. Moreover, juxtaposing the health care systems of these three countries will help contextualize respondents' views about their health care systems.

Despite efforts made to put the findings on common ground, in some sense it is not a reliable comparison or contrast. The comparison would be relatively more reliable if there had been a way to take into consideration any health reform policy changes made during the time of survey in all three countries. However, an examination of a historical timetable for health reform in each of the survey periods showed little or no significant change. Those changes that did take place involved such items as a commission established to study the operation of clinics, technical changes made for purchasing insurance, creating an institute for health research, and so forth (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2011; Royal College of Physicians, 2012). Moreover, any policy changes made in Canada often affected only one province because each province operates from a different legal authority (Health Canada, 2011). Although a major health care policy in the United States, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, was passed in the survey year, it had not yet taken effect. Hence this study reports only what the respondents viewed about their health care systems during the survey timeframe.

Canada

The Canadian health care system, known as Medicare, is a single-payer system that is publicly funded and covers all Canadians. Although it is publicly administered, it is not a single system; rather it is a thirteen provincial and territory system. Each province/territory raises its own revenues in the form of taxes or premiums and administers its own health insurance program. …

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