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Health Measures for the Developed World

By Scott Gilkeson
October 28, 2009

The motion chart below plots countries as bubbles against two measures, one on each axis, and over time. See change over time by adjusting the slider at the bottom or clicking the play button at bottom left. Change the indicators on each axis by using the small arrows at the right end of the bottom axis label or the top of the vertical axis label.

Data Source:

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD Health Data 2008.


Infant Mortality Rate is the number of deaths of children under one year of age that occurred in a given year, expressed per 1000 live births.

Life Expectancy at Birth is the average number of years that a newborn can be expected to live assuming that mortality rates remain constant over their lifetime. It is an estimate using the unweighted average of life expectancy of men and women.

Total expenditure on health is defined as the sum of expenditure on activities that -- through application of medical, paramedical, and nursing knowledge and technology -- have the goals of:

  • Promoting health and preventing disease;
  • Curing illness and reducing premature mortality;
  • Caring for persons affected by chronic illness who require nursing care;
  • Caring for persons with health-related impairments, disability, and handicaps who require nursing care;
  • Assisting patients to die with dignity;
  • Providing and administering public health;
  • Providing and administering health programmes, health insurance and other funding arrangements.
  • Services for curative, rehabilitative and long-term nursing care
  • Ancillary services to health care
  • Medical goods dispensed to out-patients
  • Services of prevention and public health
  • Health administration and health insurance
  • Investment (gross capital formation) in health
  • Education and training of health personnel
  • Research and development in health
  • Food, hygiene and drinking water control
  • Environmental health
  • Administration and provision of social services in kind to assist living with disease and impairment
  • Administration and provision of health-related cash benefits

Total expenditure on health is given per capita in US dollars and as a percent of GDP. When converting to US dollars, OECD uses purchasing power parities (PPP) to eliminate differences in price levels between countries. Per capita volume indices based on PPP converted data reflect only differences in the volume of goods and services produced. They should not be used to rank countries as PPPs are statistical constructs rather than precise measures. Minor differences between countries should be interpreted with caution.

Public expenditure on health care is health expenditure incurred by public funds. Public funds are state, regional and local Government bodies and social security schemes. Public capital formation on health includes publicly financed investment in health facilities plus capital transfers to the private sector for hospital construction and equipment.

Practicing physicians provide services directly to patients.

  • Persons who have completed studies in medicine at university level (granted by adequate diploma) and who are licensed to practice
  • Interns and resident physicians (with adequate diploma and providing services under supervision of other medical doctors during their postgraduate internship in a health care facility)
  • Salaried and self-employed physicians delivering services irrespectively of the place of service provision
  • Foreign physicians licensed to practice and actively practising in the country
  • Students who have not yet graduated
  • Dentists and stomatologists / dental surgeons
  • Physicians working in administration, research and in other posts that exclude direct contact with the patients
  • Unemployed physicians and retired physicians
  • Physicians working abroad.

Mortality due to Respiratory System Disease is given in age-standardised death rates per 100,000 population. The age-standardised death rates are necessary for comparing the level of mortality across countries and over time since they take into account the differences in age structure of the populations.

Tobacco Consumption is the percent of the population aged 15 years or more who report smoking daily.

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