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Health

6 things you didn't know about health care around the world

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October is health month at Global Citizen, and it’s prompted a health-related research frenzy in the office. I’ve found myself poring over health system comparisons and scouring websites for up-to-date reports. In the midst of all this data gathering, I’ve stumbled across some interesting facts about health care across the world.

From high-tech medical data solutions to non-existent waiting times, these eye-opening facts may make you wish you were living somewhere else.  

In Germany, medical insurance covers weekends at the spa.

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Are stressful situations a part of your daily routine? Does stress give you headaches or affect your ability to sleep? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it might be time to move to Germany. Seriously stressed out Germans can request a prescription from their doctor for several days at a certified spa. While these spas may not offer pore-shrinking facials or hot stone massages, they do provide assistance with things like exercise, nutrition, and relaxation.

Who wouldn’t love to live somewhere where they could say, “Sorry, but I can’t come into work this week. I’m on strict orders to spend the next few days at the spa!”

The Taiwanese put all of their medical data on one little card.

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It’s called the Smart Card, and one swipe of the card gives any doctor instant access to the patient’s history and medications. As if that weren’t enough, the card allows information from each hospital visit to be uploaded to a central database, giving the government a glimpse into health patterns and potential epidemics. While privacy-related concerns may prevent Smart Card adoption in other countries, it’s definitely what I would call smart. Compare this to the US system, where a huge percentage of patient data is sitting dusty in filing cabinets.

Monaco has the longest life expectancy in the world.

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No, I’m not talking about Morocco; I’m talking about Monaco, a tiny country near France. According to the CIA, the average life expectancy for people living in Monaco is 89.52 years. The small size of Monaco may be to thank for this statistic as it allows for greater control over the quality of medical facilities. A visit to one of the public hospitals in Monaco would offer you excellent conditions and the latest in medical technology.

On the opposite end of the CIA’s life expectancy list is Chad which, sadly, falls behind 223 other countries on the list. People living in Chad are expected to live an average of only 49.81 years. According to the World Health Organization, this heartbreaking statistic can largely be attributed to respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases, which were the top two causes of death in 2012.  

In Japan, most people don’t bother making an appointment with their doctor.

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Japanese patients can nearly always see their doctor within a day. And in comparison to their European and North American counterparts, the Japanese go to the doctor way more often. This might be why Japan has the second longest life expectancy in the world (84.74 years).

However, even though Japan’s cheap and universal health care has produced some excellent health results, it’s not without its flaws. Doctors often complain about their low salaries and health facilities are not always in the best financial shape.

Norway is the best place to be a mother.

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According to Save the Children’s Mother’s Index, Norway tops the rankings with a strong performance across all dimensions of maternal and child health. The index ranks countries based on maternal health, child well-being, female educational status, income, and female political status. Norway is the only country that places in the top 12 across all five indicators, with an infant mortality rate of 2.8 per 1,000 live births and a maternal death rate of just 1 in 14,900. Further, Norway has some of the best parental leave benefits in the world, allowing both the mother and father to take paid time off from work.

Cuba has one of the highest doctor-patient ratios in the world.

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There’s no shortage of doctors in Cuba, which means the health care system can place doctors and nurses in small rural communities. Additionally, doctors can provide both personal and preventative care. This focus on preventative care has helped Cuba maintain a high average life expectancy and low infant mortality rates.

So why the large amount of doctors? Well, even though Cuban doctors don’t make very much money, the cost of medical school is free. Also, doctors tend to view their rewards in philosophical rather than financial terms.


While health care systems are excellent in many parts of the world, there are a host of countries still suffering from limited access to quality care, medicine, and life-saving vaccines. And in developed nations like the US, the high cost of health care is one of the biggest causes of bankruptcies.

Without effective health care systems, individuals can’t live up to their full potential; children can’t grow up to be healthy, successful adults. Make sure that improvements are made to health care systems around the world. Call on President Obama to help end all preventable child deaths by 2030 in TAKE ACTION NOW.


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