Currently flipping through the European Health Consumer Index for 2008, which seems to rate nations (in Europe) based on how well the health system treats patients and how empowered patients are. Though as I flip through it, they frequently point out they are not trying to claim to know which is the BEST system in Europe, while still referring to the Netherlands as their winner for 2008.
Their biggest criteria seems to revolve around patients’ rights and subtopics like E-patient files, which indeed there is a pamphlet in my mailbox this week that seeks to explain how that new system works here in the Netherlands.? They also get into what countries are good with introducing new medicines, or which have long waiting lists, or infant mortality, etc etc.? Also following the Netherlands in the top three are Denmark and Austria. You may recall France being often heralded as one of the best health systems in the world, according to this survey, they rank 10th in Europe.. with ,interestingly enough, Estonia right behind them. What keeps France in 10th place? They say the medical system has been too slow in adopting new web based information sharing systems for patient files, and there is some reference to a very authorotarian ASK YOUR DOCTOR tradition that holds patients back.
Such studies are interesting, but as I’ve mentioned before on this bog, in my experience the Netherlands is not big on proactive medicine. Doctors number one reaction to anything is to send you home. That may be appropriate alot of the time, but it leaves me wondering how often patients with something important are turned away… that doesn’t sound very patients’ rights to me. But yes indeed, they’ve got this new e-patient file system and the hospitals seem well organized and nice, and as some of my favorite medical student friends remind me “the next generation of medical professionals in the netherlands are going to rock.” Still, does all this qualify as the best in Europe? I think I’ll keep reading and see if I learn anything more.
While in the United States I usually watch a bit of television and I definitely spend time listening to the radio.? One thing you’ll have no problem encountering on both of these mediums: ads that include the phrase “ASk Your Doctor About…” and then some perscription drug to help some ailment.? Apparently the public should then go to their doctors and tell THEM what drugs they want.
In the European Union this practice has long been banned. No ads with senior citizens strolling on the beach recommending that you ask your doctor about some brilliant new drug.
However, this October the EU will roll out new pharmaceutical policies that are intended to, in their words, “Modernize” the rules for the pharma industry.? One of the provisions they’re putting forward will allow the pharma industry to provide “additional information” to the public via the media.? Which of course would make it possible for some sort of television ad within Europe that presents viewers with what the industry seems additional info, whatever that means in the end.
Various medical organizations throughout Europe as well as Ministries of Health, are sounding the alarms, concerned that this is one step towards the US style onsluaght of ads suggestion you need to ask your doctor about this and that drug in order to happily walk through the forest.? The industry, meanwhile, insists that they would have no interest in that type of information campaign, and would instead want this to free them up for internet based info that people can request, rather than have it pushed on them.? Meanwhile, advocates of the changes insist that there are many other useful policies included in the package, and that there would be some oversight as to what would be deemed suitable additional information.
This change sounds like the first of many on the road towards a US style system where pharmaceutical companies treat people more like customers than patients. Beyond that, makes medicine ever more like a business than a service. Is it too late to stop them? I will try to find out.
The theme this season on the blog continues to be food; the cost, growing, and politics of food. Recently, while preparing for my journey to Thailand (next week), I’ve noticed 2 big changes coming to the agricultural policies of both the US government and the European Union. Which could spell a change in how our food is raised and from who and how we get that food.
On the US side there’s the Farm Bill, which was vetoed by GWBush but that veto was overturned by congress. An imperfect text which, as EWG analyists explain it:
throws a couple of small bones to a few grassroots causes but mainly ensures that the big dogs will continue to run agriculture – courtesy of the U.S. Treasury.
The only potentially positive development with this farm bill is that meat will have to be labelled for orgin in the US. Otherwise as indicated by the quote above, the bill will continue to pour money on big agribusinesses who, unfortunately, also play a roll in the nation’s obescity epidemic (through pushing big products like high fructose corn syrup).
Meanwhile in the EU, new policies are being rolled out in relation to farming. Among their decisions, they’ve increased the size of what kind of farm qualifies as small and therefore deserving of EU funds to protect and preserve such farms. They also reduced the amount of subsidies to be paid to large farms.
For all the buzz about food prices, it is of interest to see what these two governments decide when it comes to agriculture. Especially in a situation where so many farmers on both sides are paid to NOT farm, despite a global food shortage.
It is that feeling that never really goes away. No matter how often you might look around at how things work in Europe and admire things, there is the ever present feeling that politics, business, and everything in between is heading in the same direction as the United States.
Yet another piece of evidence to that effect appeared in the Financial Times recently, in an article about the intricate role of business executives within the German government. In a story that sounds identical to what has been going on in the US for decades, one German executive from a hedge fund was said to be working in the ministry of justice in the area of hedge fund policy. Another classic example, reminiscant of the Reagan years, executives from BASF (the chemical company) are working in the ministry of environmental protection, also in the area of policies – of course.
But the infiltration of government by business experts from large corporations goes beyond the national level. As the article points out in its conclusion, within the European Commission there is also a strong presence of corporate experts working in the area of policy and regulation.
Just as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, for all the reasons we might admire Europe, there are plenty of reasons to worry about a continent whose governments are allowed to repeat the kind of dysfunctional corporatist capitulation that we saw in the United States over the last 30 years or more.
Been reading about the next month and what it holds in store for Kosovo and the entire Balkan region. Would have made for an interesting time to be back in Belgrade around this time.
The following video is just a montage of images, texts, and audio that I’ve been taking in and evaluating. My g4 powerbook, after 3 years of service, is struggling with exporting video… It is time for a new computer and as always.. I appreciate tips in the tip jar.. and your moral support is nice too.
Well, they lasted a year, and at last the far-right racist and xenophobic block of the European Parliament fell apart last week. Known by their ironic title “Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty Group”, the block dissolved after the Romanian far-right members were offended by derogatory comments by Mussolini’s granddaughter. In practice it means they will get less speaking time in parliament, and perhaps more importantly, no more EU funds for their professional hatred activities. They say when the announcement was made the parliament broke into applause and cheering. I’ll save my applause and cheering for when the mainstream parties stop pushing xenophobic and corporatist policies on European citizens.