Recently, Bloomberg released a study that ranked 169 countries based on factors that promote health. Interestingly, 6 of the top 10 healthiest nations in the World are located in Europe. The only two Asian countries featured among the top ten in the list were Japan and Singapore. Japan was ranked as the 4th healthiest nation while Singapore made it to 8th place. Spain tops the list and Italy is the second healthiest nation in the world. Iceland ranked third on the list while Switzerland was in fifth place. Norway ranked ninth, and Sweden fifth. Other nations that featured in the top ten list included Australia (seventh) and Israel (tenth). Researchers at Bloomberg ranked these nations based on factors like life expectancy, childhood malnutrition, obesity, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, vaccination coverage, mental health and tobacco use. They also took environmental factors into account, like access to clean air, water and sanitation. The US is placed at 35 and obesity is one of the main factors that lowered its ranking.
Healthiest Nations in The World that Score High on Health Metrics
In 2018, the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies review noted that Spain saw a decline in heart diseases and cancer deaths. This is attributed to primary and preventative healthcare in the country, provided to women, children and the elderly. Spain was also ranked the highest in life expectancy, according to a United Nations study. By 2040, it may have the highest lifespan at 86 years as per University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Spain and Italy are probably the healthiest because they mostly follow the ‘Mediterranean Diet’ that consists of healthy fats like olive oil, nuts and avocados, fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains.
The US ranks lower than Cuba, a nation that is classified as an ‘upper middle income’ country and is not a ‘high income’ nation. This could be because of Cuba’s focus on preventative healthcare. Smaller nations are ranking higher in wellness metrics and this shows that economic health doesn’t necessarily translate into better health for countries. The Global Wellness Index 2019 ranked countries on metrics such as government spending on healthcare, smoking, blood pressure, blood glucose, obesity, happiness, exercise, depression and alcohol use. It ranked Canada highly as it scored well based on blood pressure, life expectancy, diabetes, alcohol use and depression. Major economies do not perform well when ranked against countries that are smaller and healthier. The US ranked lower owing to high rates of physical inactivity, obesity, depression, etc. In the wellness index, the UK was ranked 15th because of its high rates of obesity and physical inactivity. Low alcohol use led to relatively better rankings for Middle Eastern countries.
How Preventative Healthcare & Technology Can help non- Healthiest Nations in The World
Preventative healthcare, rather than focus on diagnosis and treatment can lead to better health outcomes in nations. Preventative services like counselling, prenatal care, health screenings, wellness visits, routine vaccinations, cancer screenings must be made available at affordable prices. Awareness programmes on wellness and the importance of physical activity, healthy and balanced diets, lowering tobacco and alcohol use can help nations get healthier. The main reason why people avoid preventative care is the financial costs associated with it. At every stage of their lives, preventative care can help citizens maintain their health, be it vaccinations for children and adults, cancer and health screenings or regular checkups with specialists. They can avoid ill-health, delay or avoid diseases, manage existing illnesses successfully thereby leading better lives with reduced expenses.
Diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes are potentially preventable, and yet many die of them every year. Increased access to preventative services can lead to increased use, enable people to detect diseases in earlier stages and this can improve the overall health of a country. Technology can be used for spreading awareness, provide easy access to medical information(using big data), patient feedback (social media), lower healthcare costs, offer advanced treatments like personalized care, eliminate errors, better equipment, mobile health, faster results, predict outbreaks, develop medicine and help with early diagnosis and mass screenings for marginalized populations. Doctors must upgrade to newer technologies that can enable faster and accurate screenings and stay updated on newer developments in treatment options for patients. Technology coupled with expertise and preventative measures can positively impact health in nations.