Israel’s population is younger, lives longer and is less obese than those of
other OECD countries, but the rates of hospital beds, nurses and medical budgets
are significantly lower than in its counterparts.
These were the results
of the 2012 comparison of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
members, released for publication on Thursday.
The comparison of health
characteristics and health systems – the second involving Israel since the
Jewish state became a full-fledged OECD member in September 2010 – hints that
the positive Israeli results are only somewhat connected to the country’s health
system, while the negative ones are the result of government policy such as
relatively low health expenditure and medical manpower rates. Nir Kaidar – who,
along with Daniella Arieli and Dr.
Tuvia Horev, provided the Health
Ministry statistics for the comparison – confirmed this. Other positive
influences on Israeli health include the Mediterranean diet, climate, lifestyle
and even religious observance.
Israelis are younger than the average in
OECD countries, with children up to age 14 accounting for 28 percent of the
population – the second- highest rate in the OECD – compared to the OECD average
But since 10% of Israelis are aged 65 and over compared to
15.3% in the OECD, the “dependence index” of young children and older,
pensionage adults means that 61.1% of Israelis are not of working age. This is
the highest percentage in the OECD countries.
Israeli life expectancy is
among the highest in the OECD, standing at 79.7 for Israeli men compared to 76.9
in the economic organization in general.
It is thus the second-highest
for men in the OECD. But among Israeli women, the gap is much smaller – 83.6
years compared to 82.5 years – so Israeli women rank only eighth.
mortality in Israel is relatively low – 3.7 infant deaths per 1,000 compared to
the 4.3 average. It is thus lower than in the US and Britain, but higher than in
Spain, Greece and Scandinavia.
The Israeli health system’s bad marks
include its low hospital bed rate of 1.9 per 1,000 residents compared to the
OECD average of 3.4, and the average hospital stay of four days compared to the
6.3 OECD average. As a result of the high hospital occupancy rate of 96.3% here
compared to the OECD’s 75.9%, patients are often sent home prematurely, and some
have to be rehospitalized.
The rate of nurses compared to the population
is only 4.8 per 1,000 here, while the OECD average is almost twice as high.
Health expenditures in Israel are only 7.9% of the GDP compared to 9.6% in the
average OECD country. The rate of public expenditure for health services is
especially low, only 58.5% here compared to 71.7%.
While overweight and
obesity rates are lower here than in the US, Israel’s self-reported rates of
these phenomena are growing, and as these reflect future heart and other disease
rates, this is worrisome.
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman
reiterated that he had “reached agreement” with the Treasury to add 1,000
hospital beds in recent years. However, according to his critics, there has not
been a single one added in more than a year.
Prof. Ronni Gamzu said that while Israel ranked high in various important
health comparisons, it still faced major challenges in reducing overweight,
smoking and alcohol use and expanding medical manpower. The fact that public
health expenditure is relatively low, he continued, “strengthens our argument
for [the government to] add resources to the public health system. This is vital
for preserving the quality of medical services and boosting equity in the health