U.K.-based authors looking at “amenable mortality” across 16 high-income nations, as one measure of health system performance, found the U.S. rate of deaths which could have been prevented by health care was almost double that of France, which had the lowest levels.

Amenable mortality in the study was defined as premature death from causes that should not occur in the presence of timely and effective health care. The group studied was people under age 75 from the periods between 1997-1998, and 2006-2007.

The study found that “amenable mortality” accounted for 24 percent of deaths in the group studied.


France had the lowest preventable mortality rate at 55 deaths per 100,000 while the U.S. rate was at 96, last in the study. Australia was second at 56.9, and Italy was third at 59.9.

The three lowest were the United States, with 95.5, the United Kingdom with 82.5 and Denmark with 80.1.

Amenable deaths fell 30 percent or more in 10 of 16 countries. The U.S. rate fell 20.5 percent. Ireland had the biggest drop, 42.1 percent.

If the U.S. had improved to match the preventable death rates of France, Australia, and Italy, 84,000 fewer people would have died by the end of the year of the period studied.

About the Study

The study was released by the non-profit Commonwealth Fund and published in the journal Health Policy last week.

The study’s authors were Ellen Nolte, Ph.D. of RAND EUrope and Martin McKee M.D. of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Data analyzed came from the World Health Organization’s mortality database.

The countries included are: Australia, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States

Causes of death considered amenable to health care include:

- Childhood infections

- Treatable cancers

- Diabetes

- Cerebrovascular disease

- Hypertension

- Complications of common surgical procedures

- Ischemic heart disease (only 50 percent of such deaths are amenable to health care.