How Much Do OECD Countries Spend on Healthcare?
When you start feeling ill, the first line of defense is typically to have a doctor assess the symptoms—but how much you end up paying for a visit differs greatly by region.
Today’s interactive visualization was created by HealthDataViz consultant Lindsay Betzendahl, who also founded #ProjectHealthViz. The data considers how healthcare spending by country stacks up across the 36 Organization for Economic Cooperation (OECD) members, and how it has changed since 2010.
One thing is clear—the United States comes in first place in each category, but that’s not necessarily a good thing:
|🇺🇸 United States||🌐 OECD Average|
|Healthcare Spending (% of GDP)||16.9% (#1)||8.8%|
|Admin Costs as % of Health Spend||8.3% (#1)*||~3%|
|Per Capita Prices (Current PPPs, USD)||$10,586 (#1)||$3,992|
*Although Costa Rica’s figure was higher in 2016, more recent data is not yet available.
Let’s look at each individual cost category, to see what else we can learn.
What Portion of GDP Goes Towards Health?
Population health is a strong determinant in quality of life. As such, how much a country spends on healthcare as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) can be an important indicator.
The U.S. spends 16.9% of GDP on its healthcare, nearly double the OECD average of 8.8%. That’s also over 4 percentage points (p.p.) above Switzerland, which ranks second with 12.2% healthcare spending by GDP.
The problem? While Switzerland consistently ranks as having one of the best healthcare systems in the world, the U.S. lags behind—which means that expenditures are not always translating into better health outcomes for patients.
Where’s the Money Going?
Looking after the health of millions of people is a lot of work, and this is where spending on healthcare administration and financing comes into play. Funds are allocated to medical resource providers, who manage everything from health records to salaries and insurance bills.
The U.S. spends about 8.3% of its total healthcare expenditures on these complex costs today, which is a marginal increase from 7.5% in 2010. Interestingly, Costa Rica’s healthcare spending on the same metric was even higher in 2016, at 9.5% of the total.
On the bright side, Mexico has been making strides in the past few years: administrative spending plunged from 10.3% in 2013, down to 4.6% in 2017.
Globally, advancements in health-tech are helping to reduce costs by streamlining tedious processes. However, it’s still not enough—and these immense costs trickle down to patients.
How Much Does Each Person Shell Out?
Over the past eight years, a majority of OECD countries have seen their healthcare spending per capita climb, with Luxembourg and Greece being the only exceptions. The average OECD country’s spend was $3,992 per capita in 2018, up from $3,080 in 2010—nearly a 30% increase.
However, the U.S. experiences the most dramatic sticker shock by far. At $10,586 per head, the U.S. average is already more than double the OECD average. What’s more, this is a 33.3% increase from $7,939 in healthcare spending per capita in 2010.
As the U.S. healthcare reform debate around prices and quality of care rages on, it’s important to remember that healthy people are the backbone of any country’s long-term economic growth.
Mapped: The European CBD Landscape in 2020
This graphic explains the innately complex legal status of CBD products in Europe and highlights the countries leading the CBD charge.
Mapped: The European CBD Landscape in 2020
To say CBD has risen in popularity over the last decade is an understatement.
Not only have CBD consumer products rapidly infiltrated a long list of industries, new research discoveries continue to prove their therapeutic benefits. By 2023, the European CBD market is estimated to reach €1.4 billion.
However, a big problem remains—there is an incredible amount of uncertainty surrounding what is legal, and what isn’t. The above infographic from Elements of Green sheds some light on the innately complex legal status of CBD products in Europe.
The Great CBD Debate
CBD—short for cannabidiol—is a non-psychotropic compound produced by cannabis plants.
While most European countries have legalised it in some way, the caveat for many is that it must be extracted from industrial hemp, thus containing less than 0.2% THC—the intoxicating compound also found in cannabis. On the other hand, countries such as France and Norway only permit CBD isolate (the pure form of CBD) with no THC.
In 2019, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) designated CBD products as a novel food. This means that companies should seek authorisation to bring products to market, although it is not required by law.
However, the industry has now hit a fork in the road, as the European Commission (EC) recently announced it will be suspending applications for novel foods status while it determines whether or not certain CBD products should be labelled as narcotics instead.
The Legal Landscape in 2020
As the industry flip flops between regulations, consumers and investors need to understand that each country has its own laws surrounding the use of CBD.
|Country||CBD Legal Staus|
|🇦🇹 Austria||Legal grey area (legal lean)|
|🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina||Illegal|
|🇧🇪 Belgium||Legal grey area (restricted lean)|
|🇨🇿 Czech Republic||Legal grey area (legal lean)|
|🇭🇷 Croatia||Legal grey area (legal lean)|
|🇪🇪 Estonia||Legal grey area (legal lean)|
|🇫🇮 Finland||Legal grey area (restricted lean)|
|🇭🇺 Hungary||Legal grey area (legal lean)|
|🇮🇸 Iceland||Legal grey area (legal lean)|
|🇮🇪 Ireland||Legal grey area (restricted lean)|
|🇮🇹 Italy||Legal grey area (restricted lean/legal for medical use)|
|🇱🇻 Latvia||Legal grey area|
|🇱🇮Liechtenstein||Legal grey area|
|🇲🇹 Malta||Legal grey area/legal for medical use|
|🇲🇰 North Macedonia||Legal for medical use|
|🇳🇴 Norway||Legal for medical use|
|🇵🇹 Portugal||Legal for medical use|
|🇷🇸 Serbia||Legal grey area (restricted lean)|
|🇬🇧 United Kingdom||Unrestricted|
While a handful of European countries have made it illegal to import, buy, or possess CBD, the vast majority have legalised CBD products that either comply with the Novel Foods Act, or can be obtained from a licensed medical practitioner.
Of these countries, Germany and the UK lead the European CBD market, followed by Switzerland, Austria, Spain, and Greece.
A Call For Change
A progessive stance on cannabis legalisation combined with increasing consumer demand has led to several countries showing remarkable growth, such as Poland, Bulgaria, Netherlands, and Luxembourg.
Luxembourg in particular presents a compelling growth story, as it plans to fully legalise adult-use recreational cannabis in 2021, which would make it the first European country to do so.
Despite its small size, Luxembourg could in fact be instrumental in encouraging neighbouring countries to implement similar reforms, also known as the neighbour effect.
Growing Pains of a Nascent Industry
Considering each country has its own unique restrictions in place, CBD consumers should educate themselves on the regulations and laws relevant to them.
Despite these often confusing laws and restrictions, it is clear that demand for CBD products is growing exponentially. As a result, the continent may have the potential to overtake North America as the largest CBD market in the world.
Global COVID-19 Containment: Confirmed Cases, Updated Daily
This continuously updated chart provides a more complete look at the efficacy of COVID-19 containment strategies.
Global COVID Containment: Confirmed Cases, Updated Daily
Sometimes, it helps to gain a fresh perspective.
Since the pandemic began, there have been innumerable tracking resources made available online, but rarely do they paint a complete picture of a country’s containment progress.
How Much Progress Is Really Being Made
Featured above, this continuously updated chart from Our World in Data provides a more complete look at the efficacy of COVID-19 containment strategies, sorted by country.
It is a variation of the Epidemic Curve (or “epi curve”), showing confirmed COVID-19 cases per country in relation to their testing rates—what’s revealed is the strength of each country’s containment strategy.
Only a fraction of total cases–those confirmed by a test–is known. This is why we spent recent months building the database and the visualization tool to make this variation of the epidemic curve possible.
— Our World in Data
Why Look at it This Way? Adequate Benchmarking
Countries vary widely in how they monitor and report on COVID-19. Cases in this particular chart were confirmed via laboratory testing, and the data covers 66% of the globe’s population.
Depending on a country’s containment efforts, confirmed cases can differ dramatically from total cases. To get a better idea of that difference, Our World in Data looked closer at the extent of testing. As they report, the World Health Organization considers an adequate benchmark to be 10-30 tests per confirmed case. And for those countries that experience larger outbreaks, there must be more tests conducted per confirmed case.
What the COVID Test-to-Case Ratio Tells Us
- Line Trajectory: In this chart, rising lines show that the average number of laboratory-confirmed cases has increased over time, and vice versa for falling lines. Beyond flattening the curve, the end game is to have all of those lines reach zero.
- Blue Lines: The darker the blue line, the more likely that the line is an accurate indicator, as thousands of tests have been administered per confirmed case. The more blue lines this chart shows over time, the better for us all.
- Red Lines: By contrast, the warmer the color of the line, the fewer tests are being administered per confirmed case, and it is less likely to be an accurate measure of COVID-19 cases. Red lines, for example, indicate that only five tests are conducted for every confirmed case, suggesting that the count is not accurate and that many cases are going unreported.
Consider these three scenarios in the diagram above, and hover over countries in the main visualization to compare:
- Country A: Winning the fight against COVID-19.
These countries, like New Zealand, have steadily increased the number of tests per confirmed case. Country A administers hundreds or thousands of tests per confirmed case. The likelihood of missed cases is far lower, most cases are accounted for, and they can confidently state they are winning the fight against COVID-19.
- Country B: A severe, prolonged outbreak.
In comparison, countries like the U.S. have experienced a steady rise in confirmed cases. They also have lower rates of testing—only five tests per confirmed case. Country B cases are likely to be higher than the number reported, a fact that is especially concerning given that the U.S. has already surpassed the rest of the world’s countries in confirmed cases.
- Country C: A volatile scenario.
While confirmed cases decrease, there is much room for doubt. In Country C (South Africa for instance), confirmed cases are decreasing, but very few tests are administered. Unfortunately, this indicates there are many unrepresented cases. Country C probably has a larger problem than its downward trajectory would indicate.
Cases Per Million People
From a different angle, we can see daily new COVID-19 cases per capita. This gives us a better sense of how countries compare in terms of confirmed cases.
Countries like Thailand, New Zealand, and South Korea all show relatively low rates of COVID-19 per capita, as well as high levels of testing. Conversely, countries like Spain and Kuwait reveal high levels of confirmed cases per capita and extremely low testing rates.
Another Perspective for Good Measure
For a holistic view of testing, the map below shows us the daily number of tests for each newly confirmed COVID-19 case, based on a rolling 7-day average.
Countries like Norway, Australia, and Canada reveal strong testing-to-confirmed-case ratios. In contrast, countries like Bolivia and the Philippines reveal the probability of out-of-control outbreaks.
Due to lower levels of testing in relation to confirmed cases, countries in red are more likely to leave cases unreported.
Making Sense of the Unknown
Although charts like these allow us to look at relationships between critical variables, there are no guarantees of what will come of this outbreak or any second waves.
The only certainty right now, is uncertainty. But with visualizations like this one—updated daily—we can at least stay up-to-speed with the knowledge curve.
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