Wednesday, September 16, 2009

NYT Obscures Truths with Generalizations about "Poor Nations'" Health Care

In a story in the New York Times yesterday, entitled "One Injury, 10 Countries", Abigail Zugar, MD writes reviews a book about a Washington Post writer who took his painful shoulder for treatment in ten countries and can therefore recount the experiences he had and how the health care systems of those countries work.

However, there was a major flaw in the stories, that being its euroentrism. Dr. Zugar writes,
In poor countries around the world, private commerce rules: residents pay cash for all health care, which generally means no health care at all.
Dr. Zugar states this as if it were a universal truth, but it's not. Brazil has universal Government sponsored health care whose Government salaried doctors and nurses are forbidden under Brazilian law from accepting payment from patients for the services they provide. Likewise, Cuba offers free health care to Cubans as well as some foreigners, and has produced so many doctors at its medical schools that some practice in Brazil, as a favor to the Brazilian people.

Since it's clear that Dr. Zugar doesn't know of the free health care available in Brazil and Cuba, she and the author of the book, she and T.R. Reid, "a veteran foreign correspondent for The Washington Post", should just refrain from making generalizations about poor countries whose Government-sponsored health care is, in some cases, demonstrably superior to the market-based care in the United States. For example, Cuba's infant mortality rate is lower than that of the United States, and is slightly more than one third of the infant mortality rate for Black children borning in the Southern United States.

Dr. Zugar and Mr. Reid should stick to writing on subjects about which they have information, rather than make generalizations about countries of which they are ignorant.

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