Health policies and data

Issue No. 21, July 2014




Issue No. 21, July 2014

OECD Work on Health

Health Expenditure Rises in many OECD Countries but Remains Weak in Europe

30th June

OECD-Health-StatisticsThe new edition of OECD Health Statistics 2014 (the new name of the online database OECD Health Data) shows that health expenditure has started to rise again in many OECD countries, following stagnation or reduction in health spending after the economic crisis, although the pace of growth remains well below pre-crisis rates, especially in Europe.

Health spending accounted for 9.3% of GDP on average across OECD countries in 2012, little changed from 9.2% in 2011, but up from 8.6% before the crisis.     


While spending on hospital and outpatient care grew in many countries in 2012, almost two-thirds of OECD countries have experienced real falls in pharmaceutical spending since 2009. These reductions have been driven by price cuts, often through negotiations with manufacturers, and a growing share of the generic market. This share has increased due to patent expirations for a number of high-volume and high-cost brand name drugs, and policies to promote the use of cheaper generic drugs.

These are some of the recent trends shown in the OECD health database, the most comprehensive source of comparable statistics on health and health systems across OECD countries. This interactive database is an essential tool to carry out comparative analyses and draw lessons from international comparisons of diverse health systems.



Access the press release, country notes, new data visualisation tools, and online datasets at:

Growth of Health Care Expenditure Slows in US

The Lancet

1st July

screen shot of the cover for The Lancet Series on communiucable diseasesA new OECD paper, published in the Lancet as part of a series of five papers about ‌‌the Health of the Americans, analyses health care expenditure - and the policies that determine it - in the United States and five other high-spending OECD countries (Canada, France, Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland) over the period 2000-2011.

The report finds that growth in per-capita expenditure declined sharply in the United States during the period 2000-11, after adjusting for inflation. Price dynamics were largely responsible for this spending slowdown, which began prior to the financial crisis. In 2002, health expenditure growth in the United States was around 7%, compared to an average of just over 3% in the other countries included in the study.

However, by 2011, health expenditure growth in the United States had declined to about 1%, approximately the same as the average growth rate in the other OECD countries studied.  Despite a slight rebound in 2012, health spending in the United States still grew less than in the other countries studied.

As the economy improves the OECD warns that “more and bigger” efforts will be needed to prevent a reversal of the recent slowdown in health spending growth.

The paper is available at the following link:

Obesity Keeps Spreading, Especially Among the Poor

OECD Obesity Update 2014

27th May

‌‌Released on May 27, Obesity Update 2014 presents an update of analyses of trends and social disparities in obesity originally presented in the OECD’s report “Obesity and the Economics of Prevention: Fit not Fat”, published in 2010.

New OECD data shows that obesity keeps spreading in member countries, and is increasingly an inequality issue, especially in women. The economic crisis has made families spend less on food, and poor households have switched to cheaper foods that are high in calories. But in countries with very high levels of obesity, such as Mexico and the United States, people with more education are now as likely to be obese as those with less education.

Mexico has adopted a comprehensive strategy to tackle the problem, and other OECD countries have taken action in different ways. However, more needs to be done to address a problem that has been growing relentlessly over the past three decades.

The 8-page report Obesity Update, individual country notes and data in Excel are available at  Download OECD Obesity Update 2014

OECD Reviews of Health Care Quality: Norway and the Czech Republic 2014 - Raising Standards

21st May and 25th June respectively

These reports on Norway and the Czech Republic are the 5th and 6th editions in the OECD reviews of the quality of health care across OECD Countries.

The report on the Czech Republic recommends a shift to mandatory accreditation, rather than a voluntary approach, that would give hospitals stronger incentives to improve performance. The Czech Republic’s primary care system is failing to prevent chronic disease. Focusing more on evidence-based prevention and screening programmes would help reduce the incidence of these conditions.

The review of Norway examines, among other things, the impact of the 2012 ‘
Coordination Reform’ which sought to increase the role of primary and community services, weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of the reform’s approach of financial penalties and incentives aimed at municipalities.

Both reports identify under-developed or fragmented data infrastructure with little information for patients on hospital performance and limited progress towards securing better quality.

Download the Quality Reviews of the Czech Republic and of Norway. All country reviews are available at

New Website for Health Systems Characteristics 

24th June 

A new website provides information on the OECD Survey of Health System Characteristics, which was conducted in 2008 and 2012 in order to provide input for analyses of health system performance.


The survey covers three main domains: health financing, health care delivery and governance and resource allocation.

isit the site to find out more about these three areas and to view the original survey in full:


Health News

Global Co-operation to Address Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

23rd July, 15th September and 6th November 


DementiaThe share of OECD populations that are suffering from dementia is expected to increase as populations age. At the same time, efforts to discover therapies to improve outcomes for patients have been disappointing. At the 2013 G8 Dementia Summit, countries agreed to double funding for dementia research, increase participation in clinical trials and identify preventative and curative therapies by 2025. The UK Prime Minister appointed a Dementia Envoy, and the Envoy is supported by the World Dementia Council. Council members include policy, research, business and patient interests. The OECD is a member. The Council met for the first time in April and will meet next on 23 July at the OECD in Paris.

The OECD health and science policy areas are involved in projects to help to tackle the growing burden of dementia. This includes projects to map existing data resources that could be tapped to improve therapies and care pathways for patients; to develop recommended mechanisms to govern health data to enable privacy-respectful data uses; and to uncover financial incentives and regulatory mechanisms to foster research.

On the 15th September 2014, the OECD is jointly hosting with the Canadian Ontario Brain Institute and the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, a workshop in Toronto with leading experts to explore Addressing dementia research and care: Can big data help?  The workshop aims to advance international discussion on the opportunities from analysis of ‘big data’ to better understand dementia, to develop new ways to prevent and treat dementia, and to ensure that our health care systems provide sustainable high-quality care to those with dementia. Results will be reported back to the Council. 

The OECD will also contribute to a G7 legacy event in Japan on the 6th November 2014, where delegates will explore new health care and prevention models. The OECD will report on countries with best practices and new innovations in prevention and care.

Learn more about the OECD's work on Dementia at:

Japan-ASEAN Co-operation to Tackle Challenges of Ageing Population

ASEAN Japan Active Ageing Regional Conference

20th June, Jakarta

The ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Japan Active Ageing Regional Conference was organised in response to Japan’s experience of a rapid inflation of its elderly population, which ASEAN countries are expected to encounter in the future. 

Co-organised by the ASEAN Secretariat and Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan, this conference, attended by senior officials from member countries, was part of their efforts to promote Active Ageing societies and integrate the health and welfare sectors to secure the elderly’s income, health and living environment. 

Read more about the conference and access the presentations given.

For more information on the OECD Health Division’s work on Ageing and Long Term Care, visit

South Africa Spends More on Private Voluntary Health Insurance than any OECD Country, but for Fewer People

Launch of Paper on Pricing and Competition in Specialist Medical Services in South Africa

17th June, Pretoria


OECD Health experts Valérie Paris and Ankit Kumar took part in a seminar organised by the WHO South cover page for Health working paper no. 70Africa to launch the official release of the report on Pricing and Competition in Specialist Medical Services - OECD working paper no. 70.


Major disparities in the cost of health care have made the pricing of specialist and hospital services a contentious issue in South Africa, particularly in the private sector. To help inform policy debate, the paper profiles selected experiences on the pricing of health services, competition policy and models of buying specialist health care services from the private sector across the OECD.

The seminar included representatives from a range or institutions and organisations including the National Department of Health; National Treasury; Competition; Health Professions Council of South Africa; Section 27; the Helen Suzman Foundation and the Board of Healthcare Funders. 


To find out more and download the report, visit:

Better Co-ordination Needed in Health and Innovation

The OECD Forum 2014

5th May, Paris


Deputy Director of the Directorate for Employment Labour and Social Affairs, Mark Pearson, took part in this stimulating panel discussion which examined the use of innovation in tackling the world’s most pressing health issues such as dementia, as well as related economic challenges.


A key note speech was given by Shinya Yamanaka, Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine and Professor & Director, Center for iPS Cell Research and Application at Kyoto University, Japan. Other speakers included Monika Kosinska, Secretary-General, European Public Health Alliance (EPHA); Helga Rohra, Chair, European Working Group of People with Dementia and Cyril Schiever, Senior Vice President & Managing Director, MSD France, and was moderated by Kenneth Cukier, Data editor, The Economist.


The panel discussed open data, research and the system of funding for innovation and how better co-ordination is needed to unblock breakthroughs in science and fundamental research.


Watch the webcast

Coming Soon

Making Mental Health Count and Mental Health Analysis Profiles

8th July

Despite the enormous burden that mental ill-health imposes on individuals, their families, society, health systems and the economy, mental health care remains a neglected area of health policy in too many countries. This report stresses that the current weak state of mental health care is unacceptable, that it is economically and socially unsustainable, and that more must be done to make mental health count. The report takes a look at mental health, mental disorders, and mental health systems across OECD countries, and argues that there is still a long way to go to securing high quality mental health care.


Alongside the report, a series of Mental Health Analysis Profiles (MhAPs) will be published as working papers, looking in greater detail at the key challenges facing the mental health systems in over ten countries, and making a series of recommendations to strengthen the country’s ability to respond to their population’s mental health needs. 


For more information on the OECD’s work on Mental health visit

Paying for Performance in Healthcare

15th September


This volume is part of the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies Series, which focus on key issues for health policy- making in Europe.


Co-edited by the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, the OECD and the French Caisse Nationale d’Assurance Maladie des Travailleurs Salariés (CNAMTS), the report analyses Paying for Performance (P4P) programmes in 10 OECD countries, selected to reflect the wide range of health system contexts and challenges across the OECD.


The detailed analysis of 12 case studies, together with the rest of the analytical text, highlight the realities of P4P programs and their potential impact on the performance of health systems in a diversity of settings. The book provides critical insights into the experience to date with P4P and how this tool may be better leveraged to improve health system performance and accountability.

Alcohol Consumption and Harmful Drinking: Trends and Social Disparities in OECD Countries

Comparing Hospital and Health Prices and Volumes Internationally: Results of A Eurostat/OECD Project

For a full list of OECD Health Working Papers see: 


See also the Employment, Migration and Social Policy Newsletter


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