OECD Health at a Glance 2009: Key findings for the United States


The OECD’s latest edition of Health at a Glance shows that all countries could do better in providing good quality health care.

Quality of Care

The United States stands out as performing very well in the area of cancer care, achieving higher rates of screening and survival from different types of cancer than most other developed countries. The United States does not do well in preventing costly hospital admissions for chronic conditions, such as asthma or complications from diabetes, which should normally be managed through proper primary care. 


  • In 2006, 73% of eligible women in the United States were screened for breast cancer (OECD average 62%), and 84% for cervical cancer (OECD average 64%).
  • The 5-year relative survival rate for breast cancer during 2000-2005 was 91%, the highest among OECD countries (OECD average 81%). For cervical cancer, it was 67%, slightly higher than the OECD average of 66%.
  • The 5-year relative survival rates for colorectal cancer during 2000-2005 were 65% for females and 66% for males, also higher than the OECD average (58% for females and 56% for males).
  • Avoidable hospital admissions for asthma and diabetes complications are more than two-times greater in the United States than the OECD average. For asthma admissions, the rate in the United States was 120 per 100 000 population aged 15 and over in 2006, compared with an OECD average of 51.  For acute complications from diabetes, hospital admission in the United States was 57 per 100 000 population aged 15 and over, compared with an OECD average of 21.

Health Expenditure

The United States spent 16% of GDP on health in 2007, much more than the OECD average of 8.9%. Spending per person is almost two-and-a-half times higher than the OECD average.


  • Total health spending accounted for 16.0% of GDP in the United States in 2007, by far the highest share in the OECD.  Following the United States were France, Switzerland and Germany, which allocated respectively 11.0%, 10.8% and 10.4% of their GDP to health. The OECD average was 8.9%.
  • The United States also ranks far ahead of other OECD countries in health spending per capita, with spending of 7 290 USD in 2007, almost two-and-a-half times greater than the OECD average of 2 984 USD (adjusted for purchasing power parity).  Norway follows with spending of 4 763 USD per capita, then Switzerland with spending of 4 417 USD per capita.  Differences in health spending across countries reflect differences in price, volume and quality of medical goods and services consumed.
  • The public sector is the main source of health funding in all OECD countries, except Mexico and the United States. In the United States, 45% of health spending was funded by public sources in 2007, a much lower share than the average of 73% for OECD countries. 


  • Journalists are invited to contact the OECD’s Media Relations Division (tel.: 33 1 45 24 97 00 or [email protected]) to obtain a copy of OECD Health at a Glance 2009.
  • For further information about the content of OECD Health at a Glance 2009, please contact Mark Pearson (tel. 33 1 45 24 92 69 or [email protected]) or Gaétan Lafortune (tel. 33 1 45 24 92 67 or [email protected]) in the OECD Health Division.
  • More information on OECD Health at a Glance 2009 is available at
  • For information on OECD's work on the United States, please visit


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