In a comparison of 18 countries, the United States ranked at the bottom for number of deaths that could have been prevented by timely and effective health care. Not only were U.S. rates among the worst, the rate of improvement from 1997-98 to 2002-03 was the smallest. Ellen Nolte and Martin McKee, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, reported their findings this week in the new January/February 2008 issue of Health Affairs. They found that death rate due to treatable conditions declined 16 percent on average in the 18 countries for people under age seventy-five. The U.S. rate? Only a 4 percent decline. The authors blame the “comparatively poor performance of the U.S. health care system” as one factor.

France had the lowest rate of preventable deaths – 72.62 per 100,000 for men in 2002-2003 versus 123.36 for U.S. men. Only Portugal had a higher mortality rate at 124.78 for its men. Among women, the lowest rates of treatable deaths were Japan at 54.34 and France at 57.40 per 100,000. For U.S. women, the rate was the highest of all 18 countries at 96.41 deaths per 100,000 that could have been amenable to health care treatment.

Around the globe: News media from Shanghai Daily in China to Spiegel in Germany and Le Figaro in France (where they’re crowing about the survey results) are weighing in.

Around the blogosphere: Ezra Klein’s take-away stat from the study: “Had we achieved the gains of the top performers, we would have saved 101,000 lives. Repeat that to yourself: 101,000 lives. That’s more than the total population of Boulder, Colorado.”

Maggie Mahar at Health Beat blog writes: “I hope this turns heads and changes minds—not so much among voters, who more or less understand that here’s a crisis, but among leaders who constantly regurgitate comforting falsehoods about our health care success.”

Gender disparities are the focus of Carol Lloyd’s post on Broadsheet at Salon.

Daily Kos blogger Jerome a Paris asks: “Surely it’s a coincidence that the “leading” performer in that category is the only country without universal health care?”