According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United States spends a greater percentage of its GDP — 16.4% — on health care than any other OECD country. What this statistic misses is the role that social spending plays in determining health. Social programs that address issues such as poverty, nutrition, substance abuse, and the environment have a dramatic effect on the need for health care spending. This slide shows that when you combine traditional health care spend with social spending, the U.S., far from being profligate, is close to the middle of the pack. Health care arguably serves as a less than efficient surrogate to make up for gaps in social services in many communities across the U.S., distorting the perception of how much this country spends on health care relative to other developed nations.
Infographic by NEJM Catalyst
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