6 Countries With The Best Healthcare
2020 has cast a spotlight on health and wellness, and although Covid-19 is bound to taper off to the end of the year, people throughout the world are considering healthy lifestyle changes and ways to boost their longevity.
A surprising way in which the pandemic has changed healthcare is the way that country health rankings are calculated. Rand Rescue takes a closer look.
Overhauling health ranking
The Bloomberg Global Health Index of 2020 – which was compiled in 2019 – listed Spain, Italy, France, Canada and the UK among the top 20 healthiest countries in the world. Ironically these countries are also on the top 20 of countries hardest hit by the coronavirus. A similar disparity is seen in the WHO’s global health index which places France, Italy, Spain and the UK in the top 20 healthiest countries.
To add to the irony, these indices list ‘health risk’ and ‘health systems performance’ as top considerations for their rankings. Indeed, one cannot fault such bodies for missing the mark here – a pandemic of this kind has not been seen before. But a crucial question posed to those who collect, process and analyse health data is how they will henceforth define unprecedented risk factors, quantify them and incorporate these into index algorithms.
In fact making allowance for highly improbable scenarios in risk modelling flies in the face of all forecasting rules. The tried and tested method is to look at past incidences of respective phenomena, the nature and magnitude of the phenomena, the frequency and duration of it, and the outcome. Compare these data sets across different geographic, socio-economic and juristic zones and Bob’s your uncle! Well, 2020 has proven to be truly novel – even for tried and tested statistical tools.
So, with this in mind, let’s reconsider health and longevity. If you, like so many South Africans, are considering relocating once the world has opened its borders, you’re most certainly looking at a future where you and your family can be guaranteed optimal health.
Since we’re taking a novel look at health to mimic the novel concerns of 2020, here are our top countries for health.
Luxembourg has made it to our top performer lists several times, so you know the deal with this country. But let’s look at some factors we’ve not considered before.
Luxembourg leads the world in healthcare for several reasons, but one of the most progressive and novel ways the country takes care of its people is its understanding of the crucial balance between ‘the skills of wellbeing and the skills of achievement’. Unlike other educational and career models used abroad, Luxembourg does not see achievement as being a superior quality or measurement tool for aptitude and success. Seeking out one’s own strengths and developing unique skills are actively encouraged and performance measurement adapted to consider individual goals and wellbeing.
New Zealand is another frequent flyer on our recommended countries for relocation, and we’ve covered this country quite extensively, but what novel health benefits does this country offer which make it outshine the rest of the world.
One factor is the country’s corresponding top spot as ‘adventure capital’ of the world. What makes this so pivotal is that one can hardly embark on an adventure without inadvertently boosting your health in other ways – adventure means physical activity and fitness, it means getting out of urban centres to visit places which are not only less polluted, but offer a mental health boost, adventure means upping endorphins, dopamine, epinephrine and serotonin.
Another important factor in New Zealand’s health ranking is its protection of cultural and social heritage. Although an independent nation, New Zealand forms part of the group called Polynesia which is characterised by its culture, location and land formations (predominantly submerged volcanic geoformations). High value is placed on indigenous practices and preserving linguistic knowledge. Part of the cultural heritage extends to the preservation of natural resources such as the kauri trees. Though the kauri forests have seen devastating losses due to kauri dieback disease, the country as a whole is dedicated to saving these natural giants – something which not only offers a mental boost, but ensures cleaner air, topsoil preservation and a harmonious ecosystem.
A study by Richard Easterlin conducted in 1974 identified a bizarre phenomena which the founder dubbed ‘The Easterlin Paradox’. Just as unpredictable and inexplicable as the countries who ranked highest in health being the most affected by the global pandemic – Easterlin’s paradox showed that a high income was not a definitive driver for happiness. Indeed, though there tended to be correlation in certain countries, in others income seemed to have no impact on happiness.
In a paper by Martin Tetaz dubbed ‘The Economics of Happiness in Argentina’, the author sought to explain Argentina’s ever-increasing tendency for being happy and understand the key drivers for this progressive trend. What he identified was that happiness (and wellbeing) were not influenced by income, age, gender or familial size – instead, Argentians are becoming happier each year (as a whole) due to their focus on two things – social bonds and sexual activity. Argentinians place a higher value on social connection and maintain more active sex lives than many other nations in the world. Social bonds are nurtured and interactions more frequent than their neighbouring countries. And adults aren’t shy about the need for sexual activity – they are, in fact, quite open and proud about it.
Vietnam surprised the world for the low impact of the global pandemic – especially given its proximity to other hard-hit nations. But this is not why Vietnam is on our list.
This country made our rankings for their cuisine. Not only do Vietnamese diets incorporate a wide variety of fresh produce, but they also use less processed ingredients, more complex carbohydrates, healthier cooking methods and incorporate foods which are considered more rich in phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Other factors in this healthy diet include eating more slowly than other countries and eating less calories. In fact, the average Vietnamese adult eats around 1 200 calories less than your average USAmerican. The reason for this healthy eating is primarily that it is an integral part of the culture – eating healthy is considered an essential ‘activity’ to maintain harmony and closeness with family – food is even placed at altars as ancestral offerings.
The nation furthermore has a far more developed ‘intuition’ when it comes to food. In Vietnamese culture foods are considered yin/yang or cold/hot. These descriptors relate to how foods affect the body and not the temperature or spiciness. And these qualities are identified by what happens in the body when you consume too much or too little of foods in these categories. Essentially, Vietnamese people are more aware of the impact of individual foods on their health and will therefore also adapt their diet to achieve their correct outcome for particular ailments.
Finland has made the top spot on many indices for their healthcare in the past few years, but what many people don’t know is that merely 40 years ago the country was ranked one of the unhealthiest nations in the world. The people were obese, inactive, suffered from heart disease and consumed poor diets.
So what happened in the past four decades to overhaul an entire nation so drastically? Well, it all comes down to deliberate, unrelenting and continuous intervention by the government. Part of this action plan initiated by the government was a focus on active lifestyles, an overhaul of the healthcare system to make access to healthcare affordable and accessible for all, and tasking municipalities with ensuring funding for citizens – which means that healthcare is funded and ensured at both a national and regional level.
Furthermore, following remarkable success by physician Pekka Pushka in North Karelia, the rest of the country started adopting measures he instituted to overhaul health. Pushka had consulted with food manufacturers, processors and distributors to tackle issues he viewed as problematic. Some of these include prompting sausage makers to gradually reduce salt and replace pork fat with mushroom fillers. He furthermore convinced dairy farmers to apportion pastureland to growing berries and prompted berry growers to freeze stock for winter months to ensure year-round consumption of fruit. One of the most controversial and successful initiatives was a smoking-cessation project where villages were pitted against each other in competitions to see who could quit smoking the fastest.
Pushka’s initiatives led to a rise in life expectancy of 6-7 years, lowered coronary heart disease in middle-aged men by 73% and lowered smoking rates from 52 to 31%
Not only has Namibia been relatively unaffected by Covid-19, but as a SA neighbour with strong historical ties it is also a favourite for South Africans. There are other reasons why Namibia is listed on our novel healthiest countries list. The country is sparsely populated (with only 50% of its population living in urban areas). This is both a positive for emotional and mental stress, and a thumbs up when it comes to pollution. Since its independence, the country has focused increasingly in eradicating healthcare inequality and as of 2002 the CDC has had an established base in the country aimed at preventing and treating common diseases and establishing laboratories for effective testing and treatment design.
The added plus for saffas is that emigration to this nation tends to be a far less stressful experience than other countries – the cultural, linguistic, climatic and historical similarities makes assimilation fairly easy. You’ll also find the same stores and service providers and since this country is part of the Common Monetary Area you won’t need to jump through hoops where finance and travel is concerned.
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