Preventable deaths from lack of quality care cost trillions each year

Eight million preventable deaths happened across the globe in 2015, costing $6 trillion in lost economic welfare, according to a study published in Health Affairs. The study is believed to be the first worldwide estimate of the economic cost of deaths due to inadequate access to quality care.

The study is based on findings from the Global Burden of Disease (2015) project, including estimates of morbidity and mortality of 38 diseases that patients can survive in well-equipped healthcare facilities. The findings are also drawn from calculating the number of deaths in 195 countries that would not occur if the same care standards were available everywhere.

The researchers calculated the economic cost of lost life by estimating the direct loss of economic output, which captures the amount a nation's workforce contributes to its gross domestic product.

In low- and middle-income countries, the researchers estimated the value of lost output from deaths that could have been prevented with proper treatment would result in a cumulative loss of $11.2 trillion.

The research team then evaluated lost economic welfare, which captures the value people place on having a healthy life. Although these aspects do not always directly fuel a nation's economy, the researchers estimated that effect to be $6 trillion each year.

The poorest nations would face the most pronounced economic toll, the research found, furthering economic disparities between rich and poor countries.

"It is important to attach monetary cost to the otherwise immeasurable loss of human life because those numbers can provide economic incentives that spur changes in policy and healthcare investment that save lives," said senior study author John Meara, MD, in a news release. "$6 trillion in losses in one year for low- and middle-income countries alone is an eye-opening number," Dr. Meara said. "That may be just the perspective needed to propel lifesaving measures."

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