Comparing Health Systems

  • We are often interested to see how our national experiences of health and health care compare on an international scale. These comparisons create a broader perspective for researchers, policy makers and the general public. Being aware of the successes and setbacks of other countries may inform how new policies, health interventions or preventative measures are developed and implemented in one’s own country. International health comparisons can help making valid comparisons of health across different countries however it is important to make sure that what is being compared is able to be compared.
  • Both the use and interpretation of international comparisons need to be considered carefully. If the data and methods that underlie these comparisons are not assessed, the results could be misinterpreted. There are methodological issues to consider in assessing data availability and quality, and in deciding which countries to compare. Decisions about the data used and the countries selected should be documented with adequate rationale to ensure the limitations and assumptions are clear and duly considered. These decisions can influence the differences observed between countries and the conclusions made. These are all considerations that you will need to make when you undertake this assignment.
  • Checklist for international comparisons of health related data
 Consider these questions when presenting or interpreting an international comparison of health-related data. 
Data quality
    • Consistency—are the data defined consistently across countries?
    • Methodology—do all countries use the same method to collect the data?
    • Coverage—do the data cover similar parts of the population?
    • Time period—do the data refer to the same time period?
  • Choice of countries
    • Comparability—are countries sufficiently similar to support comparison?
  • Presentation and interpretation
    • Presentation—are the data presented appropriately?
  • Explanation—is the variation between countries adequately explained? 
Underlying differentials—are differences within countries considered?
 Context—can the data be used outside of an international comparison?
You are to research and analyze health care performance data in Australia and Saudi Arabia and write an essayof 3000 words comparing the following five (5) areas for each country.  
Be careful to pick the other country that is comparable and has the quality of data required to complete the comparison.


The areas for comparison are listed below:
    • Funding System (including health insurance systems)
    • Governance System
    • Selected Population Health Indicators
      • Maternal Mortality Rate
      • Infant Mortality Rate
      • Life Expectancy at Birth
    • Health Status
      • Low birth weight
      • Obesity
      • Diabetes
      • Asthma
      • Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
      • Cancer
    • Health System Performance
      • % GDP Spent on Health
      • Define each of the following measures and provide the results and commentary for comparison that the countries use to demonstrate that health care is:
        • Acceptable
        • Appropriate
        • Effective
        • Efficient
        • Safe
      • Where no data is available on individual measure you must indicate this clearly but be sure that you carefully research to make sure that this is in fact the case.
IMPORTANT: You should also make comment on each of the areas of comparison thus interpreting the results.

Marking Criteria
The assignments will be assessed against the following criteria:
            No.                      Criterion             Marks
               1                      Intellectural Coherence  
                       Addresses the assignment question                   30
                       Logical flow of ideas                   10
                       Conclusions supported by evidence and argument                   10
               2                      The intelligibility of presentations and contributions  
                       Presentation is clear and concise                     5
                       Accurate referencing.                     5
                       Evidence of adequate/critical reading.                   10
               3                      Demonstrated understanding and application of the evidence sourced  
                       Use of evidence to support arguments                   10
                       Use of course materials and readings to support argument                   10
                       Use of literature and evidence through own research                   10


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