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Avoidable deaths 'more common in Sweden'

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14:42 CET+01:00
Avoidable deaths are more common in the Swedish healthcare system than in a number of comparable countries, according to a new American study.

The study, by the Commonwealth Fund, shows Sweden losing ground against other industrialized countries in the number of preventable deaths among people under 74. Sweden comes joint sixth out of 18 in the table, which is based on figures reported to the World Health Organization in 2002 and 2003. A previous study in 1997-98 had Sweden in fourth place.

"Sweden has in many previous studies always been among the very best countries, with low death rates from the kind of diseases that can be positively affected by medical care. This is the first time we have seen a development like this and we now need to try and analyze why it has happened," said Dr. Ragnar Westling, an expert in social medicine at Uppsala University, to SVT.

Despite losing ground against other countries, preventable deaths fell in Sweden in absolute terms since the previous survey, from 88 preventable deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in the 97-98 survey to 82 deaths in the latest study. In other words, the fact that Sweden is losing ground is due to the fact that others have improved even more.

The list is headed by France, with the United States taking the booby prize.

Deaths from bacterial infections, certain treatable cancers, diabetes and complications arising from surgery are classed as preventable. The survey also includes deaths from cardiovascular disease and half of all deaths caused by heart attacks.

The results of the study are published in medical journal Health Affairs.

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