Which Country Has the World’s Best Health Care? Ezekiel J. Emanuel PublicAffairs (2020)

The COVID-19 pandemic is an acid test of the world’s health systems. The United States, a nation that ranks among the highest for per capita income, number of intensive-care beds per head and share of gross domestic product spent on health care, has not come out well. It has 4.2% of the world’s population but, as Nature went to press, it had accounted for 27% of confirmed coronavirus deaths globally. The daily charts of national case numbers and mortality demonstrate how countries differ in planning and provision, and raise a wider question about how to rate health systems.

This question is the eerily prophetic focus of Which Country Has the World’s Best Health Care?, written before the pandemic by Ezekiel Emanuel, who was a health-policy adviser to the administration of US president Barack Obama, and is considered one of the architects of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. A prolific writer and broadcaster, Emanuel trained as an oncologist and bioethicist, and has published controversial essays on topics from employer-based health insurance to end‑of-life care.

His iconoclastic appraisal presciently marks the United States among the worst in class. He is also damning about China, a stance that has not been borne out by events. But he does hand rosettes to some of the nations that have so far excelled in protecting their citizens during modern history’s most significant challenge for all health systems. In so many ways, it seems, we had ample warning.

Read the full book review on the Nature website.