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U.S. health system's sketchy WHO rating is bogus, says horse's mouth

Last October I wrote about studies suggesting that America's reputation for shoddy health care was undeserved.

Now, in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine, Paul Musgrove, PhD, writes that the U.S.'s much bandied-about #37 rating among the world's health-care systems is a "zombie number" that should be retired from public discourse.

He should know. Musgrove was editor-in-chief of the 2002 World Health Organization report, Health Systems: Improving Performance, that first coined the statistic. Despite his position, Musgrove writes, he had no editorial control over the health-system rankings.

Three years after the report was issued, Musgrove took the unusual step of refuting its methodology in a critique published in The Lancet. The U.S. health-care system's rank was based on incomplete, and largely imputed rather than observed, data and is "meaningless," he writes.

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