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The money crunch: Stanford Medicine magazine's new special report

If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything. Unfortunately, in the United States protecting this most precious asset is breaking the proverbial bank. As I edited the new issue of Stanford Medicine magazine, which includes a report on the medical world's money crunch, I came across harrowing statistic after harrowing statistic.

Among them:

  • U.S. health-care spending neared $2.6 trillion in 2010, which is 17.9 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. This translates to $8,402 per person.
  • More than 75 percent of U.S. health-care spending is due to chronic conditions, which are expected to become even more prevalent as the baby boomer generation ages. In 2000, 125 million people suffered from chronic conditions; by 2020, that number is projected to reach 157 million.
  • Competition for biomedical research funding has become cutthroat. At the National Institutes of Health, the world’s biggest funder, requests for dollars rose from 3.6 times the supply in 1998 to 6.5 times the supply in 2011.

What’s behind the crisis? How can we dig ourselves out of this predicament? The new issue offers some answers and poses more questions. Inside the report:

"The competition": A feature on the intense competition for funding for biomedical research — competition that has reached an all-time high.

"Against the odds": A story about a young oncologist’s experience as member of a small band of physicians, engineers and management scientists training to battle the waste and perverse financial incentives in America’s medical system. She is part of Stanford’s Clinical Excellence Research Center, led by Arnold Milstein, MD, a major national force in medical service innovation.

"Melinda Gates on family matters": A Q&A with philanthropist Melinda Gates on her campaign to expand access to contraception.

"Testing testing": A piece on the dangerous and costly problem of overscreening for medical conditions, focusing on the seemingly intractable debate over prostate cancer screening.

"Giving well": Interviews with four major Stanford financial supporters about why they give.

In addition to the special report, this issue includes a feature, "Marathon man," on the career of Stanford medical school's dean, Philip Pizzo, MD, a pioneer in pediatric HIV research as well as an academic leader, who is stepping down from the position after 12 years.

Previously: The data deluge: A report from Stanford Medicine magazine; The future of psychiatry: A report from Stanford Medicine magazine and Cancer’s next stage: A report from Stanford Medicine magazine
Illustration by Brian Rea

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