May 27, 2022

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The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) issues an annual report card with health data on its 38 member countries. Although its latest report covers 2019 only – before the COVID-19 pandemic – the data are nevertheless interesting. After receiving the information, Israel’s Health Ministry’s Strategic and Economic Planning Administration publishes its own Hebrew-language report on “The Israeli Health System in the Mirror of the OECD.”


There is good news and bad news in this report.


“It should be noted that in the last two years, since the outbreak of the corona plague, the global health sector has undergone major changes that are expected to affect the various indices in the coming years,” said the Health Ministry. 


Life expectancy in Israel is higher than the average in OECD countries. The average life expectancy of Israeli men has risen in recent years and is about two years higher than the average among men in OECD countries (in Israel, it is 81 years compared to an average of 78.3). Among women, life expectancy is higher (84.8 years compared with the OECD average of 83.6). The general life expectancy of the population is 82.9 years and is one of the highest in the OECD. 


The infant mortality rate in Israel is lower than the average in the OECD member states and in Israel, in 2019, stood at 3.1 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared with an average of 4.2 among OECD countries.


The rate of alcohol consumption in Israel is significantly lower than the average of the OECD countries and stands at 3.1 liters per year, compared with an average of 8.8 liters in the other countries of the organization. It is therefore one of the lowest among the organization’s countries.


The fertility rate in Israel is the highest in the OECD and stands at three births per woman compared to 2.1 in Mexico, which takes second place and only 1.6 births on average in the OECD countries.


All Israeli citizens have basic healthcare coverage, including community clinic care, hospitalization and subsidizes medications. In addition, the four health maintenance organizations offer additional coverage. Israel ranks third in the OECD in the percentage of holders of voluntary health insurance with a holding rate of 84.1.


The rate of cesarean sections in Israel is the lowest among the organization’s countries and stands at 151 surgeries per thousand live births, compared with 276 surgeries in the other OECD countries. 

The suicide rate in Israel per 100,000 inhabitants increased in 2019 and stands at six. However, this rate is significantly lower than the average of the organization’s countries, which stands at 11.6. 


However, the rate of obesity in the Israeli population in Israel was 17.7%, a bit higher than the OECD country average of 17.5%. 


The rate of expenditure as a percentage of the gross domestic product in Israel stands at a stable rate of 7.5% and is lower than most OECD countries (27th out of 37 in the ranking of countries).  The average in the OECD countries stands at 8.9%.


More bad news is that the rate of public expenditure out of total health expenditure is among the lowest in the OECD and stands at 65% compared to 74% on average in the OECD (31st place out of 38 in the OECD countries.


The rate of doctors who are working in the profession per 1,000 residents is about nine percent lower than the average in OECD countries and stands at about 3.3 doctors per 1,000. The rate of nurses per 1,000 residents is one of the lowest in the OECD and stands at about five nurses per 1,000.


The rate of general hospital beds in Israel is also relatively low, putting it fourth from the bottom of the list) and stands at about 2.2 beds per 1,000, compared with an average of 3.5 in OECD member countries. It should be noted that the definitions were changed several years ago and now mental health beds are included in the definition of general beds. This change also affects the data regarding the average stay and occupancy rates. Bed occupancy in Israel is 91% and is among the highest in the OECD.


The rate of magnetic resonance instruments (MRIs) per million inhabitants in Israel is 5.1. Despite the significant increase in recent years in the number of instruments, Israel is in a low position compared to the OECD average of 17. Only in Mexico and Colombia is a rate lower than in Israel. 


However, due to the high utilization of MRIs, the gap in the number of tests per capita between Israel and the OECD (of about 40%) is smaller than the gap in the number of devices (of about 70%). In Israel, 47.5 MRI scans are performed per 1,000 residents, compared with 80 in the OECD. The number of MRI examinations in Israel relative to the population increased in 2019. In contrast, in computerized tomography (CT) examinations Israel is similar to the OECD average, 159 per 1,000 people compared with 155 in the OECD. 


The rate of smokers in Israel in 2019 was 16.4% of the population aged 15 and over, similar to the average rate of OECD countries. (16.3%)


Ministry director-general Prof. Nachman Ash commented that “the OECD data faithfully reflect the state of the health system in Israel, which shows excellent results, but with relatively low resources. In the last two years, more than ever, we have seen how health care workers give of themselves and lead the health care system to excellence, and for that we thank them. Health systems around the world are now in turmoil, and we anticipate that OECD data will provide us with some very interesting findings in the coming years,” he concluded.