December 29, 1998 12:00 a.m. EST http://www.nandotimes.com
Copyright © 1998 Nando Media
Copyright © 1998 Scripps Howard News Service
1998 by the (health-care) numbers:
Q: What's the risk of getting Guillain-Barre syndrome, a nerve disorder,
after getting a flu shot?
A: One or 2 in a million.
Q: How many die in the nation from that syndrome after vaccination every
A: Sixty to 70.
Q: How many U.S. deaths every year from flu itself?
A: About 20,000.
Q: In a Harvard-sponsored study, how did the life expectancy of chocolate
eaters compare with non-consumers of chocolate?
A: On average, they lived a year longer.
Q: How many U.S. patents have been applied for on human genes, brains
and tissue since in the mid-1980s, when the U.S. Supreme Court opened the
Q: How many patents have been granted on human genes?
Q: What do we spend every year on health care in the United States?
A: $1 trillion.
Q: How much of that do we spend on preventive public health?
A: 1 percent.
Q: About the race gap: How much more likely is an African American baby
to die before its first birthday than a Caucasian baby?
A: 250 percent more likely.
Q: Are Latinos more likely to die from diabetes than Anglos?
A: Yes, twice as likely.
Q: What percentage of U.S. Catholics believe abortion should be legal
in at least some circumstances?
A: 82 percent.
Q: According to the 1997 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, illegal
use of drugs in the general population of the United Sates rose by how
A: 0 percent.
Q: What one age group showed an increase?
A: Ages 12 to 17.
Q: How many deaths from alcohol abuse does the government estimate occur
Q: How many from smoking?
Q: How many people get a transplanted organ in the United States each
Q: How many people on transplant waiting lists die because supplies
A: 10 a day.
Q: What portion of U.S. young adults, age 18 to 21, have a high school
A: 85 percent.
Q: By ethnic background, at that age what portion are high school graduates?
A: Hispanic 63 percent; African-American 85 percent; whites, whites 90 percent.
Q: What group has improved most rapidly in high school completion rates?
A: African American (from 72 percent to 85 percent between 1972 and 1995).
Q: The tube: What portion of the country's 13-year-olds spend six or
more hours watching TV every day?
A: 13 percent.
Q: What's the percentage for 17-year-olds?
A: 8 percent.
Q: How much was the salary of the CEO of Aetna's health insurance division
Q: What was the one dollar for?
A: Unable to find out.
Q: Did he get a year-end bonus?
A: $600,000 more.
Q: Was this out of line? For example, what was the median salary of
the CEOs of 20 top HMOs surveyed by the Families USA Foundation?
A: $4.8 million.
Q: What portion of the population have no health care insurance?
A: 16 percent.
Q: How many is that in people?
A: 43.4 million Americans went the whole of 1997 without any health coverage.
Q: Was this an improvement over the year before?
A: No, the number of uninsured went up by 1.7 million. The proportion was higher too.
Q: Was the picture better for children, at least?
A: No, it stayed the same: 10.7 million kids.
Q: At least the poor people had Medicaid.
A: But for various reasons, including states' shortages of federal funds, nearly one-third of the nation's poor children had no health coverage.
Q: How many poor people with subsistence jobs have health coverage?
A: About half.
Q: Are such workers more likely to have health coverage than the poor
people who don't have jobs?
A: No. Less likely.
Q: Shouldn't we be doing something about all this in 1999?
A: Don't bother me, Jack. I got mine.
Bruce Hilton, director of the National Center for Bioethics, has been
an ethics consultant to doctors, hospitals and patients since 1972. He
can be reached at Ethctee@aol.com.