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      Trends in Avoidable Death over 20 Years in Korea

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          To evaluate the achievement of health care services in Korea independent of other socioeconomic factors, we observed the time trend of avoidable death between 1983 and 2004. A list of avoidable causes of death was constructed based on the European Community Atlas of "Avoidable Death". We calculated sex- and age-standardized mortality rates of Korean aged 1-64 yr using data of the Korea National Statistical Office. The avoidable mortality rate (per 100,000 persons) decreased from 225 to 84 in men and from 122 to 41 in women. Accordingly, the proportion of avoidable deaths among all classifiable deaths was reduced by 8.1% in men and 6.4% in women. However, mortality rates from some preventable causes such as ischemic heart disease and malignant neoplasms of lung, breast, cervix, and colorectum have been on the rise. Mortality preventable by appropriate medical care showed the greatest reduction (by 77.8%), while the mortality preventable by primary prevention showed the least reduction (by 50.0%). These findings suggest that health care service has significantly contributed to the improvement of health in Korea. However, more effective intervention programs would be needed given the less reduction in mortality avoidable by primary or secondary prevention than expected and unexpectedly increasing mortality from several preventable causes.

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          Most cited references 38

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          To assess whether and how the rankings of the world's health systems based on disability adjusted life expectancy as done in the 2000 World Health Report change when using the narrower concept of mortality amenable to health care, an outcome more closely linked to health system performance. Analysis of mortality amenable to health care (including and excluding ischaemic heart disease). Age standardised mortality from causes amenable to health care 19 countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Rankings based on mortality amenable to health care (excluding ischaemic heart disease) differed substantially from rankings of health attainment given in the 2000 World Health Report. No country retained the same position. Rankings for southern European countries and Japan, which had performed well in the report, fell sharply, whereas those of the Nordic countries improved. Some middle ranking countries (United Kingdom, Netherlands) also fell considerably; New Zealand improved its position. Rankings changed when ischaemic heart disease was included as amenable to health care. The 2000 World Health Report has been cited widely to support claims for the merits of otherwise different health systems. High levels of health attainment in well performing countries may be a consequence of good fortune in geography, and thus dietary habits, and success in the health effects of policies in other sectors. When assessed in terms of achievements that are more explicitly linked to health care, their performance may not be as good.
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              The McKeown thesis: a historical controversy and its enduring influence.

              The historical analyses of Thomas McKeown attributed the modern rise in the world population from the 1700s to the present to broad economic and social changes rather than to targeted public health or medical interventions. His work generated considerable controversy in the 1970s and 1980s, and it continues to stimulate support, criticism, and commentary to the present day, in spite of his conclusions' having been largely discredited by subsequent research. The ongoing resonance of his work is due primarily to the importance of the question that underlay it: Are public health ends better served by targeted interventions or by broad-based efforts to redistribute the social, political, and economic resources that determine the health of populations?

                Author and article information

                J Korean Med Sci
                Journal of Korean Medical Science
                The Korean Academy of Medical Sciences
                December 2008
                24 December 2008
                : 23
                : 6
                : 975-981
                Department of Family Medicine, Samsung Medical Center, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
                [* ]Department of Family Medicine, Samsung Medical Center, and Center for Clinical Research, Samsung Biomedical Research Institute, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
                []Research and Development Center, Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service, Seoul, Korea and Interdepartmental Program in Social Public Health, Graduate School, Hallym University, Chuncheon, Korea.
                Author notes
                Address for correspondence: Yun-Mi Song, M.D. Department of Family Medicine, Samsung Medical Center, 50 Irwon-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul 135-710, Korea. Tel: +82.2-3410-2442, Fax: +82.2-3410-0388, yunmisong@
                Copyright © 2008 The Korean Academy of Medical Sciences

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Original Article


                mortality, quality of health care, south korea, avoidable death, cause of death, amenable death


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