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Contrast of Health Care Systems: Italy v. the United States


Provision of health care services is one of the most important functions of any government. Every nation would wish to see a healthy population, as this would translate to the growth and development of the national economy. It is for this reason that governments strive to ensure that their people have better health by establishing better health care systems (Foglietta & Toniolo, 2012). One of the nations that have been able to establish a good health care system is the United States of America, although it may not have the best health care system compared to other developed countries. This article will compare the health care system of the United States with that of Italy.

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Italy is a nation in Europe and one of the most successful countries economically. It has been able to establish a modern health care system and in the process ensure that all citizens and residents have access to good health care. Healthcare in Italy is provided through both the public system and private systems. Both Italy and the United States have been able to establish successful health care systems. There are some similarities between the systems of the two nations. At the same time, there are significant differences between the two systems. Identifying these differences and similarities is the reason for the selection of Italy for the purpose of this essay.

Health Statistics and Costs

Italy provides for health care services in its budget every year. The amount provided is divided between public and private health systems. For instance, in the year 2012, Italy spent 9.2% of its total GDP on health. The public sector is the major source of funding for health in Italy, as it is the case in most other nations across the world (World Health Organization, 2015). Life expectancy in the same year was 82.3 years in Italy. The probability of dying for children under the age of 5 years was zero, while the probability of people dying between the age of 15 and 60 was 70/39 per population of 1000 people. The major health issue in Italy is obesity, in addition to tobacco and alcohol related health issues (OECD, 2014).

In the United States, the percentage of GDP spent on health in 2012 was higher compared to that of Italy, as it was 16.9% of the GDP (OECD, 2014). Just like Italy, the largest part was financed by the public sector. Life expectancy in the United States is slightly lower than that of Italy, as it stands at approximately 77 years. The infant mortality rate is higher than that of Italy, standing at about 6.5 per 1000 births. The major health issues are similar to those of Italy.

Health Care Financing

The financing of health care in Italy is similar to that of the United States. Health care is financed by both public and private sectors (Jackson & Nolen, 2010). Most part of the financing is from the public sector through taxes and other government revenues. Private financing is through personal health plans with given institutions.

Healthcare Administration

Healthcare in both America and Italy is administered through public and private systems. Non-governmental organizations have also been active as health agencies in both countries. Among the NGOs that have been involved include the United Nations agencies, World Health Organization, and UNICEF. In the United States, the Pan-American Health Organization and the USAID have been active health providers (Holtz, 2008). The governments of both nations provide health care through the respective ministries of health. The agencies offer health care services by collaborating with other health care institutions in order to reach the citizens.

Health Care Personnel and Facilities

A nation needs to have the best health care personnel and facilities for good health to be guaranteed. This has been one of the secrets behind the success of health care systems in Italy and the United States. The US is one of the most innovative nations in the world (Holtz, 2008). It has the best technology in various sectors, including heath. The US has high-tech and effective facilities and medical equipment, as well as trained health care personnel. In addition, the nation also has enough personnel in most health care fields to offer services to its citizens throughout the country. However, an increasing trend in the shortage of nurses is becoming a concern lately.

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Italy, on the other hand, is also highly innovative and has advanced facilities as well. Italy has enough personnel to offer health care. It should be noted that the health care personnel in Italy are not as many as those of the United States (Ryan, 2013). However, they are sufficient to offer quality health care services to all the citizens.

Access and Inequality Issues

All citizens in both the United States and Italy have access to health facilities. However, there were cases of discrimination in the past, as some citizens could not get equal access to the health facilities in the US because of being underinsured or uninsured. The black Americans, as well as other non-Americans in the United States had limited access to health care, until the government introduced the universal health care reforms about two years ago. Similarly, in Italy, the black people had limited access to health. This, however, reduced over time. Access to health facilities is fairly equitable in Italy nowadays.


Foglietta, F., & Toniolo, F. (Eds.). (2012). New models of governance and health system integration. Milano, Italy: FrancoAngeli.

Holtz, C. (2008). Global health care: Issues and policies. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett

Jackson, J., & Nolen, J. (2010). Health care reform summary: A look at what’s in the Act. CBS News. Web.

OECD (2014). OECD health statistics 2014: How does Italy compare? Web.

Ryan, M. M. (Ed.). (2013). Handbook of U.S. labor statistics: Employment, earnings, prices, productivity, and other labor data (14th ed.). Lanham, MD: Bernan Press.

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World Health Organization (2015). Italy. Web.

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