Monday, May 13, 2013

How Doctors and Austerity Kill

David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu have an interesting op-ed in the New York Times.

They note that during economic catastrophes public health tends to worsen. More people start taking anti-depressants and more people commit suicide. People visit the doctor less and delay preventative care. When infectious disease control is cut, epidemics sometimes break out.

They argue that austerity is to blame since depressions tend to lead to decrease tax revenue and budget cuts, or austerity.

The obvious retort is that maybe the depressions themselves are to blame for high unemployment, suicides, and general misery. Maybe the lack of money and hopelessness are what gets people down, not cuts to TB control funding. But the authors . . . don't really address that issue. They assert that health declines more in countries that adopt austerity but they don't present any evidence for their claim, citing statistics from countries like the U.S. that adopted stimulus programs.

I used to think hospitals killed people. When people are at a hospital they are much more likely to die than when they are at work. But I've come to think that people go to a hospital when they are sick and likely to die. David and Sanjay probably disagree.