Skip to main content
Class of 2018
Spring 2017

The purpose of this grant was to explore the differences in the healthcare system between some European countries and the United States. Even though the United States is renowned for its role in spearheading biomedical research using cutting-edge technology and highly specialized hospitals, equitable healthcare delivery and access to it is still a problem. Therefore, I wanted to explore differences based on these three main questions:

•           Is the US healthcare system worse than in these European countries?

•           How is preventative care pursued in the healthcare system? That is in what ways are education on nutrition, education on mental health, etc. incorporated in healthcare?

•           Is there anything that the United States can learn from these countries?

Initially, I wanted to explore a lot of countries but I ended up narrowing my search to three countries which were Denmark, Finland and Latvia. I specifically chose these countries to highlight the differences in the healthcare systems as we typically fall into the trap of generalizing European systems all as one. There is a huge tendency of looking at the American healthcare system as terrible in all facets, and tending to look to the Scandinavian countries for improvements. However, it is important for us to have a level ground when doing comparisons. For example, Denmark is a relatively homogenous country with a very high standard of living and a social-democratic welfare state while the American system is more of a liberal welfare state. In addition, the US is about 228 times bigger than Denmark in population size. The more people, the higher the disparities in access. Recognizing these facts allows a better leverage in terms of comparisons.

There are certainly differences in the healthcare system in these three countries. One of such is the healthcare structure. While the US focuses on a more capitalistic welfare system, the Denmark healthcare system is more universal and funded by citizen’s taxes. Therefore, everyone has healthcare regardless of one’s background. This is also very similar in Finland while Latvia is completely different. The Latvia’s system was under reform during my visit and so, it was not apparent how the healthcare system was funded. In addition, the general practitioner (GP) is the main healthcare provider in Denmark and Finland, although their roles are a bit different while the role of a family physician has completely diminished in the US. However, the US healthcare system reduces waiting times while focusing on specialized care and research while the universal system experiences very long waiting times and focuses more on primary and preventative care Another aspect of the Finnish system that was very interesting was their focus on maternal and child health in the provision of what is called, ‘a baby box’. This box is supposed to provide all the necessary materials that the child should need in their first 6 months.

There are aspects of the American healthcare system that are beneficial such as short waiting times and specialized care. Similarly, Denmark and Finland have several aspects of their healthcare system that are beneficial to the populations they serve. Therefore, I believe that there should be more restructuring of the current system to focus on preventative care rather than specialized care and inequality in access should also be our top priority. 

56.272328301787, 11.54250005