Among themselves the French can be highly critical of the care provided by their nation’s hospitals and doctors, yet they are always ready to defend the French health care system, considered to be one the world’s best. Indeed, in a World Health Organisation comparison of 191 different countries, France came out at number one.
It’s important to be clear, however: Beyond legitimate questions about the WHO’s methodology, the ranking itself dates from 2000. That said, France remains on top of the list, because it was the first and last such ranking conducted by the WHO. Since then, France has occupied a number of positions in other rankings, depending on their criteria and definition of what constitutes a “good” health care system.
A July 2017 analysis by the New York–based Commonwealth Fund compared the health care systems of 11 industrialized countries. They put France at number 10, just above the United States, with the United Kingdom at number one. Yet in another ranking – published in May by The Lancet, it looked at 195 countries – the UK was ranked 26th, while France came in 15th. And in the top position, the tiny principality of Andorra. All this demonstrates just how difficult it is to interpret such rankings.
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