The Problem With Bloomberg’s Healthiest Country Index – Double Counting

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That Bloomberg sometimes releases reports which have more to do with Michael Bloomberg’s view of the world than the actual news is sad but true. This meaning that we’ve always got to check any claim made by that outlet. Check it to see what it is they’re really saying or measuring and test that against reality.

Which brings us to their Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index 2019. The problem here is as with their earlier, 2017, version. They’re double counting. They’re not in fact just measuring who is healthiest, they’re adding to that who they think ought to be, according to their own prejudices, healthiest. Which isn’t the way to do it, not if we want to be objective of course:

Europe is leading the world’s health standings with Mediterranean nations atop the list for 2019 . In new rankings, Europe takes up six of the top 10 spots with North American countries struggling. The US placed lower at 35th for 2019, five places behind Cuba which was the highest ranked non “high income” country on the list.

That’s what it says, sure enough, but that’s not quite reality.

Maybe it’s something in the gazpacho or paella, as Spain just surpassed Italy to become the world’s healthiest country. That’s according to the 2019 edition of the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index, which ranks 169 economies according to factors that contribute to overall health.

That’s the why it’s not quite right. Looking at the 2017 rankings we find the following:

The Bloomberg Global Health Index takes a look at several of these factors to rank the healthiest (and unhealthiest) countries in the world. The factors that are used to rank the countries include: Health risks (tobacco use, high blood pressure, obesity)
Availability of clean water
Life expectancy
Malnutrition
Causes of death

No, that’s not the way to do it.

So, yes, tobacco kills, obesity shortens lifespans, dirty water kills tens of millions a year. They’re all entirely valid and viable measures of healthiness. So also is life span a useful measure. But to use both together is to be double counting. Whatever are the life shortening effects of tabs, deep fried mars bars and no booze they’re already going to be there in that life expectancy number. To then add in again is thus wrong.

Sad but true, Bloomberg is double counting here.

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HeisenbeckDodgy GeezerJonathan HarstonBarksintheCountry Recent comment authors
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Heisenbeck
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Heisenbeck

Not sure I agree it is double counting. Per example, how to balance HEALTH when assessing Mexico & Brazil that are countries where the life expectancy at birth is deeply impacted by the daily violence. Looking purely to the life expectancy at birth, when it cames to HEALTH factors, you definitely need to add usage of tobacco, quality of medicine, etc.

Dodgy Geezer
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Dodgy Geezer

It IS double counting – but I think your point still stands – since the double counting is used across the whole study, and so does not bias anything. It simply produces an increased weighting factor which separates the countries a little more.

These studies are, in any case, fairly meaningless anyway…

Heisenbeck
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Heisenbeck

Thanks for your reply.

Yeah, I agree with you…

BarksintheCountry
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BarksintheCountry

It’s a Bloomberg political report; not a medical report, not an economic report and definitely not a guide as to where one might expect to live a long and peaceful life. (see: Cuba),

Jonathan Harston
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Jonathan Harston

It’s like when I was in local government, the policy makes wanted deprevation funding weighted by deprevation (ok) *plus* benefit claimants rates, *plus* road accidents (‘cos deprived areas have more road accidents) *plus* low school attainment (‘cos deprived areas have lower school attainement), etc. It worked out that an area twice as deprived as another area got about 15 times as much money.

And then, when the area’s deprevation decreased – the whole point of the funding – they screamed bloody murder at the resultanr lowering of their funding disparities.