Infographic: Lack of Health Care vs. Terrorism, Which Kills More?

You'd be surprised at just how the numbers stack up.

We all know that globally, terrorism kills several hundred people every year. We also know that tens of thousands of people die each year in the U.S., due to lack of health care. But this poster, designed by Schuhle-Lewis, connects the two issues in a pretty sobering way. You'll notice that the poster is actually a stealthy infographic—there are 58 skulls (count 'em) in the illustration up top:

health care

Visually stunning, this also raises some fundamental questions, no matter your politics. First, the health-care study cited in the graphic is concerned mainly with people who die simply because they're not regularly monitoring their health. But the numbers of people who don't die because they lack health care—and who take care of their health only when it's too late, in emergency rooms—is surely much larger. That's wildly inefficient. Emergency care is extravagantly expensive—and that in turn feeds the spiraling cost of medical care in the U.S.

(Note: We could find who designed the poster above—-Any help out there?) (Addendum added above—Thanks for the tip in the comments, Auntie Em!)

For more health-care-related infographics, click here and here and here.

[Via Reddit]

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16 Comments

  • Diane Farrell

    This is a gross exaggeration. First of all, the examples cited in the article link were people who could have and should have purchased their own health insurance and chose not to. Secondly, they personally made decisions to save money rather than seek help. It was their responsibility to follow up on their health as soon as they suspected a problem. Emergency rooms are not allowed to turn people away, regardless of ability to pay and they should have gone.

  • Auntie Em

    Masses... I still think that the essence of the argument is being lost. There are, as you say, more documents and definitions than one can parse in a reasonable amount of time to pin down what *would* be the most accurate description graphically. But as always, we can make the numbers dance whatever way we want, and can follow the poster with a list of footnotes identifying every assumption. To be fair there would need to be a range of graphics, from the most conservative figures of just a few skulls, to the other end, more focused domestically and many thousands.

    It's often true the devil is in the details, and certainly the difficulty in communicating valid information quickly is a challenge. In this case, I would agree the entire story is not being told... but nor is the whole story capable of being related in a single graphic that is understandable. What IS being communicated, albeit imperfectly, is the emphasis we have on government spending in areas that are rightly called into question when measured against the suffering created by the vastly manipulated systems for health care provision.

  • Auntie Em

    Bobby:

    a) The "free market" exists merely as a concept and is used to undermine the fact that all markets, and especially the larger, are essential corrupt beasts which will and do consume the very resources they depend upon to survive, all with no regard to "externalities" which ignores just about everything important in that equation.

    b) Confusing efficiency with sustainability is a mean trick. One only needs marvel at the shortsightedness that have liquified 98% of all primeval forests to see where the disconnect between mechanism and morals exists.

    c) This disconnect overall hurts EVERYONE. Pharmaceutical researchers search these old forests for near-extinct species to provide new drugs for the market... the source for nearly all new drugs is nature, and nature has been long relegated to second rate status rather than life support system.

    d) If the market or the economics of this were so danged smart it would be impossible to create a system where we have exceeded carrying capacity. But we have. And we are still standing on the accelerator, despite the engine starting to sputter.

    The problem with this old school economic theory is that it has no answers. Just keep spiraling down the process of economization and efficiency and hope for the technological bailout. Poppycock. We are SMARTER than that, more creative and resourceful than that, and if we thought to focus on the vast expanse of opportunity that lies in mimicking natural systems and just stopped assigning rights according to income level (and that is also inarguable... by recent supreme court actions), we might find the possibility for increases of quality of life not dependent on just creating and consuming more stuff. We both know the resource banks aren't there anymore for that, so why keep lying to ourselves that this is anything remotely like a way out, or to a world anyone would want to live in?

  • Auntie Em

    Bobby:

    a) The "free market" exists merely as a concept and is used to undermine the fact that all markets, and especially the larger, are essential corrupt beasts which will and do consume the very resources they depend upon to survive, all with no regard to "externalities" which ignores just about everything important in that equation.

    b) Confusing efficiency with sustainability is a mean trick. One only needs marvel at the shortsightedness that have liquified 98% of all primeval forests to see where the disconnect between mechanism and morals exists.

    c) This disconnect overall hurts EVERYONE. Pharmaceutical researchers search these old forests for near-extinct species to provide new drugs for the market... the source for nearly all new drugs is nature, and nature has been long relegated to second rate status rather than life support system.

    d) If the market or the economics of this were so danged smart it would be impossible to create a system where we have exceeded carrying capacity. But we have. And we are still standing on the accelerator, despite the engine starting to sputter.

    The problem with this old school economic theory is that it has no answers. Just keep spiraling down the process of economization and efficiency and hope for the technological bailout. Poppycock. We are SMARTER than that, more creative and resourceful than that, and if we thought to focus on the vast expanse of opportunity that lies in mimicking natural systems and just stopped assigning rights according to income level (and that is also inarguable... by recent supreme court actions), we might find the possibility for increases of quality of life not dependent on just creating and consuming more stuff. We both know the resource banks aren't there anymore for that, so why keep lying to ourselves that this is anything remotely like a way out, or to a world anyone would want to live in?

  • Masses of the Opiate

    It's worth noting that US Department of State has changed (as of 2005) their reporting of deaths from terrorism, from a more narrow definition of acts of 'international terrorism,' (which limits what can be counted), to "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents." That's where the 14,500 - 22,500 figure comes from.

    http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/...

    Statistics from 2008/2009 (deaths from inadequate health care coverage) should be compared against government statistics -from- 2008 (reported deaths from terrorism), and not previous statistics. This affects the number considerably, but, again, the figure that Jacob Lewis links to ("Patterns of Global Terrorism 1985-2005: U.S. Department of State Reports with Supplementary Documents and Statistics") applies to 1985-2005 (or perhaps, say, 2000-2005; there are so many individual PDF links that I don't know which part he's basing it on).

    But, with deaths from suicide bombings alone sometimes ranging in the dozens and hundreds, it's easy to see how the figure of 774.7 just doesn't add up. I feel it's important to make points with clear facts, rather than narrowing definitions to end up with a larger number. - If a person naturally assumes a figure closer to 10,000 terror deaths per year (even though it's higher than that), and they're being told health care deaths are 58x that number, then their assumption might be "580,000 deaths from lack of health care," which is, obviously, wrong.

    It makes for a pretty infographic, but it serves to diminish the threat from terror while playing up the still important issue of health care. If you're going to make an important point, at least make sure it's accurate. - It's fine for blogs, but I see it's being picked up by Andrew Sullivan and FastCompany, among others.

    I take some responsibility as a moderator of the Reddit page "TodayILearned" (where this was made especially popular - you'll note 'via Reddit') for not getting word out earlier about the inaccuracies. It was too late to do anything about that, so I left it alone, but now I see it gaining popularity in other places, without any caveats.

    (7 days ago): http://www.reddit.com/r/todayi...

    I should also note, (since we care -so- much for accuracy), that I was the person who pointed out in the comments that this came from the Schule Lewis blog, and not Auntie Em. - Perhaps I am the only one, but my trust in the validity of anything FastCompany.com posts is now a bit diminished.

    I'll always remember their story on Wal-Mart and pickles, though:
    http://www.fastcompany.com/mag...

    - MassesOfTheOpiate

  • Bobby Segars

    @Auntie Em - "It is inarguable that military and corporate policy are in lockstep to undermine the power of people and their quality of life." Ummm, sure it is. Here goes. Corporate policy is usually aimed at acheiving the most profit possible. Profit motive is the greatest force for good that has ever existed. For someone to make a profit he must sell his good or service for less than it cost him to produce. Therefore, by definition, he has employed his resources efficiently. Acheiving a large profit means he employed his resources VERY efficiently. Acheiving a large profit also attracts new producers to the market with new ideas and different ways of doing business, some can acheive even more efficiency and offer their goods and services for less saving the customer money and maintaining the same profitability. When exercised in a free society, profit motive is an excellent driver of efficiency (i.e. sustainability). I think what most people are lashing back against is that health insurance is not provided in a free market. Your employer dictates what is available b/c his cost to buy your coverage is tax deductible. If you bought your own plan, 1. it would not be tax deductible 2. you'd never see the money you would save your employer in your paycheck if opted not to take their coverage. The current system is antithetical to individual freedom and yet some people feel justified in saying that our individualism is to blame for the escalating costs. I just don't understand.

  • Jacob Lewis

    Masses of the Opiate:

    Originally I was going to use the number of People killed in the US from terrorism, but the figure for 2009 is around 20 (and if you don't include the fort hood shooting this figure drops below 10).

    That would require 2,250 skulls.

    The figure of 774.7 is taken from the following, but of course it comes down to how you define terrorism; http://www.berkshirepublishing...

    Greg: The idea isn't to say lets not have security, it's to say lets prioritise our efforts.

  • Chris Reich

    The story ignores the potential deaths from the counter opposing causes. While not a fan of the way the "war on terror" is being fought, I still believe vigilance is required.

    What if Al-Qaeda manages to obtain nuclear or biological means of destruction? The numbers jump on the terror side to the millions.

    I like that the poster stimulates "all side" thinking but it is too shallow to spark the "aha!" necessary to shift public support in the direction of different policies.

    Chris Reich
    www.TeachU.com

  • Greg Steggerda

    Auntie Em . . . I agree with you that the profit motive in general, combined with our national ethic that individual rights trump the common good, is a formidable obstacle to change, especially in the case of health care. You and I probably differ in our opinion of the military, since I served, but I think that's peripheral to your main point and, given the uses politicians sometimes put the military to, I understand why some folks feel the way you do.

  • Auntie Em

    Greg... agreed. I hope I didn't imply it's one or the other, nor ignore the global implications of both. The issue is what would become a better investment? I would wager that the increased productivity and competitive edge we would regain in the US with a more human health care system would not only eclipse the net benefits to people (though perhaps not Merck and Blackwater), but would REDUCE our costs to offset terrorism. We treat that and the false assumptions the Bush administration tried to sell us that it is a jealousy for the American way of life that causes people to hate us... with a health care system (or at least access to it) that few in the world envy (despite all the advanced technology imaginable) this is not and never was the answer. It is our geopolitical muscling and coercion for cheap resources and labor that causes this backlash. It is amazing that people call such a view socialist or anti-American, when it is simply anti-greed and anti-untethered corporatism.

    At the bottom of all the economic arguments, what we invest in is simply a measure of the values of those in power. It is inarguable that military and corporate policy are in lockstep to undermine the power of people and their quality of life. There is no other way to parse that equation economically or otherwise. It is total shortsighted BS to try and dismiss this socialist, just because it demonstrates more than a token appreciation for the actual suffering caused by the sickening and pathetic sense of entitlement some people feel for their right to wealth regardless the cost. Protecting the commons protects everyone, even the rich, for it is our sustenance. Systematic undermining of the health and education of the masses serves only to perpetuate the legacy of greed.

  • Greg Steggerda

    Agree with Antie Em on the basic flaws in health care, though. That needs to be fixed, and we need to go with good enough right now rather than taking 10 years to find a perfect solution. But I still say it's not a head-to-head choice.

  • Greg Steggerda

    This graphic raises a false issue based on partial data. False issue: we should not have to choose between the two, we should have both. Partial data: Fails to take into account the economic and geopolitical impacts of terrorism, which affect our economy and technological development, which affect, among other things, health care.

  • Iggy Dalrymple

    Total socialist BS. Socialized medicine may kill more than terrorism, but not lack of health care in the US. Truth is that the intellectual elite wants 92% of us dead.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    "MAINTAIN HUMANITY UNDER 500,000,000
    IN PERPETUAL BALANCE WITH NATURE" - The Georgia Guidestones
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


    The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.
    H. L. Mencken

  • Auntie Em

    Well, the first comment doesn't surprise me. If you dig a little further into things one could create an even more compelling graphic. For instance, check this link: http://wits.nctc.gov/RunSearch...

    This compiles the "terrorist" incidents in the United States since 2004. Without getting into the rather spurious logic of what constitutes a terrorist attack, the 25 incidents listed there would make the graphic appear a little more convincing... if you look at reducing the commenter's number of 45,000 deaths to 21, there would be many many thousands of healthcare related deaths per terrorist-related death here in the US.

    As in all things, it is easy to get lost in the numbers. To dismiss this graphic in the way the first commenter did is at least as misleading as he (assuming a him) claims the graphic is. The point is, the U.S. healthcare "system" is ridiculous, obscene in its complete disregard for patient care vs. profitability, and access to it is worse than all but a handful of countries on earth.

    Want a real wake up call? Check this report: http://www.mcgill.ca/files/ihs...
    By basically forcing people to work while they are sick we create an environment that continuously diminishes the value of people actually being healthy (and productive), as well as breeding super viruses and creating the opportunity for massive outbreaks. Then google how our maternity leave compares, which is worse than all but about 5 nations on earth. More can be found here: http://timeday.org/time_to_car...

    All of this serves nothing more than the bottom line of healthcare providers and undermines the total health of our nation. Again, this focus on profits over people is short-sighted, economically bankrupt, obscene and immoral. We are a second rate country with a third rate health care system. Thanks to WIRED for at least pointing out this most obvious issue.

  • Masses of the Opiate

    This graphic was originally created by Schule Lewis; his blog is at http://www.schulelewis.com - Original post: http://schuhlelewis.blogspot.c...

    Your readers should be aware that the statistic this is derived from is suspect. In fact, numbers by the State Department for "People worldwide killed as a result of terrorism" range between 14,500 - 22,500 annually, (at least for 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008. This is far different from the 774.7 referenced in the graphic.) http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/...

    With these numbers in mind (assuming accuracy in the 45,000 deaths from lack of health care statistic), it becomes:

    "For every 1 person who dies in a terrorist attack globally, 2-3 in the US die due to lack of health care."

    Which makes for a much less impressive infographic, with far fewer skulls. Given the prominence being given to this story on the FastCompany page (it's #1 in the sidebar; I don't know if this is for recent stories or popular stories), people should be aware that very little fact-checking was done before it was submitted here.