Korea Leads in Treating Cancer But Lags in Disease Prevention

中央日報

Korea ranks at the top of the world when it comes to treating cancer, stroke and heart attack but trails behind in terms of preventing chronic illnesses.

According to the annual OECD "Health at a Glance" report out Monday, only 6.2 percent of Korean patients over 45 die within 30 days of being hospitalized with ischemic stroke, the lowest fatality rate in the group of rich countries.

And Koreans' survival rate five years after being diagnosed with rectal cancer stood at 71 percent, the highest in the OECD compared to the average of 61 percent.

The survival rate for colorectal cancer stood at 71.6 percent and for breast cancer at 86.3 percent, also way above the OECD average of 63 percent and 85 percent. 

But 281 out of 100,000 Koreans are hospitalized for diabetes, more than twice as many as the OECD average of 137.2. And the number of patients hospitalized for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is 214.2, while the OECD average is 189.8.

An official at the Health Ministry said, "This means that there was inadequate care at the initial stage of the disease that worsened conditions or hospital treatment was not effective. The data shows that we need to do more to prevent chronic illnesses."

For the first time, the report assesses patient experiences. Asked if there was enough time spent talking to doctors, 77.9 percent of Korean patients said yes, and 87.1 percent said doctors explained illnesses and treatments in easily comprehensible terms.

This was slightly lower than the OECD averages of 81.3 percent and 88.9 percent. "Our top priority is to improve the amount of time patients get consulting doctors," the ministry official said.

Per-capita medical spending in Korea after inflation stood at US$2,729 a year, which is cheaper than the OECD average of $4,003. But Koreans' medical expenses jumped 38 percent over the last six years, way above 24-percent average in the OECD. 

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