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Letters to the Editor

Empty Beds, More Options
I have been intrigued by recent news articles that, on the surface, may appear to be unrelated. One article stated that health care costs in Canada are 30 percent lower than in the United States. The Canadians’ efficiency is due to the rationing of care, which occurs naturally because their hospitals rarely have empty beds. The second news item had to do with the potential problems from another SARS outbreak [“Anatomy of an Epidemic,” Fall 2003].

Many U.S. hospitals frequently have empty beds; however, most also assure that only the filled beds are staffed. When there is a peak in elective surgery or flu admissions, U.S. hospitals can staff up to meet the need: Part-time staff can work additional shifts, full-time staff can work overtime, etc.

When the SARS epidemic began in Toronto, because there were few empty beds, infected patients could not be isolated from uninfected patients. The empty beds in U.S. hospitals should put us in a better position to cope with SARS or a comparable outbreak. The net result is that our empty beds can be viewed as a potentially positive element in our health care system.

Robert G. Vaughan, ScD ’84
Towson, Maryland

Fast, Cheap, and Under Control
I read your story about the new technique to rapidly diagnose malaria [“A High-Tech Approach to an Age-Old Disease,” Fall 2003] with great interest, as it has beneficial ramifications for India. We have an annual malaria incidence of 2 million cases. Dr. Kumar’s invention could provide us with an alternative way to detect malaria rapidly and at a lower cost. The key will be to make it cost-effective for developing countries so that this technology can be incorporated into their anti-malaria programs.

Manish Pant, MD
New Delhi, India
 

Careful Comparisons
As an African-American woman studying health policy, it concerns me that the Caucasian community is frequently designated in health research as the standard against which all other ethnic groups are measured. A health statistic concerning the black community is frequently cited in comparison to that of Caucasians [as in “Race to Health,” Spring 2003] when there may be a greater statistical disparity with other non-Caucasian ethnic groups. While the infant mortality rate may be twice as high among blacks as among whites, it is almost three times as high as it is among Asians and Pacific Islanders. While making statistical comparisons between ethnic groups does generate a more complete analysis of health statistics, setting one particular group as the standard by which all others are measured implies an intention contrary to mere analysis.

Safiya Mojerie
University of Maryland,
Baltimore County

Best Behavior
I am simply delighted by the creation of your “new school,” with its behavior-based orientation [“School Announces New Department to Study Behavior and Health,” Fall 2003]. I am biased, as I was a psychology undergraduate major. Congratulations on having a forward view; it’s a difficult challenge, but it will create a most desired venue for understanding!

L. LaGail Roulhac
Portsmouth, Virginia

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