Maybe it's natural for a nation of hypochondriacs to have one of the world's best health-care systems. Who says Italy is a nation of hypochondriacs? I do. Who says that Italy has one of the world's best health-care systems? The World Health Organization (WHO), that's who (WHO flag in photo, left).My Neapolitan friends—all of whom are delightful hypochondriacs and for whom "dolce" in la dolce vita really means spending hours in the pharmacy looking for new potions and elixirs—all grumble about doctors and general health services here. I mean, you show up at the ER, your body ravaged by the ebola virus (that has cleverly disguised itself as a hangnail), and they will actually make you wait till they pry what's left of some malingering kid off his motorcycle.
The World Health Organization has carried out the first ever analysis of the world's health systems. Using five performance indicators to measure health systems in 191 member states, it finds that France provides the best overall health care, followed by Italy...
The criteria include: the overall level of health of the population; health inequalities within the population; how well people of varying economic status find that they are served by the health system; and the distribution of the health system's financial burden within the population. Italy is in second-place in the world.
At the moment, my own particular body is being ravaged by some sort of infection of the upper respiratory tract. The doctor came over to the house and listened, thumped and poked for a while, and then prescribed some medicine. My outrage that I would have to arrange to pick up the pills, myself, was somewhat abated by the bill for the house call cum snake oil: a big, fat, round nothing.
Back to hypochondria. While
he was at the house, the doctor got a call on his
cell-phone. His side of the conversation was this: "Signora,
I'm sure it's not that at all… yes…yes…I know…I read it,
too, but there have been no reported cases in
Europe." The woman had a cough, and Neapolitan
scare headlines are just made for people like that.
"Deadly Respiratory Disease Sweeping the World! We're all
doomed!" would be one of the calmer headlines for a local
newspaper this week. The reference is to the recent
outbreak of what is called SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory
Syndrome) that has apparently broken out in parts of
Because of my unselfish and
benevolent sensitivity to the feelings of others, I
actually passed on a chance to go and hear some good music
at a local jazz club the other night. The club is on Piazza San Domenico Maggiore,
just a few feet from the spot where, in 1273, the altar
crucifix was heard by three witnesses to speak to Thomas Aquinas after
he had completed his treatise on the Eucharist,
complimenting him on a job well done. That, alone, might
have encouraged me to go — and I was feeling well enough —
but I didn't sound well; I still had that hard cough that
sounds as if demons are cracking walnuts in your chest. It
gets people's attention. I could see myself enjoying the
music and coughing every now and then for the benefit of
those around me and watching them head for the door and
the nearest all-night pharmacy when I told them that this
band wasn't nearly as good as the one I had just heard in