A health system is the organization of people, institutions, and resources to deliver services that will meet the health needs of target populations.

Health systems vary across the world. Every country has an individual design and process of development in accordance with specific needs and resources available. As an Italian exchange student, I want to focus on the Italian and American policy.

Italy’s health care system was ranked second out of 191 countries by the World Health Organization’s listing of top countries for quality healthcare. The United States, on the other hand, was ranked 37th — the lowest of any industrialized nation.

The ranking took place prior to the Affordable Care Act which was imposed by President Barack Obama on March 23rd, 2010. The act was intended to increase health insurance quality and affordability, lower uninsured rates by expanding insurance coverage, and reduce costs of healthcare. The Obamacare reform actually increased the number of similarities between the Italian and American systems. Now, in the US, citizens have a constitutional guarantee to free medical care.

In Italy, you do not even have to be a citizen to receive health care. A national authority responsible for drug regulation, the Italian Medicines Agency, is a public body operating autonomously, transparently, in correspondence with cost-effectiveness criteria. They operate under the direction of the Ministry of Health, and under the vigilance of the Ministries of Health and Economy.

In addition, public healthcare is completely free under the age of 14 years old, and there are some facilitation’s for those over 65. Everyone has a sanitary card, almost like an ID, that they bring wherever they go to show that they have health care. In the US, this card does not exist. There are only cards that let people know how much they must pay to receive medical help.

The hospital’s structures are not entirely different: they both have general hospitals that treat various diseases, some sort of emergency department to deal with cases that need immediate attention, and specialized hospitals that retain trauma centers, rehabilitation hospitals, children’s hospitals, senior hospitals, and hospitals to address specific conditions. A teaching hospital is also generally attached to a medical school, in both Italy and America, to train medical students and nurses.

In my opinion, the Italian system is more organized and focused on the prevention of illness in comparison to the American system which is focused solely on treatments. Two Italian exchange students visiting the Wake Forest Law School for the fall semester, Angelo Malvesto and Licia Memo, agree that the Italian system’s aim is much more beneficial. Not only is it safer for patients, but also cheaper for the government. Preventing an illness with shots, and having the option of a free visit available at any time, is much cheaper and safer than attempting to treat illnesses after they have already entered the body.
I prefer the Italian healthcare system. The structure and number of hospitals is greater and the cost of the healthcare does not weigh too much on the person receiving it. The government helps Italians handle the cost and provides everyone with the opportunity to receive help. Italy’s focus on prevention, rather than treatment, is what I believe keeps the Italian health care system at such a high rank in the World Health Organization’s listing of top countries for quality health care.

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