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It is important to understand the overall health status of a population before looking at the regionsí use of health care services. In a system with free medical care, regions with poorer health status should show greater use of physician & hospital services, compared to areas with higher health status.


There are many ways to measure overall health status of a population. Three measures were used in this study.


One of the most common ones is life expectancy at birth - where people live longer, it follows that their health is better. However, the premature mortality rate (death before age 75) has been identified as the best overall indicator of health status, incorporating the need for health care; it is well-correlated with measures of morbidity. PMR is widely used as a measure of health because populations with higher rates also report more sickness & more symptoms of illness.


A third key measure of health status is Potential Years of Life Lost (PYLL). It tells us not only the rate at which people die before age 75, but whether they are dying at a younger or older age. Thus, a high PYLL means more deaths at a young age.