I'm on sabbatical for the 2007-2008 academic year, retooling so that I can teach ECO 471 - Health Economics when I return. Here are some things I've learned so far:
1. More medical care spending doesn't lead to better health outcomes. This is found in the famous RAND experiments, cross state studies, and cross national studies.
2. The differences across income groups are larger than differences across racial/ethnic groups, but even after controlling for education, and income there are still important racial differences. Quite possibly we have at work
3. Sometimes increasing poverty can improve some heath outcomes.
4. Sometimes medical care is bad for you. After all To Err is Human.
5. Drugs are good, though not universally so. Then there is the problem of me too drugs.
6. Most improvements in life expectancy have been due to improvements in diet and public health, such as clean water, sanitation, etc.
My take away from all this is that there is a lot to improving health outcomes that is unrelated to heath care. It turns out that there are a lot of other factors that are more important. Your friends, the neighborhood you live in, your taste for risky activities.