Inside the black box of comparative national healthcare performance in 35 OECD countries: issues of culture, systems performance and sustainability

Jeffrey Braithwaite*, Yvonne Tran, Louise A. Ellis, Johanna Westbrook

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Is national healthcare performance associated with country-level characteristics, and if so what are the implications for international health policy?

Methods and findings: We compared Hofstede's six cultural dimensions against relative health systems performance of 35 countries. Hierarchical cluster analysis identified best-matched groupings of countries. Performance was measured by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD's) Health at a Glance indicators data framework (five dimensions with 57 indicators) and the United Nations' (UNs') Sustainability Development Goals (SDG) data set (15 indicators). Three country clusters emerged: Collective-Pyramidal (n = 9: comprising Slovak Republic, Mexico, Poland, Greece, Spain, Turkey, Portugal, Chile, and Slovenia); Collaborative-Networked (n = 12: UK, Canada, Australia, USA, Ireland, New Zealand, Netherlands, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden); and Orderly-Future Orientated (n = 14: Korea, Estonia, Latvia, Austria, Israel, Japan, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland). The Collaborative-Networked cluster had significantly better performing health systems measured by both the Health at a Glance and SDG performance data, followed by the Orderly-Future Orientated cluster, followed by the Collective-Pyramidal cluster. The Collaborative-Networked Cluster was characterized by low power distance (e.g., greater levels of equity), low uncertainty avoidance (e.g., toleration of others' opinions), individualism (e.g., self-reliance) and indulgence (e.g., drives and norms to enjoy life and have fun).

Conclusions: National cultures are associated with healthcare performance on two key international measures. In national and international efforts to improve health system performance, cultural characteristics play an important role. This information may be of value to regulators, policymakers, researchers and clinicians examining the practical impact of culture on healthcare performance.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0239776
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sept 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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