It doesn't take a proverbial rocket scientist to figure out that there is a health crisis in the U.S. Too many Americans lack health insurance, which means they don't have access to health care. There are too many overweight and obese people. Even many people without a weight problem eat a diet high in processed food. "The United States is among the wealthiest nations in the world, but it is far from the healthiest," a recently released report declares. That statement is absolutely true as the report shows.
The report is based on the findings of a panel of experts convened by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine for the National Institutes of Health. The panel compared research and statistics from 16 other developed countries: Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the U.K.
"Our panel was unprepared for the gravity of the finding we uncovered," panel chair Steven Woolf wrote in the preface. "We hope that others will take notice."
The life expectancy and health of Americans lags behind other developed countries. However, the U.S. spends more per person on healthcare than any other country. The report found nine health areas where the U.S. fares worse than the other 16 countries: infant mortality and low birth weight, injuries and homicides, adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, HIV and AIDS, drug-related deaths, obesity and diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung disease, and disability.
The panel did find that Americans have a few health advantages: lower cancer death rates, greater control of blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and those who reach 75 years old can expect to live longer than people in the peer countries. However, the other 16 countries outrank the U.S. on most other measures of health.
Why does the U.S.rank so low when it comes to health issues? The panel found four reasons why:
1. Healthcare system: The U.S. lacks universal health coverage.
2. Health behaviors: Americans consume the most calories per person, have higher drug abuse rates, are less likely to use seat belts, are involved in more traffic accidents involving alcohol, and are more likely to use guns in acts of violence
3. Social and economic conditions: The U.S. has higher levels of poverty, income inequality and lower rates of social mobility even though the income of Americans is higher on average than in other countries. The U.S.has fewer social safety net programs, and is falling behind in educating young people.
- 4. Physical environments: Americans walk less than their counterparts in peer reviewed countries because U.S.communities are designed around automobiles.
The sad irony is that Americans are taught as children to believe that ours is the greatest country in the world. When it comes to the health of its people, our country ranks at the bottom among developed countries. What will it take for things to change? What do you think needs to happen?
Photo credit: Flickr user, DonkeyHotey