America's Long-Running Health Deficit
A new National Research Council report is the latest to find that Americans live sicker and die younger than residents of other developed nations. Gun violence, poverty, bad habits all play a part — and MedPage Today Editor-in-Chief Peggy Peck says you can do something about it.
By Peggy Peck, MedPage Today
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THURSDAY, Jan. 10, 2012 —A colleague came into my office today for the singular purpose of sharing his amazement that a joint study by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine concluded that Americans live sicker and die younger than people born in Japan or Holland or Sweden or 13 other “wealthy” nations. I wish I could say that I shared his surprise, but I do not.
For years every study comparing the U.S. to other nations has reached the same dismal conclusion: Our infant mortality rate is worse, our lifespan shorter, our waistlines bigger. And it is not just national “spare tire” that is killing us: Along with two cars, multiple TVs, scores of mobile devices, the typical American home is likely to have at least one gun.
Into that mix, we throw what the American Medical Association, U.S. presidents, and Congressional leaders like to call “the best health care system in the world.”
Yes, because the U.S.really does produce the best doctors and the best medical technology in the world.
And no, because connecting those doctors and that technology to the Americans who need it, and making sure those services are paid for in a timely and fair way, is still a problem in need of a solution.
The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, may take us part way to the needed solution, but it is too soon for a solid assessment.
In the meantime, there are things that each of us can do to improve the nation’s health status. More exercise and fewer potato chips are obvious steps. Here are a few others:
- Get a primary care physician
- Talk to your healthcare provider about ways that you can work with him/her to improve your health and your community’s health
- Support funding for physical education in schools.
- Support and help maintain local and national parks
- Be a good example to your colleagues and your family...You get the idea.
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