Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Unhealthy America

     A recent report from the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine made headlines when it pointed out how unhealthy Americans are compared with 16 other wealthy, developed nations: Australia, Canada, and all the nations of Europe. This report is nicely summarized in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA February 27, 2013, vol. 309, pp 771-772) The following is a precis of this report. I might add that no cause was found for our lowest ranking in health and highest ranking in death rates.

     Until age 75, we have the highest death rate, compared with those other countries, but if we reach age 75 then we have a higher life expectancy.

     We have higher rates of disease and injury especially in motor vehicle accidents involving alcohol.

     US infants are least likely to reach their first birthdays, compared to the other 16 countries.

     We have lower birth weights, and mortality rates up to age 5 are also higher.

     US teenagers die at a higher rate from motor vehicle crashes and homicides.

     US teenagers also have the highest pregnancy rate and the highest prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases. They are also the least likely to practice safe sex.

     We have the highest incidence of AIDS.

     We also have the highest obesity rates and the highest rate of adult-onset diabetes, as well as the second highest rate of death from ischemic heart disease.

     US patients are more likely to return to the emergency room and to be readmitted after hospital discharge.

     We are less likely to smoke and drink, but we are more likely to abuse drugs and not fasten seat belts.

     We have the highest child poverty rate.
     Even our wealthiest white citizens have a higher mortality than matched adults in other countries.

And no one reason or cause seems to explain our unhealthiness, especially since we pay more per capita on health care than do any of the other industrialized democracies.




  1. I will be blunt here, and most people are not going to like it. There are 5 different forces that contribute to these facts. Four of these can be corrected, one should NOT be corrected.

    First, we live in a free society. It encourages us to choose the life we want to live, it gives us that spirit to climb mountains and create the artificial heart. We will make mistakes, we will die. Obviously, like my life and the Constitution, it should be left alone.

    Next, death has become taboo (in the last 100 years). For millions of years, death was a part of life. We have become a nanny society, trying to legislate common sense to prevent death. In caveman times, if someone tried to give the cavebear a hug, they either wrestled him to the ground and became leader of the clan, or was eaten.

    If he was eaten, then we would not have any stupid children. If you want to ride a motorcycle, standing on your head, at 100 MPH, without a helmet, you should be able to. The bloodstain you leave will be a reminder for other riders.

    Finally, big corporations. They replace food with high fructose corn syrup, antifreeze, and cardboard and feed it to us because it saves money. They fund lobbyists to push their own agenda in congress, and no person (only the entity called a corporation) is held accountable.

    Look what happened to healthcare; we got managed care. They genetically engineer our food and pump it full of antibiotics. You get automated phone systems that only connect you to call centers.

    BTW, the main ingredient in red food coloring is glycol, which is the main ingredient in antifreeze.

    Finally our schools teach to the least-smartest person in the class. They do not teach things like civics, personal responsibility, entrepreneurship, ethics, or critical thinking.

  2. All of the above may be true, but I can't help wondering how growing up in America makes our teenagers so careless with their health and with their lives. They act as if actions have no consequences.