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US Health Worse Than Nearly All Other Industrialised Countries

Carey L. Biron
Inter Press Service / News Report
Published: Friday 11 January 2013
Of 17 high-income countries looked at by a committee of experts sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. is at or near the bottom in at least nine indicators.
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U.S. citizens suffer from poorer health than nearly all other industrialized countries, according to the first comprehensive government analysis on the subject, released Wednesday.

Of 17 high-income countries looked at by a committee of experts sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, the United States is at or near the bottom in at least nine indicators.

These include infant mortality, heart and lung disease, sexually transmitted infections, and adolescent pregnancies, as well as more systemic issues such as injuries, homicides, and rates of disability.

Together, such issues place U.S. males at the very bottom of the list, among those countries, for life expectancy; on average, a U.S. male can be expected to live almost four fewer years than those in the top-ranked country, Switzerland. U.S. females fare little better, ranked 16th out of the 17 high-income countries under review.

“We were stunned by the propensity of findings all on the negative side – the scope of the disadvantage covers all ages, from babies to seniors, both sexes, all classes of society,” Steven H. Woolf, a professor of family medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University and chair of the panel that wrote the report, told IPS.

“It’s unclear whether some of these patterns will be experienced by other countries in the years to come, but developing countries will undoubtedly begin facing some of these issues as they take on more habits similar to the United States. Currently, however, even countries in the developing world are outpacing the U.S. in certain outcomes.”

Although the new findings offer a uniquely comprehensive view of the problem, the fact is that U.S. citizens have for decades been dying at younger ages than those in nearly all other industrialized countries. The committee looked at data going back to the 1970s to note that such a trend has been worsening at least since then, with women particularly affected.

“A particular concern with these findings was about adolescents, about whom we document very serious issues that, again, stand out starkly from other counties,” Woolf says.

“Not only do they risk being killed in greater numbers, but they are also experiencing illness, and a variety of mental health concerns, at far higher rates than similar cohorts in other countries. These include significant implications for tomorrow’s adults.”

Beyond insurance

The unusually high levels of population who lack health insurance in the U.S. would certainly seem to be one factor at work here. In 2010, some 50 million people, around 16 percent of the population, were uninsured – a massive proportion compared with the rest of the world’s high-income countries.

Of course, after a rancorous debate and more than a decade of political infighting, in 2010 President Barack Obama did succeed in putting in place broad legislation that will bring the number of uninsured in the United States down significantly.

Further, Obama’s winning of a second term in office, coupled with a recent decision by the Supreme Court, will now undercut most attempts by critics to roll back Obama’s new health-care provisions.

And yet, according to the new findings, the insurance issue has relatively little impact on the overall state of poor health in the United States. (In fact, those 75 years old or more can expect to live longer than those in other countries, a clear indication of the tremendous money and effort that has gone into end-of-life care.)

“Even advantaged Americans – those who are white, insured, college-educated, or upper income – are in worse health than similar individuals in other countries,” the report states. Likewise, “Americans who do not smoke or are not overweight also appear to have higher rates of disease than similar groups in peer countries.”

Indeed, some of the few categories in which U.S. citizens are found to do better than their peers in other countries include smoking less tobacco and drinking less alcohol. They also appear to have gained greater control over their cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

At the same time, people in the United States have begun to suffer inordinately from a host of other problems that can contribute to a spectrum of additional health concerns.

Sky-high obesity rates, for instance, are undergirded by findings that people in the U.S. on average consume more calories per person than in other countries, as well as analysis that suggest that the U.S. physical environment in recent decades has been built around the automobile rather than the pedestrian.

Health disadvantage

Confusingly, people in the United States not only record far lower health indicators on average when compared to other high-income countries, but also score far lower on seemingly unrelated issues related to environmental safety – for instance, experiencing inordinate numbers of homicide and car accidents.

The committee clearly had trouble putting together these seemingly disparate datasets.

“No single factor can fully explain the U.S. health disadvantage,” the report states. “More likely, the U.S. health disadvantage has multiple causes and involves some combination of inadequate health care, unhealthy behaviors, adverse economic and social conditions, and environmental factors, as well as public policies and social values that shape those conditions.”

According to Samuel Preston, a demographer and fellow committee member, “The bottom line is that we are not preventing damaging health behaviors. You can blame that on public health officials or on the health care system … but put it all together and it is creating a very negative portrait.”

Over the past decade, one of the most puzzling aspects of the opposition to greater insurance coverage in the United States was the belief espoused by many in the country that the U.S. health system, unique in its lack of state “interference”, was better than those in most other countries.

One of the committee’s central recommendations is the need to “alert the American public about the U.S. health disadvantage and to stimulate a national discussion about its implications.”

Amidst widespread discussions of austerity, lawmakers here in Washington are continuing to debate new ways to impose steep cuts on government spending. In this, the new findings could offer some caution.

“Policymakers must recognize the potential implications of current decisions that have to be made about public health and social programs that are currently in jeopardy because of fiscal concerns,” Woolf says.

“Understanding how cuts to those programs might help balance budgets will probably exacerbate the country’s current health disadvantage – and make greater demands on the system later on. We need to help them understand the larger economic implications, if not the human toll.”



easy to move USA to top of

easy to move USA to top of life lenght just ban private autos [health conference at local univ 6 or 7 months ago]

Basically the worst and have

Basically the worst and have the bonus of paying more for being abused.

Our medical freedoms are stolen. Sen Dick Durbin (dem-Illinois) tries repeatedly to make vitamins and supplements illegal. Then the drug pushers can raise their prices a hundred fold and you have to go to a doctor to get a prescription for freaking vitamin E. Which would be in your bread IF you didn't have it refined.

The US Govt has NO legal authority over our health choices. No federal agency, court, or administration can make ANY LAWS. Congress alone has the authority to make a law. When the FDA tells you that you have to vaccinate your children (a really stupid move from a biochemical standpoint) they have no legal authority to do so.

Our constitution states that any power NOT SPECIFICALLY GRANTED to the fed govt IN THE CONSTITUTION is retained by the state and the people. The constitution does NOT say we have to vaccinate. It doesn't say we have to poison our children with chemo when the Journal of Oncology states that only 2% of chemo patients survive for only 5 years. That sucks.

Probably why surveys show that oncologists (over half) would NOT take chemo if they had cancer. Hmmm. But they are willing to literally kill you and make a profit off your death until you do die. Hmmm

Brad Roon, that is one of the

Brad Roon, that is one of the silliest things I have read yet today (although granted, it's still the morning, so there is time). How is vaccination really stupid from a biochemical standpoint? Would you rather your children have polio, or malaria, or some other painful, crippling disease, or would you have that prevented for life with a single injection? (And don't even start on that whole "vaccination causes autism" malarkey. The chemical supposedly responsible for it has been out of vaccine formulas for almost two decades, and autism rates haven't decreased. To go along with the complete lack of scientific evidence supporting a connection.) Opposition to vaccination is seriously one of the most blatantly and laughably stupid decisions that a person can make, when it comes to health care. The requirement to vaccinate your children is to prevent a public health hazard.

Oh, and the FDA does have all kinds of legal authorities: The kinds that have been granted to it by legislation. That's how government works: Executive departments are created by Congress, and given appropriate authority through legislation, so that Congress doesn't have to pass laws on every tiny little detail. Do you have any idea how ineffective Congress would be if every single government activity had to be achieved through legislation, rather than by delegated authority? It would make the current Congress look like a well-oiled assembly line of bills.

And while you're complaining about what the Constitution does and doesn't say, remember that, as originally written, the Bill of Rights only applied to actions of the federal government, not the states, or counties, or municipalities. The City of Chicago could try you as many times as they liked until you were found guilty, if they wanted to, and if such activity was not prohibited by the state constitutions. It was only through the courts applying the Doctrine of Incorporation, under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, that the Bill of Rights became applicable in all situations.

I'm struck by the facts that

I'm struck by the facts that USAmerican sick care is designed to maximize profits by limiting access, is NOT designed as a preventive, health promotion system but rather a "try to fix the damage" system and USAmericans are heavily conditioned to consider seeking health care "malingering" or "sponging off the system" and therefore wait until the last minute to seek care...

Just taking care of the financing aspect would not be enough. We will also have to consider Health Care as a Right (instead of a commodity or profit center) and address the deviant infrastructure at every level; from medical schools to centralized delivery at corporate hospitals to equipment manufacturers and drug pushers (PhRMA) to the basic integration of Preventive Health Care into our daily lives.

Of course, the latter would mean addressing the over-worked, over-stressed, malnourished USAmerican and the loss of profits for the food-industrial complex as well...and the entire capitalist experiment in destroying the Earth so that a few can get "rich"...

Our for-profit healthcare

Our for-profit healthcare system consumes some 15% of our GDP, and we have worse health outcomes. As a longtime financial executive, I cannot imagine what incentives exist to help people stay well. After all, a well person is a lost customer for the medical-pharma industry. Healthcare is a perfect example of a good that is not best distributed by capitalism. Every other country distributes healthcare as a right, through the government, a non-profit entity. And by the way, in the US, the government does a far better job, at lower cost, of distributing healthcare. To wit, Medicare and Medicaid. Privatizing requires we pay more, in order to enable profits at every entity along the way. Insurance companies, medical companies, pharmaceutical companies, doctors, hospitals, etc. And we have over-complicated health care, just as we have over-complicated our food. Time to get back to basics, and take profit out of healthcare. I'd rather have a doctor who is a doctor because they are devoted to healing, rather than a doctor to make $250,000+ per year. Wouldn't you?

As long as communities

As long as communities continue to use the growth of the medical industrial complex as an engine of economic development we shall continue to have horrible health care results and an ever greater percentage of the population either saddled with unpayable medical debt or death through lack of care. Since single payer works better and is cheaper, but does not give the corporate giants more money, we are saddled with an insane system that kills us.

We need to eliminate the military industrial complex and the medical industrial complex if we are to have healthy, prosperous communities.

we are fat, inactive as a

we are fat, inactive as a nation, we knowingly poisin ourselves and what on earth do we expect? Lets blame someone else. this is our fault and only we can fix it.

So let's cut education

So let's cut education funding more, ensuring that PE is the first to go for our youngsters and let's cause the average worker's salary to stagnate or decline so s/he has to work more hours just to survive (thereby cutting into his/her time to eat right and exercise). Let's weaken and remove even more environmental regulations so that toxins can continue to flow into our air, water, and food. While I agree that personal responsibility is part of the answer, so too are adequate and sound public health policies and funding. (P.S. per the article, apparently Americans drink and smoke LESS than citizens of most of the other countries reviewed - hard to believe, but speaks to the point that it's not only "self-poisoning" that is causing us harm, but environmental poisoning is working its charms as well.)

This is nothing new - these

This is nothing new - these findings have been "out" for several years, however, they have only been ignored. It all comes back to the necessity of a single-payer system. It seems the "overhead" costs for Medicare, are waaay lower than a typical insurance company's overhead costs.
If WE had a single-payer system, WE would not be paying exorbitant salaries to the top dogs of the insurance companies. That alone would bring our costs down to a reasonable level. It is definitely worth looking into - WE would be better off for it.

This is the result of a

This is the result of a government that has been taken over by the 1%.

The 1% finance both major political parties, so the PRIMARY concern of all policy decisions is how they will affect the profits of the 1%'s corporations.

Medicare-for-all and a public option for health insurance would have cut into the insurance and pharmaceutical corporations' profits, so were out of the question.

At a White House conference to discuss "all" the health-care options, when doctors representing single-payer showed up they were arrested. THAT'S what the government thinks about health care for the peasants.

Many unhealthy additives are used in American processed food because they result in higher corporate profits, but harm the health of the citizens that consume them.

Hydrogenated vegetable oil (AKA trans fats) raises your cholesterol level, lowers the "good' cholesterol, doses you with toxic nickel, and has a range of other adverse effects on peoples' health. But the corporations love it because it's cheap and has a long shelf life. It's widely used in the U.S. and the food corporations had the government DELAY reporting the trans-fat content of food for over twenty years, resulting in thousands of unnecessary heart attacks and strokes.

When you vote for EITHER corporate-funded party, you're voting for the 1%, playing their rigged game. The Democrats need an incentive to start representing the 99%.

Yet another reason I vote Green Party.

You.ve got a point. The food

You.ve got a point. The food is way more processed here.

. . The dishonesty of our

. . The dishonesty of our government is amazing. To now cut Medicare by raising the age once again. First they raised it from 62 to 65 - Gee, I was 62 when I dis-locarted my shoulder..( no-coverage) did they really save that much money ??? I've often wondered... Now they want to raise it from 65 to 67....
How much will that save - - or how much pain will be inflicted by the lack of coverage ??
. . . The government wants to cut the C.O.L.A. on SOCIAL SECURITY - -
. . . .ARE THEY FORGETTING - IT IS PAID FOR BY THE PEOPLE ???
... that is as they dip their fingers into the SOCIAL SECURITY TRUST FUND. ....
======================================================
MEDICARE >> PART "B" ?.?.? my presecriptions - - cost for the last three years ( with my shoulder and another injury) $125.00 ( less than $5.00 a month - 36 months) Medicare Part "B" the bill is $299.40 for three months ??? ($100.00 a month ??????) without so much as an aspirin - - no presecrptions - no over the counter medication of any kind............even allowing for the cost of paperwork >> I question who is getting rich >> I can see whose getting ripped off....
. . . "US Health Worse Than Nearly All Other Industrialised Countries " . . . .

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