A report released earlier this year by the Institute of Medicine reveals some startling news about the health of Americans when compared with other wealthy nations: Americans die younger and experience more injury and illness than people in almost all other high-income countries. Disturbingly, this disparity persists despite the fact that the US is the wealthiest country in the world and spends more per person on health care than any other nation.
The study, which found the US ranked last when compared to Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, also found that the disparities exist across all demographics: high and low incomes, males and females, all races and ethnicities.
So, what’s to blame for this issue? Everything. The study notes that no single factor can be cited as the reason for the health discrepancy, but says that it “likely 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.”
Simply put, American policy and individual’s lifestyles are killing them. According to Slate, in addition to many millions of people lacking health insurance, having financial barriers to care, and a lack of primary care providers compared with other rich countries, people in the United States eat more high calorie foods (and bigger portions of them!), are more sedentary, abuse more drugs, and shoot one another more often than those in other wealthy countries. The United States falls behind on many measures of education, has higher child poverty and income inequality, and lower social mobility than most other wealthy democracies.
The problem with addressing an issue that is spurred from our American lifestyle? Tackling that issue can prove to be near-impossible without a massive policy and outlook overhaul—which is unlikely in the United States.
What are your thoughts? How do we combat this pervasive and vitally important issue? As health communicators, what is our role?
Image Credit: consciouslifenews.com