The National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine’s report issued January 9, 2013 shows that children born in the United States are less likely to live five years than kids from sixteen peer rich nations, and the health of Americans in general is worse than in those countries. These two independent non-profit groups advise the U.S. government on health issues.
The study compared the United States to sixteen other affluent democracies–Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The United States ranked at or near bottom in health in all age groups from birth to 75 years, particularly in those under 50 years:
- infant mortality and low birth weight–the U.S. has had the highest infant mortality rate of any high-income country for decades
- injuries and homicides
- teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections–the U.S. has the highest rates of teenage pregnancy
- prevalence of HIV and AIDS
- drug-related deaths
- obesity and diabetes
- heart disease
- chronic lung disease
Other findings about U.S. citizens:
- More likely to abuse drugs
- More likely to use firearms in violent acts
- More likely to have traffic accidents
- Less likely to wear seat belts
- Have the highest child poverty rate–more than one in five American children
- Males have shorter lives than those in the other countries
- Women are near the bottom, living to almost 81, 5.2 fewer years than the longest living Japanese women at age 86.
The findings are not just about those in the high poverty groups or the younger ones who are more behind in education than the other countries, but apply as well to the college educated with higher incomes and health insurance. This is despite the fact that U.S. health care per capita costs twice as much, about $9,000 a person yearly, as in all the other nations.
A few of the reasons the report came up with:
- In the U.S., physical activity and walking are discouraged by environments built for vehicle traffic
- The agricultural and food industries, grocery store and restaurant offerings, and marketing are shaping poor food consumption patterns, with Americans consuming more calories and fat per person
- Unhealthy housing with polluted indoor air is causing higher asthma rates
- U.S. water pollution contributes to the discrepancies between the U.S. and other rich nations.
The good news of where the U.S. does better than other countries:
- People over 75 years old live longer
- Americans have lower stroke and cancer death rates
- Blood pressure and cholesterol levels are better controlled
- Smoking rates are lower.
Some influencing factors outside the scope of the U.S. report are:
- There are U.S. financial incentives for being sick, like government aid in the form of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and not having to go to work at a job, or more welfare income for more babies produced
- The U.S., at 22 percent, far outranks the other 16 nations in the reported percentage of pregnancies aborted, except for Sweden’s 24.6 percent
- U.S. childcare seriously lags that in Europe, especially affecting those under 5 years of age
- Companies like Coca Cola, General Mills, Burger King, Nestle, Kellog’s, Kraft Foods and others do not advertise products to children in the European market, after joining an EU pledge in 2007
- Europeans experience a different work day, with schools and many businesses closing in midday for long relaxed lunches of local produce and fish with family and friends, and finish work later in the evening
- In Northern Europe, the attitude is that all citizens have a national right to healthcare
- The EU has a ten year economic growth plan, Europe 2020, of which promoting good health is an integral part
- In June 2012, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) warned that the U.S. is at the highest income inequality and relative poverty among the 34 member countries, and it should attempt to fix this by improving education for students who are disadvantaged and raising taxes on the wealthy.
The fact that in the bountiful United States, according to Dr. Steven H. Woolf, MD, MPH, professor of family medicine at Richmond’s Virginia Commonwealth University and panel chair of the report, “on average, infants, children, and adolescents in the U.S. die younger and have greater rates of illness and injury than youth in other countries” is criminal. The report seems to suggest that to improve the American health crisis, the focus should be on actions such as cleaning up the water, building healthier houses, eating more nutritional foods and walking more. Read the report online for detailed specifics on each issue.