Wednesday, April 23, 2008

We're 42nd! We're 42nd! We're 42nd!

An analysis by a team from Harvard Public Health found that life expectancy not only may have hit a peak, but for many Americans has fallen.

Counties in the South found that more deaths were due to risk factors like smoking, obesity, and high blood pressure which caused more cancers, emphysema, and diabetes. Obviously the causes could be multifactorial. Certainly the counties with worsening life expectancy were poorer. Do those individuals have adequate health insurance or ability to get preventive healthcare? Do they have access to healthy food choices like fruits and vegetables? Can they afford them? Is there access to parks and other forms of recreation that allow physical activity or are the areas devoid of them and instead require people to drive more?

As the nation with the most financial and intellectual resources, we should do better than a life expectancy of 42 in the world. Increasingly, our country is becoming into two Americas, those that reach their full potential and those that are left behind. We need a serious system overhaul.

From the article:

  • Last September, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that U.S. life expectancy had risen to almost 78 years in 2005 -- up from 75.8 years in 1995 and 69.6 years in 1955. The United States ranks around 42nd in the world in life expectancy.
  • "The majority of these counties were in the Deep South, along the Mississippi River, and in Appalachia, extending into the southern portion of the Midwest and into Texas," Ezzati's team wrote.
  • "One of the questions we are asking is whether our ranking in the world is getting increasingly worse because we are not doing a good job of taking care of the worst-off," Ezzati said.
  • "Life expectancy decline is something that has traditionally been considered a sign that the health and social systems have failed, as has been the case in parts of Africa and Eastern Europe," said Christopher Murray of the University of Washington, who worked on the study.
  • "The fact that is happening to a large number of Americans should be a sign that the U.S. health system needs serious rethinking."
  • The study is available at doi=10.1371/journal.pmed.0050066.

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