According to a National Academy of Sciences report, America is far unhealthier than 16 other leading developed countries: Canada, Australia, Japan and 13 European countries including Britain, France, Portugal, Italy and Germany. We are more likely to die young from obesity and heart disease, and we are far more likely to be murdered or die in a car accident.
Dr. Steven Woolf, chair of the department of family medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University and chair of the expert panel, said, “It’s a tragedy. Our report found that an equally large, if not larger, disadvantage exists among younger Americans.”
Americans spent more than $8,600 a year per person on healthcare – more than twice what countries such as Britain, France and Sweden spend, and yet we don’t live longer and have poorer health. However, as The New York Times reports, the U.S. does lead the world in healthcare innovations. In the last decade, 12 Nobel Prizes in medicine have gone to Americans.
Nonetheless, America scored the worst in nine areas: infant mortality; injury and homicide rates; teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases; the AIDS virus; drug abuse; obesity and diabetes; heart disease; lung disease; and disabilities.
The experts who wrote the report blamed American culture for these statistics. Americans’ reliance on cars leads to less exercise, while our love of fast food and resistance to being told what to do were also blamed. “We have a culture in our country … that cherishes personal autonomy and wants to limit intrusion of government and other entities upon our personal lives,” Woolf said. “Some of those forces may act against the ability to achieve optimal health outcomes.”
The experts urged policy-makers to take immediate action to help change this trend.