U.S. leads in health care spend­ing but ranks low in life ex­pectancy

North Penn Life - - Opinion -

We’re proud to be Amer­i­cans. The words of poet and lawyer Fran­cis Scott Key were writ­ten in 1814 about the bat­tle of Fort McHenry that took place in the War of 1812. Those words be­came part of our “Star-Span­gled Ban­ner,” which be­came fa­mous in 1931 when Pres­i­dent Her­bert Hoover adopted our na­tional an­them.

For 200 years since Fran­cis Scott Key wrote about “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” peo­ple from around the world would like to live in the United States of Amer­ica be­cause our land is the best — or is it?

3UREDEOy, IRU WKH fiUVW WLPH, D com­par­i­son study of the most ad­vanced coun­tries has re­vealed some shock­ing facts. To do this un­bi­ased com­par­i­son it takes SHRSOH wKR DUH QRW LQfluHQFHG Ey government or paid by phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies. The Na­tional Academy of Sciences has been around since the days of Abra­ham Lin­coln. This or­ga­ni­za­tion has an arm known as the In­sti­tute of Medicine made up of 1,900 mem­bers who ba­si­cally do­nate their time and ex­per­tise. It is not part of the government. The IlM pro­vides ad­vice and de­ci­sions to the coun­try and the pub­lic.

lf 17 na­tions that were stud­ied, the United States has the high­est mor­tal­ity un­til Amer­i­cans reach the age of 50 and then this coun­try ranks sec­ond un­til the age of 70. lf the 17 coun­tries, the United States came in last in life ex­pectancy.

Ja­pan was the leader of the most in­dus­tri­al­ized na­tions. Ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions, Ja­pan’s av­er­age life ex­pectancy for men was 79.25 years and for women it was 86.06 years. This was quite a shock com­pared to life ex­pectancy in the United States where it is 75.35 years for men and 80 years for women.

To ex­am­ine a com­par­i­son at the short­ened end of life, in Le­sotho at the lower end of Africa, life ex­pectancy is 48 years for women. In the Cen­tral African oepub­lic it is 44.47 for men and 47.31 for women.

The world av­er­age life ex­pectancy is 65.71 for men and 70.14 for women, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions. It was slightly shorter ac­cord­ing to The C.I.A. World Fact­book of 2010 at 64.52 years for men and 68.76 years for women. In 2010, the Unit- ed States tied Nor­way in life ex­pectancy at 29th for men and Es­to­nia at 33rd for women. In con­trast, the ma­jor coun­tries that fol­lowed Ja­pan were Sin­ga­pore, Switzer­land and then Spain for men. For women, af­ter Ja­pan, it was South Korea, then Spain fol­lowed by Sin­ga­pore.

Th­ese stud­ies re­vealed the coun­tries had longer life but not nec­es­sar­ily a health­ier life. In many coun­tries, peo­ple live long but KDYH fiQDO yHDUV RI VuIIHULQJ IURP strokes, arthri­tis and other chronic dis­eases.

The United States spends the most money on health care. It leads all coun­tries on dol­lars spent at 17.6 per­cent of dross Domestic Prod­uct in 2010 while France and der­many spent 11.6 per­cent.

The IlM does not have a speFL­fiF UHDVRQ WKDW wH VSHQG VR PuFK on health care and still come in last. There are mul­ti­ple rea­sons. The United States ranks poorly in care for pre­ma­ture births and the low pro­por­tion of chil­dren who live to age 5. The ado­les­cents in this coun­try have a high rate of GHDWKV IURP WUDI­fiF DFFLGHQWV DQG homi­cides.

The United States has the high­est rate of teenage preg­nancy. voung peo­ple in this coun­try are more likely to ac­quire sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­eases than in most other coun­tries. We have many drug re­lated deaths. lbe­sity and di­a­betes are com­mon. lne of the VLJQL­fiFDQW SUREOHPV LV WKH KLJK rate of deaths from guns in the United States.

Per­haps we need a change in at­ti­tude. In the United States we tend to feel in­vin­ci­ble. We should change our phi­los­o­phy on life. No longer should we “live for to­day” and not worry about to­mor­row when the fu­ture be­comes to­day.

Health & Sci­ence Dr. Mil­ton Fried­man

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