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Public Spirit - - OPINION -

When we look at other coun­tries around the world, we’re al­ways glad we’re Amer­i­cans. In the United States, doc­tors wear crispy, white lab coats that were drenched in starch. Nurses make us feel se­cure with their well-ironed RXW­fiWV, DnG RXU SKDUPDFLHV JHnHUDWH FRn­fiGHnFH wLWK D VWDII DOwDyV ready to dis­cuss ev­ery pre­scrip­tion yRX PLJKW KDYH KDG fiOOHG.

In other coun­tries, we as­sume they drive too fast on their mo­tor­bikes and are anx­ious to have a sex­ual re­la­tion­ship with­out much con­cern about the con­se­quences. As we an­a­lyze the life­styles of for­eign­ers, we seem shocked to learn that our coun­try is not No. 1 in the world; it is 17th out of 17.

As we in­vest $9,000 a per­son on health care in the United States, we spend more on health care than any other ma­jor coun­try in the world and yet, the United States comes in last of the top 17 na­tions of the world. How many more dol­lars will it take to get us to the top of the list?

The United States has the high­est in­fant mor­tal­ity rate of any high in­come coun­try. This coun­try ranks poorly in pre­ma­ture births and the pro­por­tion of chil­dren who live to age 5. Our ado­les­cents have the KLJKHU UDWHV RI GHDWK IURP WUDI­fiF ac­ci­dents and homi­cide, the high­est rate of teenage preg­nancy and are more likely to ac­quire sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tions than other na­tions.

We tend to break all records when it comes to death be­fore age 50. In­fants, young chil­dren and ado­les­cents die younger in the United States. Men in Amer­ica have higher rates of disease and in­jury and die sooner than peo­ple in other high in­come coun­tries. Women are next to last in life ex­pectancy of women com­pared to 1S other top na­tions.

The United States has higher UDWHV RI GUXJ DEXVH DnG WUDI­fiF DF­ci­dents that in­volve the in­take of al­co­hol. And, the ma­jor neg­a­tive is WKH JUHDWHU XVH RI fiUHDUPV Ln DFWV of vi­o­lence.

Teenagers are more likely to de­liver a low birth weight in­fant than older women and ba­bies born of teenagers are at a higher risk of dy­ing in in­fancy. Although the U.S. teen birth rate de­creased more than one-third be­tween 1991 and 2005, the rate then in­creased over the next two years and then dropped in 2008 and 2009. The birth rate for U.S. teenagers de­creased in 2009 to the low­est level in 70 years.

,n D VWUDnJH finGLnJ, wKHn D IH­male is the head of a house­hold and no spouse is present, the poverty level de­creased from 50.8 per­cent to 44.4 per­cent. How­ever, be­tween 1973 and 2009, the poverty level in the United States in­creased by nearly 20 mil­lion.

Risk fac­tors for young moth­ers are the use of al­co­hol, cig­a­rette smok­ing, the il­licit use of drugs, phys­i­cal in­ac­tiv­ity, be­ing over­weight or obese, el­e­vated choles­terol, an un­healthy diet, el­e­vated blood pres­sure and el­e­vated choles­terol. To­bacco use from smok­ing cigarettes con­tin­ues as the lead­ing cause of pre­ventable death in the United States. Each year an es­ti­mated 443,000 die from smok­ing or sec­ond-hand smoke. In 2010, 19 per­cent of adults aged 25 and older were cur­rent smok­ers.

Among adults, age S5 and older, twice as many smok­ers had less than a high school di­ploma. Stud­ies have shown that the more ed­u­cated a per­son, the less he or she smokes. How­ever, in the last decade, ed­u­ca­tion did not have any ef­fect on de­creas­ing the smok­ing of those aged S5 and older.

The use of con­tra­cep­tion de­creased be­tween 1995 and 2008. This coun­try has a high rate of homi­cide and death by sui­cide. Since 1980, 1,245,787 fe­males com­mit­ted sui­cide and 1,075,078 males did also. Poi­son­ing in­creased four­fold for men and six­fold for women.

Amer­i­cans have higher rates of disease and in­jury and die sooner than peo­ple in other high in­come coun­tries. With their high rates of GUXJ DEXVH DnG WUDI­fiF DFFLGHnWV in­volv­ing the use of al­co­hol and WKH JUHDWHU XVH RI fiUHDUPV Ln acts of vi­o­lence, it should come as no sur­prise that the United States lags be­hind most na­tions. We seem over­whelmed by the num­ber of poor peo­ple spread out across our land who can­not af­ford food and med­i­cal care. Un­for­tu­nately, there have been too few steps taken to solve this prob­lem. Our se­niors do get good med­i­cal care but treat­ments when a per­son is near death are ex­pen­sive.

De­spite our stand­ing in the world, most peo­ple would love to live in Amer­ica. When you com­bine the ad­van­tages of our free­dom with the med­i­cal care, we really rank No. 1.

Dr. Mil­ton Fried­man can be reached at tcgn@mont­­ton Fried­man

Health& Sci­ence

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