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U.S. lags other developed countries in health, life expectancy, report finds

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON — A new report gives low marks to the United States in the health of its citizens, finding that Americans have higher rates of injury and disease and die sooner than their counterparts in other developed countries.

The report, conducted by the non-profit National Academies with sponsorship from the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services, found a disadvantage at all ages from birth to age 75 years even among college-educated Americans with health insurance, higher incomes and healthy behaviors.

"We were struck by the gravity of these findings," Virginia Commonwealth University professor of family medicine and chairman of the panel that assembled the report Steven Woolf said. "Americans are dying and suffering at rates that we know are unnecessary because people in other high-income countries are living longer lives and enjoying better health. What concerns our panel is why, for decades, we have been slipping behind."

The report compares the United States with 16 affluent democracies, including Canada, Australia, Japan and several countries in western Europe, placing the United States at or near the bottom in terms of infant mortality and low birth weight, injuries and homicides, teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, prevalence of HIV and AIDS, drug-related deaths, obesity and diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung disease and disability. Many of these conditions, the report found disproportionately affect children and adolescents, and the United States has had the highest infant mortality rate of any high-income country for decades while also ranking poorly in premature birth and the proportion of children who live to age 5 years.

While the United States has long spent more on health care per capita than any other country, flaws in the healthcare system were not the sole contributor to the problem, nor is the country’s overall disadvantage the result of problems concentrated among the poor and uninsured. For example, the report found Americans more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors such as heavy caloric intake, and the country lags others in educating young people while showing relatively high rates of poverty and income inequality.

The report recommended an intensified effort to pursue national health objectives, including an outreach program to alert the public about the country’s health disadvantage and encourage a discussion about its implications, while also recommending collection of data and research to better understand factors responsible for the problem.

"Research is important, but we should not wait for more data before taking action because we already know what to do," Woolf said. "If we fail to act, the disadvantage will continue to worsen, and our children will face shorter lives and greater rates of illness than their peers in other rich nations."


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Safeway employees donated more than 1 million volunteer hours in 2012

BY Michael Johnsen

PLEASANTON, Calif. — Safeway on Thursday announced that its employees gave more than 1 million hours of volunteer service to their neighborhoods and communities in 2012 – surpassing the company’s goal for the second consecutive year and reinforcing a long-standing culture of volunteerism.

"We are proud of and thankful for our employees who chose to make a difference in their community in 2012," stated Larree Renda, Safeway EVP and chair of The Safeway Foundation. "The response and gratitude we have received from charities and other organizations that benefit from our employees’ volunteer efforts show we are making a visible and tangible impact in communities we serve.

2012 marks the second year Safeway’s 175,000 employees contributed more than 1 million hours of volunteer service. While volunteerism had long been part of Safeway’s culture, the company undertook a formal initiative in 2010 to build on efforts already underway and assist employees who wanted to find activities and organizations that best suit their interests and talents.

Through its volunteer initiative, Safeway set out to encourage additional volunteer efforts and recognize employees who give a significant amount of time to various causes. Through a partnership with Volunteer Match, an organization that provides businesses with Web-based solutions to facilitate and track volunteer engagement at local and national levels, Safeway employees can find volunteer opportunities in their communities that meet their specific interests, talents and availability.

Examples of volunteer activities performed by Safeway employees include participating in charity half-marathons/walkathons, coaching little league sports teams, leading park and marine cleanup days, preparing hot meals at food pantries, helping the needy obtain social services and remodeling homes for people with disabilities.

 

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Study: Misconceptions about antibiotics linked to poor health literacy levels in Latino population

BY Antoinette Alexander

NEW YORK — A recent study found that poor heath literacy among Latino parents is associated with incorrect beliefs on the proper use of antibiotics, particularly for upper respiratory infections, which can lead to an increase in antimicrobial resistance.

Conducted in the predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods of upper Manhattan where “bodegas” offer easy access to unregulated antibiotics, the study by researchers at the Columbia University School of Nursing and Department of Pediatrics found that 1-out-of-3 participants had poor health literacy when measured by reading comprehension, and even lower scores when measured by numerical proficiency. In addition, those with inadequate health literacy levels held incorrect beliefs about the use of antibiotics.

Latinos are more likely to take antibiotics without a prescription, previous research has shown, since many have emigrated from countries where it is common to buy antibiotics over the counter without a prescription, according to the study. URIs are caused by viral infections and are not responsive to antibiotics, which are used to treat bacteria-borne illness.

Evidence suggests that Latino parents with limited English proficiency are more likely to have inadequate health literacy. In addition, Latino parents have been shown to be significantly more likely to expect antibiotic treatment for a child in comparison with non-Hispanic white parents, according to the study.

 “Injudicious use of antibiotics, including antimicrobial treatment of viral URI in pediatric settings, has contributed to the public health threat of antimicrobial resistance,” wrote the study’s lead author Ann-Margaret Dunn-Navarra of the Columbia University School of Nursing. "Enhanced parent education on appropriate antibiotic treatment is critical if the health disparities in children of minority families are going to be corrected.”

 

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