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Americans are Dying and Suffering Unnecessarily

Americans are dying and suffering from illness and injury at higher rates when compared to other high-income countries.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) asked the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine to look into why the U.S. has a health disadvantage when compared to other high-income democracies. The findings in the report, U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health, are startling.

The U.S. health disadvantage spans many areas. When compared with other high-income countries, Americans as a group fare worse in at least nine health categories:

1. Infant mortality and low birth weight
2. Injuries and homicides
3. Adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections
4. HIV and AIDS
5. Drug-related deaths
6. Obesity and diabetes
7. Heart disease
8. Chronic lung disease
9. Disability

Americans are dying and suffering from illness and injury at rates that are demonstrably unnecessary.

There are many contributing factors at play, some of which are:
  • Americans consume the most calories per capita.
  • Americans abuse more prescription and illicit drugs.
  • Americans are less likely to fasten seatbelts.
  • Americans have more traffic accidents involving alcohol.
  • U.S. health system is highly fragmented, with limited public health and primary care resources and a large uninsured population.
  • Americans are more likely to find care inaccessible or unaffordable.

The consequences of not attending to the U.S. health disadvantage and reversing current trends are predictable: the United States will probably continue to fall further behind comparable countries on health outcomes and mortality.

In addition to the personal toll this will take, the drain on life and health may ultimately affect the economy and the prosperity of the United States as other countries reap the benefits of healthier populations and more productive workforces.

Download the Report Summary PDF or read the Report Brief here.