We are ranked 50th in the world when it comes to life expectancy. Yet, we spend more money per person on health than any other country. If we are spending so much, why are we at number 50 for life expectancy?
Some of the main causes of premature death are cardiovascular disease, that is stroke and heart disease, and cancer. According to the World Health Organization (WHO): “Chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, are by far the leading cause of mortality in the world, representing 60% of all deaths”
When it comes to premature death, the biggest factor is tobacco. One in every five deaths in the USA is due to tobacco. And half of all those who use tobacco will die prematurely. Despite much progress in reducing the use of tobacco, we still have a powerful tobacco industry profiting from its deadly products. Tobacco affects every organ in the body and causes both lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Other preventable contributors are obesity, diet, and physical inactivity. We are getting heavier and becoming more sedentary.
Without a universal healthcare system, the USA might not be as good at prevention and early detection of disease as other nations. However, when we get to 65 years old, we are all provided with healthcare, under Medicare, and that is good for our health. Still, our society is socially and economically divided, and socio-economic status affects health and life expectancy.
So what can we do about it?
These are the recommendations from WHO:
- Promote healthy living (better diet, more physical activity and tobacco cessation) and healthy societies, especially for the poor and those living in disadvantaged populations.
- Prevent premature deaths and avoid unnecessary disability due to chronic diseases.
- Treat chronic diseases effectively, using latest available knowledge. Make treatment available to all, especially those in the poorest settings.
- Help provide appropriate care by facilitating equitable and good quality health care for major chronic diseases.