More money isn't health-care panacea

2013-01-16T00:00:00Z More money isn't health-care panacea Arizona Daily Star
January 16, 2013 12:00 am

The following editorial appeared in the Los Angeles Times:

For all of our sophisticated medical care, Americans can expect shorter lives and more health troubles than the people of other well-off nations, according to a new report.

And that's not just true of infants and poor people, the groups usually pinpointed as particularly vulnerable to health issues; it is also the case for the affluent, teenagers and middle-age people. Some of this can be traced to a lack of preventive and primary care, some to car accidents and violence, some to obesity and poor health habits. The U.S. clearly cannot rest on its past laurels; nor can it expect medical laboratories and research hospitals, for all the lifesaving work they do, to solve the problem.

The new report from the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine brings more expansive research and a more detailed eye to the subject than previous studies that have reached similar conclusions. The study compared data from 17 countries, including Australia, Canada, Japan and many Western European nations. Among those nations, U.S. men had the lowest life expectancy and women the second-lowest.

A series of related charts details various problem spots, including higher rates of death from heart disease, diabetes and car accidents. Death rates from conditions related to pregnancy are three times higher than those in the other countries - as are deaths from violence.

But as a result of safer cars, seat-belt laws and tougher penalties for drunk driving, the number of car fatalities has been dropping in the U.S. In contrast to car accidents, gun fatalities have been rising, to more than 31,000 in 2010, while drunk-driving deaths have dropped below 11,000, half what they were in 1982.

Medical advances have added to our well-being and longevity; life expectancy in the United States has risen considerably over the last century. But this report should lend urgency to Americans' growing awareness that there is more to having the best health in the world than spending the most money on health care.

Arizona Daily Star

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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