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Poor Health in US: Reasons and Solutions

Wednesday, November 26, 2008 by: Reuben Chow
Tags: health care, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) Despite its progress in so many areas of life, the United States suffers badly from ill health. In an excellent article titled "Thinking Differently About Health Care", John de Graaf, a documentary filmmaker, Executive Director of Take Back Your Time as well as co-author of Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic, raises many key points. Firstly, he points out the current reality of the healthcare system in the US. He then likens the system to a house, and says that the US needs to look holistically at the issue of healthcare, instead of mainly concentrating on high-tech treatment modalities. In other words, the US needs to fix the shaky and broken walls and floor, instead of merely concentrating on having a gold roof. He also suggests what could be done to address the problem.

Current Reality of the US Healthcare / Medical Care System

The US healthcare system is generally in pretty bad shape. The following points raised by de Graaf paint a grim picture.

* Medical care costs almost $8,000 each year for every American.

* Medical care costs are almost 20% of the US's GDP.

* The American healthcare system costs 40% to 60% more than those in any other industrial country.

* The budget of the American healthcare system is almost half of that of the whole world.

* Despite the above figures, some 48 million Americans do not have health insurance.

* On top of that, the medical system produces "remarkably poor results".

* For example, the life expectancy of the US is a poor 45th in the world.

* After the age of 50, an American has twice the likelihood of getting a chronic illness, as compared to western Europeans.

* A National Institutes of Health study found that poor Britons were as healthy as rich Americans.

* As many as 275,000 Americans die each year because of the medical system from treatment errors, hospital infections, adverse reactions to drugs, etc.

* The US ranks 42nd in the world for infant mortality that's worse than all other industrial countries.

* A recent study conducted by UNICEF ranked the US 20th among rich countries with regard to the welfare of children. How many countries were actually ranked? 21.

A Strong House requires a Holistic Approach, centering on Prevention

In de Graaf's words, "the system broken", and he advocates that a holistic approach is necessary to restore the American health system to health pun intended.

Despite its gold-plated roof, the American health system's final defence is still badly breached it has 48 million holes, symbolic of the 48 million Americans who are uninsured. Comparing the US house to many other houses in the rest of the world, it ranks poorly, despite their relatively humble roofs. Why? Because their foundations and walls are strong, and that is where the US needs to learn from them. Here, de Graaf is talking mainly about prevention.

Child Care

The key foundation is better pre-natal care. The US is actually one of the few countries in the world, apparently, which do not provide mothers, and often, fathers too, guaranteed paid time off work to take care of their newborns. Better childcare at an early age pays off in many ways healthier children, less obesity, etc. Economically speaking, such a financial investment translates to long-term savings for the country.

Lifestyle, Diet and Work

When it came to lifestyle factors, de Graaf makes a good point. Yes, it is true that it is up to the individual to make choices regarding his or her lifestyle and dietary habits. Whether or not to smoke, to exercise, or to drink alcohol; what time to sleep; what to eat people are free to choose. However, he feels that policy changes would go a long way, too.

For example, the American marketing system is constantly promoting and selling unhealthy junk foods. The country is also subsidizing sugar manufacturers.

On top of that, partly because there are no laws to prevent long hours, Americans work more hours than, say, Europeans. Shorter working hours, of course, would mean less stress and more rest. But, on top of that, it would also help people to have more time to socialize, to prepare healthier meals (as opposed to fast food), to exercise, etc.

In addition, the US is the only industrial country which does not have a law that guarantees paid vacation leave. In some countries, they even have a month of that. Time pressures and overwork are other aspects of work life which are draining Americans.

Even More Stress

And Americans, according to de Graaf, are stressed out by many other things, too. Firstly, the US is a relatively competitive country. In addition, it has a relatively broader rich-poor divide de Graaf, somewhat to my amusement, points out that, even for baboons, those with lower social status would have higher stress levels.

Further, because the US social safety net has been damaged recently, and job security has also suffered, Americans enjoy far less security than those in other developed countries. This leads to stress, and anxiety, which is a precursor to mental illness.

Some of the above factors are more easily influenced by government policies in the short run than others, and those are the ones which need to be tackled. For example, shorter working hours and longer vacation periods would help.

Social Isolation

Another dent in the health armor of Americans is the lack of social connection. Loneliness can trigger depression; on the flip side, a healthy social life strengthens the immune system and improves health a well-accepted fact.

And, according to de Graaf, more people, especially older ones, are now living alone in America, significantly more than in the other developed nations. It was found in a recent survey that, on average, an American only had two close friends to turn to. Some 25% of Americans had no close friend which he or she could turn to at all. That's frightening. It is no surprise, then, that Americans, again, have two to three times the likelihood of being depressed as compared to people in western Europe.

Poor Safety

According to a UNICEF study, the US had the highest rates of child accidents. It also has relatively high rates of workplace accidents. In addition, it has the highest rates of preventable deaths among industrial nations (e.g. automobile accidents). American air is said to be twice as polluted as that in western Europe. The US is also, apparently, the only industrial nation which does not provide its workers guaranteed paid leave when ill. Workers come in sick, make others sick, and themselves become sicker.

Under these circumstances, how does one maintain a good state of health?

What Needs To Be Done

De Graaf has called for Americans to take seriously the need to address the weak foundations and walls of the US medical house. While there is the need to patch up the holes in the roof, i.e. expanding medical insurance to cover all Americans, making the roof entirely gold would not solve the problem.

Prevention, he says, is key, and that is where the US needs to learn from its other developed counterparts. Some possible measures he suggested include:

* Improving pre-natal care.

* Providing at least three months of paid leave to parents of babies or children who are very young.

* Encouraging healthy eating habits, for example eating more whole grains and vegetables.

* Inculcating in children the value of healthy eating.

* Cutting down the number of working hours.

* Enacting laws guaranteeing paid vacation leave.

* Providing paid sick leave through legislation.

* Narrowing the rich-poor divide with the right tax policies.

* Reconstructing the American social safety net.

* Encouraging volunteer involvement.

* Improving environmental safety.

* Working on reducing environmental pollution de Graaf calls for "regaining the environmental zeal of the early 1970s".


That sounds like a lot to do. But, in truth, looking at the highly undesirable current reality, the US desperately needs such action.

These steps have worked well for many developed nations. In fact, they are practically taken for granted in those countries. While they have costs in the short run perhaps at the expense of the US's economic competitiveness - Americans as individuals and the country as a whole will all benefit in the long term, through better health, financial savings and various other ways.

Those who can see the big picture and with foresight will see the benefits in fact, the necessity - of these measures, and will thus be much less likely to object and more likely to support them.

If there is one thing, or rather two things, really capable of destroying the US, it is ill health and crazy medical care costs. The facts presented by de Graaf are quite alarming. Embarrassing, almost. The way I see it, unobvious to many, the house may be in danger of crumbling. It is thus time for Americans to take action and make changes, and soon, before it is too late.

Main Source

Thinking Differently About Health Care (http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/008803...)

About the author

Reuben Chow has a keen interest in natural health and healing as well as personal growth. His website, All 4 Natural Health, offers a basic guide on natural health information. It details simple, effective and natural ways, such as the use of nutrition, various herbs, herb remedies, supplements and other natural remedies, to deal with various health conditions as well as to attain good health. His other websites also cover topics such as depression help, omega 3 fatty acids, as well as cancer research and information.

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