Two pieces of information have caught my eye in the past 24 hours.
The AP released a report, based on CDC (Centers for Disease Control) statistics, saying that the US is now ranked 42nd in the world in life expectency. In other words, the citizens of 41 other countries live longer than Americans do. The story cites problems such as American obesity for our decline in the ranking. Here’s Forbes’ version of the story.
I don’t claim to understand all these big picture ideas, but I do have a few questions. How many of those higher ranked countries have some sort of national healthcare system (as opposed to our privatized one?) How is it that most of those higher-ranked countries have much higher smoking rates than Americans do? (Wouldn’t that perhaps level the playing field with those Americans who are obese?) The report claims that America’s life expectency rate declines because African Americans live 5 fewer years than white Americans. And I wonder how parallel that is to the number of people who do or don’t have health insurance?
The second publication that caught my eye is this editorial from Sunday’s New York Times – pdf version (which was forwarded to me by a half dozen people!) It’s a comprehensive statement about the sad state of affairs in American healthcare with plenty of statistics for those of you who just don’t want to believe how sad it is.
The editorial cites the many “ills” of our system with statements such as “American doctors and hospitals kill patients through surgical and medical mistakes more often than their counterparts in other industrialized nations.” And, “Even Americans with above-average incomes find it more difficult than their counterparts abroad to get care on nights or weekends without going to an emergency room, and many report having to wait six days or more for an appointment with their own doctors.”
I challenge you to read these pieces, consider your own experiences, and then listen carefully as our one-year-too-early presidential contenders talk about healthcare. Even if your own experience has worked well, are you confident it will work as well for your children when they are adults?
Not only don’t we have the best healthcare in the world — we aren’t even close. Not by any standard. Not even for those who can afford it.
And that, of course, makes it more important than ever that we learn to advocate for ourselves.
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