We are not healthy – a true cost


We live shorter lives and are in worse health than citizens of other wealthy nations, according to an extensive report released by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine*. This is a shocking conclusion. We frequently read about the U.S. spending more on healthcare than other countries. Many blame the hospitals and other providers for the high cost and the 17.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) attributed to healthcare expenditures.


Healthcare providers want to be a part of the solution when bending the cost curve and coordinating patient care. It’s important to understand all stakeholders have a responsibility for the high healthcare costs within our burgeoning “sick care” system.


The prepublication copy of “U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health,” edited by Steven H. Woolf and Laudan Aron, details how the U.S. is one of the wealthiest nations in the world but has an increasingly unhealthy population. Health outcomes in the U.S. were compared to 16 other “peer” countries, including wealthy European nations, Australia, Canada and Japan. The report determined that American men had the lowest life expectancy among men in 17 countries, while U.S. women had the second-lowest life expectancy. Why are we are so unhealthy compared to other countries? Possible explanations for this uncomfortable U.S. phenomenon included cultural behaviors impacting the overall health of our nation.


The U.S., when compared with these “peer” countries, was below average in nine health domains:


  • Adverse Birth Outcomes
  • Injuries and Homicides
  • Adolescent Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections
  • HIV and AIDs
  • Drug-Related Mortality
  • Obesity and Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Chronic Lung Disease
  • Disability


As many know, economic conditions and the high uninsured rate impact healthcare spending in our country. Individual lifestyles involving diet and recreation play a vital role. We have a responsibility to practice good health so we become a “healthy nation” with a cost-effective healthcare system. Reform starts with each individual. Americans shouldn’t wait for new reports to combat factors such as obesity. We need to act today so we become a healthy U.S. population.


*National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. (2013). U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health. Panel on Understanding Cross-National Health Differences Among High-Income Countries, Steven H. Woolf and Laudan Aron, Eds. Committee on Population, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, and Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice, Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.