Health: U.S. healthcare lacking

By Stephanie Vilendrer

The United States spends more on health care than any country worldwide, yet our average life expectancy ranks 50th in the world, below most developed nations. Health care costs could reach $4.2 trillion, or 20 percent of the gross domestic product, within the next 10 years. Every year, Americans spend $300 billion on pharmaceutical drugs. A study in five U.S. states found that 46 percent of personal bankruptcies were the consequence of medical debts. However, we rank 72nd for quality of health; 35 percent of Americans are obese, and millions more are overweight. The statistics speak for themselves. We are left wondering, how did we get here? Why this discrepancy between health care costs and the outcomes? Why do we lag so far behind other nations when it comes to our health? There are countless reasons for the disease epidemic that has swept across the U.S.: sedentary lifestyles, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, fast food chains, electromagnetic radiation and stress to name just a few. These are all factors that should be addressed through prevention. Yet our medical system is heavily focused on disease treatment instead of actively seeking to educate and provide the public with the necessary information and tools to protect their health and prevent chronic disease. I have a deep appreciation for the advanced medical therapies offered in our country; in fact, the U.S. actually ranks first in the world for medical responsiveness. Our strengths are evident, but when it comes to preventing chronic disease, it seems that an effective and comprehensive nationwide strategy is lacking. One reason could be a lack of financial incentive for U.S. health care to focus on prevention. With a privately financed system, the government avoids paying the majority of health costs for citizens (about 70 percent are covered without government assistance compared to 30 percent that are insured by federal spending). Little financial incentive exists to encourage policy makers to act with precaution when establishing legislation on practices that affect human health. I mentioned this last week when discussing antibiotic use in animal husbandry; whether it be genetic modification, electromagnetic radiation or school lunch programs, the U.S. government infrequently acts with precaution toward subjects that may harm human health. No wonder that most of continental European nations—which largely practice public health insurance—have banned antibiotics from animal feed, genetic modification, fluoride from water (a topic I will write on in a future issue), and overall take more precautionary steps to protect the public’s health. Even if these policies had no bearing on health, the fact that the U.S. does not regulate practices such as these is reflective of a lack of focus on prevention. I am optimistic about the impact of a new documentary, “Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Health Care,” on raising public awareness on these important issues. The film will officially be released in theaters next week but will be shown twice prior to then. I am promoting the film here with hopes that some of you will seek out more information on the weaknesses of American health care and join me in a nationwide effort to raise awareness about these issues that directly affect health. The two pre-release viewing events will be held at the St. Anthony Main Theater this weekend: Friday, Nov. 2 at 7 pm and Sunday, Nov. 4 at 4 pm followed by panel discussions. A brief synopsis is included at the end of this article. Hopefully, I will see some of you there! refresh –>