The state America’s health is sorely less than it should be. We live under a bifurcated health care delivery system that provides excellent care for those who can afford it, while leaving a huge portion of its citizens often having to choose between health care and putting food on the table. Health care spending in the U.S. towers over the that spent in Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, both per capita and as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP). Even though so much of American’s family budget goes to health care we are far from the healthiest people on the planet. Americans are below average on most measures of health — from obesity to infant mortality — when compared with other wealthy nations. The U.S. ranks at 26th in life expectancy out of the top 34 nations in the world. Infant mortality is a major measure of health care in the world and the U.S. ranks near the bottom among the wealthiest of nations. There are many reasons for this unacceptable state of affairs.
Perhaps one of the most significant reason for this sorry state is that there are little to no controls over health care costs. As long as patients feel no responsibility for being vigilant over their medical bills, and see a faceless insurance company as paying the bill costs will continue to escalate out of control. I recently spent a day in a local hospital and received a bill for more than $57,000. When I requested that the bill be reviewed, I was asked why was I concerned – insurance will cover it all. The problem is that our health care system is an illness response system that encourages higher and higher pricing for services that may not be needed or wanted. There is an answer however, it is called illness prevention and health promotion.
I come from a public health prospective that seeks to identify environmental and behavioral factors that support health and wellbeing. Putting resources behind improving health education, providing health meals at school, reducing stress in the work situation will have immediate and long term benefits to our nation’s health.