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Fixin' Healthcare

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Health Report Card

Another report on health status in the US is not encouraging. This one was produced by the American Public Health Association, the United Health Foundation and the Partnership for Prevention.

The report combines 18 health indicators including smoking, infant mortality and immunization coverage. Overall health improved by an average of 1.5 percent a year during the 1990s but the rate of increase has slowed to 0.3 percent since 2000. Tobacco use remains the biggest preventable cause of premature death in the United States, resulting in some 440,000 deaths from a variety of diseases each year. The number of smokers has fallen by almost a third since 1990 to the current level of 20.8 percent of the population but most of that decline came in the early 1990s with no significant drop between 1993 and 2003.

The United States has an average life expectancy of 69.3 years. That figure is exceeded by 28 other countries, including Britain, France, and Germany, and is some five years less than in Japan. The U.S. infant mortality rate is more than twice that in Japan.

The health record is also related to social and economic factors such as poverty and high school graduation rates. It found the number of children living in poverty increased in 25 states since the 2004 report, and that the high school graduation rate fell to 68.3 percent this year from 72.9 percent in 1990.

The report ranks the health of each U.S. state. Minnesota ranked number one for the second year in a row. The worst ranking went to Mississippi, where the number of children in poverty increased 15 percent last year, and 29.4 percent of the population was obese.

Dr. Reed Tuckson, vice president of the United Health Foundation, attributed the slower rate of health improvement to obesity and smoking. He called upon individuals and communities to adopt healthier lifestyles.

Here we are back at individual responsibility and community commitment.

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