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Fixin' Healthcare

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Why We Live 40 Years Longer Today Than In 1880

Why do we live 40 years longer than in 1880? An interesting question and this brief article with an informative graph by Joe Pinsker from The Atlantic offers some answers. "Breakthroughs like germ theory, antibiotics, and widespread vaccination, as well as major public-health advances in sanitation and regulation, neutralized many long-leading causes of death. Life expectancy skyrocketed as a result, but brought with it new demons. For the past 50 years, medical innovation has focused less on eradicating disease and more on managing chronic conditions. Does this indicate a slowdown in medical progress and a coming plateau in life expectancy? Or have we merely hit a lull before the next wave of major fixes?"

The insight that for the past 50 years medical innovation has focused less on eradicating disease and more on managing chronic conditions is spot on. But it lacks the added perspective that more of that additional 40 years in life expectancy came from the public-health advances, including widespread vaccination, than medical care. The current stall in life expectancy and huge economic burden of health care on society comes from an over emphasis on medical care. The medical care system in the U.S. is inefficient for treating sick people and ineffective for improving health status and life expectancy. The over emphasis on medical care is widespread and comes from the public, medical care providers, businesses with vested interest and public policy. It diverts attention from the lifestyle changes necessary to prevent and reverse many chronic health disorders. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending upon your perspective, these lifestyle changes would restructure society as we know it. But there are glimmers of hope. The consumption of sodas is decreasing.       

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