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Americans Sicker Compared to Other Wealthy Nations

Do Americans Take Worse Care of Themselves?

So why are we faring so poorly up until 75? There are many possibilities, Woolf says.

Americans are more likely to take part in certain unhealthy behaviors, such as eating high-fat, high-caloric diets and not wearing seatbelts.

When looking for causes and solutions, we have to think outside of the box, says panel member Ana V. Diez-Roux, MD, PhD, MPH. She is a professor and chair of epidemiology, and director of the Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. 

“One example is the high dependence that many of us have on automobiles ... which may affect our level of physical activity,” she says. “There are a range of factors that people may not think of as health-related at first thought.”

Another example: Easy access to guns may result in high gun violence and murder rates, she says.

It’s not hopeless, Woolf says. “There is action that can be taken at the individual, family, community, and national levels that can address the various conditions.” For example, there are recommendations about the importance of healthy food choices and weight management that can help prevent obesity and diabetes.

Prevention Should Trump Treatment

Many people think of America as the place to be or go for cutting-edge medical care and treatments such as robotic surgery. But there is more to health care than technology, says Jacqueline Moline, MD. She is the vice president of population health at the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in Great Neck, N.Y. Moline reviewed the new report for WebMD.

“These numbers are stark and should serve as a wake-up call,” she says. “Some of these things that we are dying from were self-inflicted, including obesity, alcohol use, and seatbelt use.”

The solution lies in shifting our emphasis toward preventing illnesses and injury -- not treating it once it happens.

Access to health care is also restricted in the U.S. “Other countries have greater access to health care and services," Moline says.

Alison Norris, MD, PhD, is an assistant professor in epidemiology at Ohio State University's College of Public Health in Columbus. She also reviewed the report for WebMD.

“This report shows where the differences and disparities exist and who bears the greatest burden, but they don’t tell us why these differences exist,” she says.

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