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Americans 50 years and younger regardless of income bracket are living shorter and are at higher risk of various diseases and trauma compared to people living in England, Japan and Australia and other16 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. The U.S. has spent more on healthcare than any high-income country, yet Americans have poor health outcomes and a worsening life expectancy when compared with other countries. Factors attributing to these may be due to general poor lifestyle and habits, lack of education and awareness of the public, health disparity, culture and inconsistencies of policy implementation and sustainability.
Disturbing facts about the US health include the following but not limited to: highest death rates from motor vehicular accidents, violence and homicides, and highest incidence of death related to alcohol and drugs. The US ranks last on scorecard in care process, access, administrative efficiency, and equity. America has very complex healthcare problem and there is no simple solution to this dilemma.
Where do even begin to look at some viable options? To its defense, the US is a very unique country compared to other developed countries.
It is much larger that most of the other 16 OECD countries. It is known to be the land of the free and a place of opportunities, a melting pot, the best place to purse your dreams and aspirations. A familiar cliché, “Live the American dream,” has been the main attraction engrained in its culture. Immigrants constantly want to come to the US to reside resulting to increased diversity and higher poverty rates.
America’s culture is anomalous which may be to its disadvantage. US health is one of most difficult if not the most challenging predicament of the country. Among the various social determinants causing this huge problem of shorter life expectancy of Americans at 50 years and below, the realm of controlling avoidable deaths due to drunk driving and reducing deaths due to lung disease secondary to smoking habits need to be addressed.
Drunk driving is a significant cause of avoidable deaths. Stricter measures are needed to reduce alcohol-related injuries. There have been some attempts to increase public awareness on the danger of drinking and driving. Billboards with ads, “Think before you drink and drive” and “Your License, Your Dignity, Your Job. Gone” are some thought provoking phrases to remind people about the sober consequences of drunk driving. Yet, alcohol companies display billboard ads that may convince the public to ignore this fact. There is an ad that says, “Alcohol: It’s cheaper than therapy. Lee’s Discount Liquor.” There is a need to develop and reinforce more aggressive alcohol and drug use policies. When people violate the rules, they must face equal consequences punishable by law.
Oftentimes, violators don’t pay for their crimes because the system has weak laws and corrupt lawmakers let it go. Retail stores that sell alcohol must set limits to the amount of drinks served to their customers. This may be challenging, but there are some restaurants that have this policy in place. Although the United States had made progress in reducing cigarette smoking rates, deaths due to lung disease could be reduced by further reductions in smoking. Smoke cessation programs are much needed and must be offered to all patients who smoke. Patient education must be subsidized and supported by employers. Companies should reinforce a no smoking policy to all employees. There is much work to be done before we lose more lives. Sadly, it might be you or your loved one next.
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