October 13, 2010

American’s Life Expectancy Falls Behind

(Ivanhoe Newswire) "“ "America the greatest" might just become "America the o.k." A new study shows the U.S continues to lag behind other nations when it comes to improving your life expectancy.

People like to point the finger and the most common reason so far has been poor performance when it comes to smoking, obesity, traffic abilities and homicide but now researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health are throwing those reasons out the window.

While the U.S. has achieved gains in 15-year survival rates, for men and women ages 45 and 65, it has fallen relative to the other 12 countries over the past 30 years. 45-year-old U.S. white women fared the worst. The U.S. ranking for 45-year-old men also declined, falling from 3rd in 1975 to 12th in 2005.

Researchers compared risk factors among 13 countries and found little difference in smoking habits. In terms of obesity, researchers found that, while people in the U.S. are more likely to be obese, this was also the case in 1975, when the U.S. was not so far behind in life expectancy. Examining homicide and traffic fatalities, they found that they have accounted for a stable share of U.S. deaths over time, and would not account for the significant change in 15-year life expectancy the study identified.

"It was shocking to see the U.S. falling behind other countries even as costs soared ahead of them," Lead author Peter Muennig, MD, MPH, assistant professor of Health Policy and Management at the Mailman School of Public Health was quoted saying.

So what is causing America to trail behind? The researchers say it may be flaws in the overall health care system. Specifically, they point to the role of unregulated fee-for-service payments and our trust on specialty care as possible drivers of high spending without appropriate gains in life expectancy.

"This study provides stark evidence that the U.S. health care system has been failing Americans for years," Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis was quoted saying. "The good news is that the Affordable Care Act will take significant steps to improve the health care system and the health of Americans by expanding health insurance, improving primary care, and holding health care organizations accountable for their patients' overall health and ensuring the coordination of primary care and specialty care to eliminate errors, waste of patients' time, and wasteful duplication of tests and and wasteful duplication of tests and services"

SOURCE: Health Affairs, October 2010