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More Health Care Does Not Mean Healthier

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, August 17, 2009 12:53 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Health Care Reform, Uninsured, Underinsured, Accountable Care Organizations, Insurance, Obama, Diabetes, Obesity, Heart Disease, Diet, Exercise

Americans Not As Healthy As Others


IMAGE SOURCE: ©Wikimedia Commons / waist circumference / author: Pharos, FDA Dietary Guidelines

While there are different ideas about how to reform health care, it’s clear that there is more to healthy than health care, and in that regard, Americans are lacking.

Compared to people in just about every industrialized country from Canada to Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, Americans do not live as long.

Toxins in the environment, violence, stress, obesity, nutritious food, and exercise may play a bigger role in health than any health care reform.

McClatchy Newspapers report medical care contributes only about 10 to 25 percent toward overall health.

More Health Care Does Not Mean Healthier

A 2006 study found middle-aged Britons were healthier than comparable Americans.

Caucasians in England were compared with caucasians in America. Even the wealthiest white Americans, who are generally insured, had more diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer than Britons.

The wealthiest Americans were even a little less healthy than middle-income Britons.

Smoking, drinking, and obesity were partially to blame.

Diabetes, for example, was twice as high in the U.S. compared to England, (12.5 to 6.1 percent); heart disease at 15.1 percent in the U.S. compared to 9.6 percent; and cancer 9.5 percent compared to 5.5 percent.

One red flag for Britons - obesity rates there are catching up to Americans as they've risen from 9.6 percent in 1997 to 13.7 percent in 2003.

At least 25 percent of Americans are considered obese, as latest CDC report, F as in Fat report indicates.

Health Education

“Education is the fundamental ingredient for what you need to survive in any ecological niche,” says Peter Muennig, a physician and professor of health policy at Columbia University.

Education includes encouraging better diet and exercise. Where there are concentrations of primary care providers, people have better outcomes, so finding a way to disperse health care to rural areas means there needs to be a different way of funding health care.

Muennig says rewarding and encouraging primary care is a key along with reducing the number of surgeries.

People tend to get better in countries that encourage them to regularly visit a primary care provider.


Moving to accountable care organizations (ACO), which are held responsible for the overall health of their patients, is considered preferable to the Americans system where different doctors are paid for every procedure in a fragmented patchwork of a sometimes uncoordinated effort.

As a result, ‘we do too many surgeries,” says James Kahn a professor of health policy at health policy at the University of California, San Francisco.

The new health care reform legislation being considered includes billions for disease prevention and health promotion. And it includes a Medicare pilot project lasting from three to five years, to see if ACOs can lower costs and improve care.

"You can't ignore the health care system, but the big payoff is in lifestyle factors and disease prevention," says Stephen Shortell, dean of the school of public health at UC Berkeley. "A dollar spent on those activities saves $5 in health care costs." #

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