Poor diet choices and lack of exercise are more important than the health care system.”
Samuel Preston of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia has investigated the international health statistics to find out why US citizens can expect to die earlier than their counterparts in the richest European nations. “One of the main reasons that US healthcare is so expensive is that we are sicker than other people,” says Preston.
Another researcher, Pierre-Carl Michaud of the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica, California, concluded that the blame lies largely with high rates of chronic disease caused by poor diet, lack of exercise and the lingering effects of tobacco use from a time when smoking was more prevalent in the US than in Europe.
James Smith, also of the RAND Corporation says the fact that all people in England have access to government-sponsored health cover does not explain the differences seen between the populations.
He speculates that dietary differences – and in particular greater consumption of fast-food – could perhaps explain why 31% of Americans in that age group are obese, compared to just 23% of their English counterparts. Possibly more stressful and sedentary lifestyles might also make Americans less healthy, Smith speculates.
This is why I continue to be amazed that we place our emphasis on the number of persons with insurance coverage and on the treatment of disease rather than addressing the real issue with is health, or the lack thereof.
Solutions already exist like the consumer-directed health plan model offered by the Mayo Clinic that actively involves employees in the health care decision-making process. Developed with input from Mayo Clinic experts, these programs teach members how to choose the right care at the right time and make healthy lifestyle choices.
To me, this approach makes more sense than putting $1 trillion dollars on the table to pay for treatment for illnesses that have been brought on by our own self-indulgence. Insurance coverage alone, whether public or private cannot create good health. We each need to make that decision for ourselves.
Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt