The State of America’s Health

Catherine Milroy

There are upsides and downsides in terms of human health in the United States, as it stands in 33rd place of the 145 most populated countries (according to Bloomberg ranking). Evidence of this is present even in Cosby- while cafeteria foods are being adjusted to be healthier, kids still bring unhealthy items, like sodas. In order to try to keep students physically active, physical education is a required course for two of the four years of high school. But there’s only so much that a school environment can do.

American obesity rates, depending on the state, range anywhere between 20% and 35% of our nation’s population. M

Photo Courtesy of Mike Mozart

ultiple factors contribute to this phenomenon, all of which stem from our status as a first world nation. Fast food is a major contributor as its chains are where we buy the food that makes up 11% of our diets; we have foods made on conveyor belts with astonishing amounts of sugar and fat, and sodas are essentially poisonous if consumed frequently for a long period of time. Americans eat enormous portion sizes when compared to most countries in the world.

On top of physical unhealthiness, 17 percent of Americans live with some sort of mental illness. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “approximately 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 18 experience severe mental disorders in a given year. For ages 8 to 15, the estimate is 13 percent.” 26 percent of America’s homeless individuals live with some sort of mental disorder- the reason they’re unable to get jobs. However, this rate of mental illnesses is common in comparison with other countries.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) believes that these among other issues, such as infant mortality rates, are largely due to a lack of organized health care: the United States is one of the only wealthy nations not to have it, and have lower life expectancies in comparison. America’s medical care is extremely expensive by global comparison as well, and the OECD believes the nation might be healthier if its citizens had easier access to medical care. Without this eligibility for care, some of those who are of lower classes have a more difficult time affording treatments for illnesses, medications, or psychiatric therapy.

However, there are upsides to America’s health status. US citizens recover much better from strokes than other first world countries, with only 4 percent of victims dying within a month of their stroke. 90 percent of breast cancer patients in America live at least five years after their diagnosis, and the US actually has the highest overall can

Photo Courtesy of Triston Walker

cer survival rate of numerous types. Treatments of diseases, however expensive they may be, are of incredibly high quality and are more effective than other comparable nations. While there is an unfortunately high percentage of Americans living with mental and psychological disorders, the United States is much higher than other nations in terms of identifying these problems and getting patients proper care. Smoking rates, according to the CDC, are the lowest they’ve ever been, reported at only 16%.  

A lot of US upsides in terms of health are due to having the highest GDP of any country. Doctors in America are paid better than they would be in any other country, and hospitals and medical researchers have the most advanced technology available. The New York Times states that testing is much more thorough in the US as well.

So the question is, do the positive elements of the country’s health and health care outweigh the negatives? Or are things bad enough that measures need to be taken to repair America’s health problems? There are serious rates of mental illness and obesity, that can perhaps be reduced through the encouragement of healthy habits in public spaces, such as offices, malls, and schools, like the removal of escalators or having employees stand at their desks. Perhaps the methods already in place will be effective, and we just have yet to see the results.