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Into the 2020s: American Healthcare Snapshot Thus Far
PaulineB
April 12, 2024

As the first quarter of 2024 concludes, how is American healthcare doing thus far going into the fourth year of the 2020s? 

In 2023, The Commonwealth Fund reported that despite increased healthcare expenditure, the US had declining health outcomes as compared with other high-income nations. 

The statement came from the organization’s US Health Care from a Global Perspective report with data coming from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and other international sources.

The Commonwealth Fund is a private organization established in 1918 that aims to “promote a high-performing, equitable health care system.”

Contrasting outcomes

The US reportedly spent nearly 18% of its GDP on healthcare, yet Americans are less healthy and die younger than residents of other high-income countries. For additional context, the US spends three to four times more on healthcare than New Zealand, South Korea, and Japan.

Despite this however, the US had “the lowest life expectancy at birth, the highest death rates for avoidable or treatable conditions, and the highest maternal and infant mortality,” revealed the report. 

At a glance, OECD 2023 data shows that:

  • American life expectancy: 3.9 years below the OECD average 
  • Preventable mortality: 238 per 100,000 (the OECD average is 158)
  • Treatable mortality: 98 per 100,000 (the OECD average is 79)

Understanding mortality data

In 2020, life expectancy at birth in the US was 77 years old; it was three years lower than the OECD average at the time. However, provisional data points to American life expectancy dropping lower in 2021, remarked the Commonwealth Fund.

Other health data from the 2023 snapshot report included the following:

  • Alcohol consumption: 9.5 liters per capita (OECD average is 8.6) 
  • Obesity prevalence: 42.8% (OECD average is 25.7%)
  • Smoking prevalence: 8.8% (Lower than the OECD average of 16.0%)
  • Deaths from air pollution: 14.5 deaths per 100,000 population (OECD average: 28.9).  

Preventable mortality refers to deaths that are avoidable through potent public health measures in place and through individual prevention, such as adopting a nutritional diet and exercise.

On the other hand, treatable mortality rates decrease when patients have timely access to effective healthcare treatments and interventions. These include regular checkups, screenings, exams, and treatments. However, the US’ avoidable death rates have been rising since 2015, according to The Commonwealth Fund’s analysis. 

Infant mortality rates in the US were also at 5.4 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2020. The number is high considering that Norway only had 1.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. Meanwhile, maternal mortality saw about 24 deaths per 100,000 live births in the same year.

Several factors can contribute to increasing maternal and infant mortality rates, ranging from insufficient prenatal care to chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and diabetes. 

Considering American health data 

As indicated in the 2023 OECD snapshot report, obesity, alcohol consumption, and smoking are still at concerning rates, and all of these affect your health in the short and long run. 

Maintaining a healthy diet doesn’t necessarily mean buying only organic food, especially in tough economic times. In fact, scientific studies show that the less you eat, the healthier your future self will be. 

Avoid smoking and inhaling smoke as much as possible. Observe also the air quality in your neighborhood or work area and look out for warnings, if any. As for drinking alcohol, no amount is actually safe for consumption, says The Lancet, debunking what other scientific papers have noted before.

While policies and legislatures that aim to provide Americans easy access to affordable universal healthcare are yet to be seen or enacted, taking these and other proven measures can help keep chronic, and even mental, diseases at bay. 

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January 1, 2022
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Commentator
January 1, 2022
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Commentator
January 1, 2022
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Commentator
January 1, 2022
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