Sunday, November 29, 2009
"Shocking Decline in Our National Health," Give Me a Break
Inconsistent preventive services and poor lifestyle behavior choices have led to a shocking decline in our national health, threatening not only individuals lives and America’s economic prosperity.
Karen Adams, PhD, “National Priorities Partnership: Setting a National Agenda for Health Quality and Safety,” in Prescriptions for Excellence in Health Care, Fall, 2009
Give me a break. Or, at the very least, give me an honest perspective on the true state of the nation’s health. Sure, it could be better, but it is not all that bad. In fact, U.S, health statistics are improving, not matter what the progressive reform zealots or apocalyptic doomsayers are saying.
Don’t take my word for it. The health of the nation is not at the edge of some horrible abyss, even in the face of the obesity epidemic and an aging population with multiple chronic diseases, some of which may be preventable.
Here is countervailing evidence, compiled by Melinda Beck for the Wall Street Journal, “20 Advances to Be Thankful For,” November 23.
"• Nearly 62% of U.S. adults said they were in excellent or very good health, along with 82% of their children, according to families sampled by the federal government for the National Health Interview Survey, which was conducted in 2007 and released this year.
• Fewer Americans died in traffic fatalities in 2008 than in any year since 1961, and fewer were injured than in any year since 1988, when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began collecting injury data. One possible reason: Seat-belt use hit a record high of 84% nationally.
• Life expectancy in the U.S. reached an all-time high of 77.9 years in 2007, the latest year for which statistics are available, continuing a long upward trend. (That's 75.3 years for men and 80.4 years for women.)
• Death rates dropped significantly for eight of the 15 leading causes of death in the U.S., including cancer, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, accidents, diabetes, homicides and pneumonia, from 2006 to 2007. (Of the top 15, only deaths from chronic lower respiratory disease increased significantly.) The overall age-adjusted death rate dropped to a new low of 760.3 deaths per 100,000 people—half of what it was 60 years ago.
• The death rate from coronary heart disease dropped 34% from 1995 to 2005, though it is still the biggest single killer in the U.S. Deaths from cardiovascular disease dropped 26% over the same period. Deaths from stroke dropped 29% since 1999. Average total cholesterol in adults aged 20 to 74 dropped to 197 milligrams per deciliter in 2008 from 222 in 1962.
• The death rate from cancer, the second-biggest killer, dropped 16% from 1990 to 2006. That reflects declines in deaths due to lung, prostate, stomach and colorectal cancers in men, and breast, colorectal, uterine and stomach cancers in women.
• Nearly 40% of U.S. adults have never had a permanent tooth extracted because of dental cavities or periodontal disease in 2004, the most recent data available, compared with 30% in 1994.
• Three out of 10 U.S. schoolchildren aged 5 to 17 in 2007 did not miss a single day of school because of illness or injury during the preceding 12 months.
• Hip fractures—which can rob elderly patients of their mobility forever—are down nearly 30% in the U.S. and Canada since 1985, for reasons not completely understood.
• Thanks in part to vaccines, the rate of acute viral hepatitis A dropped 90%.
between 1995 and 2006, and acute viral hepatitis B dropped 88% from 1982 to 2006, both to record lows. Acute viral hepatitis C is down to 0.03 from 2.4 cases per 100,000 since 1992, though rates have recently plateaued.
• Thanks largely to antiretroviral drugs, U.S. deaths from AIDS dropped 10% from 2006 to 2007, the biggest decline since 1998, and they remain well below the 1995 peak. New cases of AIDS, though static in recent years, also remain well below the 1990s level. Antiretroviral drugs have also helped cut dramatically the number of babies born with HIV in the U.S.; in 2006, there were 28 diagnoses of AIDS among children, down from 195 in 1999.
• Chalk this one up as an advance for mental health: The U.S. divorce rate dropped by one-third from 1981 to 2008, and is at its lowest level since 1970. This may be due to more couples postponing marriage or to economic constraints, as well as to couples' determination to stay together.
• From 2006 to 2008, the median percentage of U.S. secondary schools that don't sell soda rose to 64% from 38%, and those that don't sell candy or high-fat snacks rose to 64% from 46%, in the 35 states that collect data.
• The amount of trans fats in packaged food has declined by about 50% since 2006, when the Food and Drug Administration began requiring food labels to list it. At least 13 jurisdictions, including California and New York City, have restricted trans fats in restaurant food.
• As of this month, 71% of the U.S. population lives under either a state or local ban on smoking in workplaces and/or restaurants and/or bars, and 19 states have banned smoking in all three kinds of places. Research has found that air quality improves and heart-attack rates drop in areas that have enacted smoking bans."
So let’s put the nation’s health in perspective. Overall, we’re doing fine, much better than our greatgrandparents, thanks in no small part to medical innovations, performances of our caregivers, and changing behaviors on part of our citizens. Let’s give ourselves a little credit, even a pat on the back.