Obesity, lack of insurance cited in U.S. health gap

Wed Jan 9, 2013 12:41pm EST
 
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* U.S. lags other wealthy nations in health measures

* Report sought by U.S. government sees no single factor

* U.S. spends more on healthcare than any other country

By Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Overeating, lack of health insurance access and comparatively high poverty are among the many reasons why Americans are less healthy and die younger than people in other wealthy countries, a report requested by the U.S. government showed on Wednesday.

The United States spends more per person on healthcare than any other nation but lags on many important health measures amid higher rates of obesity and heart disease and worse infant mortality rates than other rich countries.

The 404-page report by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, which provide advice to U.S. policymakers, compared the health of Americans to that of people in 16 other rich countries. They included Canada, Japan, Australia and 13 western European countries including Britain, France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany.

"Americans are dying and suffering at rates that we know are unnecessary, because people in other high-income countries are living longer lives and enjoying better health. What concerns our panel is why, for decades, we have been slipping behind," said Steven Woolf, a medical professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who led the panel that produced the report.

Americans overall fared the worst among the countries in the report when it came to nine areas: infant mortality; injury and homicide rates; teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases; HIV infection and AIDS; drug abuse; obesity and diabetes; heart disease; lung disease; and disabilities.   Continued...