Aug. 19 — To the Editor:
Around 1970 the United States began focusing on the business of medical care rather than on producing and sustaining health. This happened when income inequality started rising. The ranking of US health in relation to other countries began to fall until today over thirty nations have better health by many measures than America.
We don’t even understand that we should be ashamed. Those in our government who enjoy the best health care should be self-consciously embarrassed. Health status for a country like America should be comparable to or better than what the healthiest nations achieve.
Americans die sooner and experience more illness than residents in other countries. Those who are white, insured, college educated, in upper income groups appear to be in better health.
Infant deaths in the first year of life are a particularly sensitive measure of health in a population. According to the US Center for Disease Control our infant mortality rate is about 6.1 deaths for every thousand live births. Sweden has an infant mortality rate less than half of ours. If we had Sweden’s rate of infant deaths America would have around forty-seven fewer infants dying every day. That’s 17,155 each year! Our political system is linked to our high infant mortality.
Countries with healthier stats make it easier for parents to parent. Example: paid parental leave is a most important social intervention.
A Harvard study estimates one death in three results from our income inequality which produces a lethally large social and economic gap between rich and poor
The corporate dominated media seem oblivious to the impact of health inequality and almost never report our poor status relative to other nations. The reasons are obvious.
There was a time when our values were to decry poverty in our midst. When Nixon became embroiled in the Watergate scandal it died along with a credible plan to strengthen the health of families in this country. We can return to those values and pledge to support health care in America. Tackling inequality directly would have a greater impact on health in this nation and the time is beyond ripe for those actions.
The changes needed will only occur if we address current government policies that mostly serve the wealthy. The rich do not face the same constraints as became very evident during the 2008 economic crisis. Changing the power imbalance is the real challenge. Strategies must include meaningful social and economic changes that will give every American, young and old, a chance of living a long and healthy life.
Healthy shouldn’t be just for the wealthy. That’s a crime against humanity,