Georgianna Dolan-Reilly, LMSW

Georgianna Dolan-Reilly, LMSW

Social Justice Solutions | Staff Writer
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The United States Gets an ‘F’ for Health and Mortality Rates

A recently published study completed by the National Institute of Health and the National Research Counsel points to the United States as having poorer health and shorter life spans than the majority of the 16 peer countries surveyed.  While the full report isn’t available for review here are some of the failure areas highlighted by CNN in a recent article:

  1. Highest amount of money spent on health care
  2. Highest rate of death overall
  3. Highest rates of death from prenatal conditions including still birth, premature birth, and other infant conditions.
  4. Highest rates of death for mothers by a long shot
  5. Highest likelihood of death before age 5, injuries being the major cause
  6. Highest rates of neglect and abuse of children
  7. Highest Homicide rates, with homicide as the third leading cause of death for those age 1-4, and the second leading cause for those 15-24 years old
  8. Highest Rate of Obesity, including in youth aged 5-17
  9. Males age 15-19 are 5 times as likely to die from violence than in peer countries, and Males aged 20-24 are 7 times as likely to die from violence

You can review some of the data relating to death rates due to various conditions  in graphical format at the National Academy of Science’s review of the article. Another CNN article highlights some of the areas in which we are doing well: Cancer survival rates, lower blood pressures, lower cholesterol rates, and lower rates of smoking.

But why is this the case? The authors of the CNN articles and the report itself point not only to our personal decisions as factors (I.E. Diet and failure to wear seat belts for example) but also our systematic approach to Health and aid programs as well as our environment  Our health programs do not offer universal coverage and are instead fragmented in a sense that reduces access and coverage, and limits public health and primary care resources. In addition, our peer countries invest more in aid programs and infrastructures which “often reflect a strong societal commitment to the health and welfare of the entire population” and assist people to get out of poverty while the USA makes access to programs difficult and convoluted, often making many who could benefit ineligible or ‘fearful’ of applying due to limited time or other factors. We also make it difficult for individuals to rebound once on these programs. Environmentally,

” U.S. communities are built around automobiles, discouraging physical activity and increasing traffic accidents. Contraceptives are only available by prescription, instead of over the counter. Even stress could play a role — adding to our waistlines, substance abuse and criminal behavior.”

Ultimately, the United States is in a bad place and it is going to take a lot of effort to change this. As one article puts it:

“It’s far too easy to let these dreadful statistics become obscured in a politically charged argument. Let’s avoid that. This report is so stark that it’s going to take a concerted effort on the part of the government, the media, the health care system and everyday citizens to turn things around.”

Social workers are to me health workers. We have the skills and abilities to aid health by assisting not only with mental health needs, but also in community planning, making those away of the disparities that exist, and beyond. For that reason it is important we stay involved in efforts to raise the United States’ failing score for health and mortality.

Written By Georgianna Reilly, LMSW
SJ Staff Writer


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