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Although the United States spends more per person on healthcare than any other nation does, it does not necessarily mean a healthy population. Again, another study shows that the population of the United States eats more, has less access to health insurance, dies younger, and is less healthy in general when compared with persons in other wealthy countries.


The National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine compared numerous measures related to the health of Americans to those same criteria in people in 16 other "rich" countries, including Canada, Japan, Australia, Great Britain, France, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany1. Among those nations, the United States has the highest rates of infant mortality, injury and homicides, teenage pregnancy and teen STDs, human immunodeficiency virus infections and AIDS, drug abuse, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, and disability.


The US health disadvantage is thought to involve a combination of inadequate healthcare, unhealthy behaviors, adverse economic and social conditions, environmental factors, public policies and social values. However, even educated, upper income Americans with health insurance are in worse health than people in the other countries in the study.


Diet and physical inactivity certainly are 1 relevant explanation. Two-thirds of our population is either overweight or obese. We consume more calories and are less physically active than people in the nations listed above.


Positive measures did show that Americans experience fewer deaths from cancer and better control of cholesterol and blood pressure than persons in other countries. Still, we must examine our health and healthcare practices and learn from other countries. If not, our health and well-being will continue to fall behind that of comparable nations.


1. Heavey S. Obesity, lack of insurance cited in U.S. health gap. January 9, 2013. Reuters Edition U.S. Available at Accessed January 9, 2013.


Source: ANA Smart Brief. January 10, 2013. U.S. life expectancy, health status lag. American Nurses Association.


Submitted by: Robin E. Pattillo, PhD, RN, CNL, News Editor at