The United States is among the wealthiest nations in the world, but it is far from the healthiest.

According to a new brief released Wednesday by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, Americans die sooner and experience higher rates of disease and injury than in economically comparable countries.

The fact that other high-income countries have better health outcomes is evidence that better health is achievable for Americans.

U.S. Health in International Perspective

The findings from U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health, a landmark study of 17 affluent nations showed that, compared to countries such as Australia, Canada, Japan and several Western European nations, the U.S. ranks at or near the bottom in nine key areas of health, including:

  • infant mortality and low birth weight;
  • injuries and homicides;
  • teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections;
  • prevalence of HIV and AIDS; drug-related deaths;
  • obesity and diabetes;
  • heart disease;
  • chronic lung disease; and
  • disability.

“Americans experience these drastic health disadvantages across the lifespan, despite the fact that the U.S. spends more money on health care than any other nation. The problem is not simply a matter of a large uninsured population or even of social and economic disadvantage. It cannot be explained away by the racial and ethnic diversity of the U.S. population. The report shows that even relatively well-off Americans who do not smoke and are not overweight may experience inferior health in comparison with their counterparts in other wealthy countries,” the report states.

The U.S. health disadvantage is also compared to other countries in terms of public health and medical care systems; individual behaviors; physical, social and environmental factors; and policies and social values.

The report also identifies ways the U.S. can improve upon at “what the nation should do about this data collection and research to understand health risk factors, their solutions and reasons why other countries experience health advantages.

“The important point about the U.S. health disadvantage is not that the United States is losing a competition with other countries, but that Americans are dying and suffering at rates that are demonstrably unnecessary. The fact that other high-income countries have better health outcomes is evidence that better health is achievable for Americans,” the report concludes.

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