NAS Report: Health Measures in the US

There have been a variety of National Academy of Science panels over the last few years writing reports on our nation’s poor health status.  The latest was released today and is being picked up by some of the media.

USAToday reports that:  Family physician Steven Woolf, who chaired the panel that wrote the report, said authors were “stunned by these findings.” (  )

Their story also talked about the importance of the first 1000 days.
This report is mostly about comparisons to other nations which has been lacking from most US analyses.  The NAS does not represent the government, however.
Read the Brief at
and the full report in an uncorrected version can be downloaded from
For something new, check out Box 1-3 on page 44 where we see how many (calendar) years we are behind the leaders, in comparison to the average of 16 countries.  If you make it to 75, it starts to get better, but still behind.  Around age 95 we catch up (pg 48).  Figure 2-3 on page 67 shows an interesting map of preterm births demonstrating how in some indicators we rank with poor countries.
There is something for everyone interested in health among these chapters.  On page 139:  “Nutrition science has yet to identify the most important dietary predictors of longevity or of specific disease outcomes, such as cancer or myocardial infarctions.”  That’s honest!  They award US the gold medal in caloric intake (pg 146) and civilian firearm ownership (pg 158).  Box 6-1 on page 164 talks about social factors that affect health outcomes and income inequality is given a paragraph on the next page and on pg 172 & 175).  Material on education follows.  Political institutions are given space on page 211 and beyond.  They go on to suggest we need more research, but we know enough to act now which is refreshing.
Page 274 nicely summarizes antecedents to good health.  The recommendations beginning on page 275 are well thought out and appropriate.  The key factor is to bring other nations into the discussion.  Our relative health status will improve if that of other nations declines or if ours really begins to improve faster.  Notice the statement on page 287 “the panel believes that the United States can learn more by studying the policies that have been used by those countries that have been outpacing the United States on both health outcomes and social factors related to health”

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