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Democrats & Liberals

A multiple-editor weblog dedicated to providing news, opinion and commentary for American politics, particularly from the vantage point of the Democratic Party and liberals.

Last Build Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2017 14:27:59 GMT

Copyright: Copyright 2017 by the authors

As U.S. Life Expectancy Wavers, Experts Call for Greater Emphasis on Public Health

Tue, 02 May 2017 09:00:35 GMT

In 2016, life expectancy for Americans declined for the first time in nearly 25 years. The last time American life expectancy declined was due to the HIV epidemic in 1993, where many Americans were oblivious to their illness due to a lack of immediate symptoms. In contrast, the decline in life expectancy for Americans has left researchers puzzled for many reasons. Not only are life expectancies on the rise in other developed countries, but there is no singular disease causing concern in the U.S. A recent study on mortality rates in America released last year shows that Americans can expect to live for 78.8 years, a decrease of 0.1 percent based on the previous year's data. While this number may seem miniscule, experts agree that this decrease is worthy of intervention from governing bodies. "A 0.1 decrease is huge," said Dr. Peter Muennig, a professor of health policy and management at Columbia University. He also described the change as a "uniquely American phenomenon" that is the result of a number of chronic illnesses. Medical and public health professionals frequently point to a number of chronic illnesses and behaviors that are to blame for this decline, including mental health issues, heart disease, lack of physical activity, and diabetes and pre-diabetes. In a recent press release from the CDC, Ann Albright, who directs the CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation, noted that the disease is costly in both human and economic terms and urged physicians and health care leaders to take actions to help educate the public in order to prevent the disease in the long run. Without preventative action, it's likely that the disease will only continue to be more prevalent. As Bradley University's School of Nursing notes, "While the number of people living with diabetes is high, the number at risk of developing the disease is even higher." Chronic illness isn't the only factor that affects public health, however. As a recent column written by New York Times author Katie Rogers explains, factors such as race, income, and gender also play a contributing factor in the life expectancy of Americans. Most at risk, Rogers reports, are working class whites, lower income Americans of all gender identities, and non-hispanic Black males, with common risk factors including drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, and economic vulnerabilities. It's too early to tell whether or not these trends will continue in years to come, but researchers and public health officials are keeping an eye out for recurring trends. In the meantime, many entities are hoping to combat these public health issues at the local and national level through community outreach and the use of technology. "Today more than ever, Americans have the power to prevent disease by making healthy lifestyle choices," note health experts at Arizona State University. "A wide variety of wellness apps and mobile health monitors are empowering individuals to monitor and analyze key health indicators like heart rate and activity and stress levels." These tools can empower individuals to take charge of their own health, and opens doors for communities who may not have had access to physicians in the first place. In order for American life expectancy to rise once more, individuals, public health officials, and physicians need to work together to combat the issues that are most likely to endanger the lives of American citizens. [...]