Wednesday, January 7, 2009

It really only seems like we're living longer

Lots of interesting things to post about today.

I saw this article on Yahoo news. The article highlights four reasons why this nation's live expectancy numbers have stalled in the last five years. Obviously, the nation's obesity problem is highlighted as a factor. As is the fact that 46 million of our fellow citizens are uninsured and thus don't have much access to basic preventive care and medical information. Those are factors I could have identified.

One I wasn't aware of is a decline in medical research in the US. It's hard to find medical breakthroughs if nobody's looking for them. I hadn't realized that was a problem. I've heard the occasional grumbling that the Bush administration has been totally disinterested in pursuing science free from its agenda, which is no science at all. It's no secret that our schools are falling far behind other nations in the teaching of science. So is the slowdown in medical research at all related to that lack of scientific interest by the current administration? Maybe there's just less federal money available for research. I hope Obama's administration will address our nation's general lack of emphasis on research and development in all areas of science, including medical research.

The final factor is the most horrifying one, and one I had been aware of before but still can't help being shocked by. There is a ridiculously high infant mortality rate in the US. We rank 29th in the world in that statistic. Cuba is ahead of us. Let's be clear: this rate is due to the fact that some regions of this country, particularly inner city and depressed rural regions, that have downright primitive levels of prenatal and infant care. I'm guessing there's a lot of overlap here with the uninsured segment of our population. It's pretty appalling that we haven't figured out a way to improve our ranking on this particular statistic. We're supposed to be one of the richest nations in the world. We really ought to do better by our most vulnerable (and cutest) citizens.

Our life expectancy hasn't declined yet. But we as a nation might want to address some of these factors before it does.

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