New Report Focuses on US Health from an International Perspective

Why does the United States spend more money on health care than any other country while achieving comparatively poorer health outcomes? This is the question posed by a recent report titled US Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health, which was conducted by the National Research Council (NRC) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The report finds that inferior health outcomes in the US cannot be fully explained by the presence of a large uninsured population or by socioeconomic disadvantages; indeed, it uncovers that well-off Americans with healthy lifestyles also experience poorer health compared to their counterparts in other developed countries. To explicate this paradox, the report evaluates a number of plausible explanations, from weaknesses in the US health care system to the prevalence of unhealthy behaviors to adverse social conditions and environmental factors. As Steven H. Woolf, Chair of the Panel tasked with compiling the report, states in the report's Preface, "Our panel was unprepared for the gravity of the findings we uncovered. We hope that others will take notice."