Headlines, news stories and other sources of information regularly share statistics that indicate longer life expectancies than ever before, medical breakthroughs that lead to a lower rate of disease and products meant to increase general health. It’s easy to think that life is improving for the average American. However, these stories may be misleading; while life expectancies are on the rise, so is something much more morbid – preventable death.
In a new infographic released by Katherman Briggs & Greenberg, the rate of preventable deaths in the U.S. is brought to the forefront through illustrations that indicate the country has the worst preventable death rate of all the developed countries in the world. Not only does the U.S. have the highest rate of preventable deaths, it is also improving that rate slower than any other developed country: 502 people die each week due to preventable circumstances.
Preventable Deaths: An Overview
A preventable death is a death occurring in an individual under the age of 75 that could have been avoided with timely and effective health care. Treatable cancers, asthma-related deaths, cancer, heart disease and diabetes are all considered preventable in certain situations.
As the infographic clearly indicates, heart disease, cancer and diabetes – the first-, second- and seventh- leading causes of death in the U.S. respectively – are the most prevalent preventable deaths. Many of these are attributed to poor living habits including smoking, a lack of nutrition, physical inactivity, untreated illnesses and excess weight. Women are more likely to be affected, with 32 percent of deaths of women under the age of 75 considered preventable, whereas 23 percent of deaths of men fall under the same category.
While preventable deaths may seem like a worthy social cause, but something of little concern to those without risk factors, less commonly reported is the economic impact the deaths have on the country’s economy.
To put it simply, the costs associated with preventable deaths and the illnesses and activities that cause them are staggering. $2.5 trillion goes toward treating conditions that could be managed through lifestyle changes: physical activities, diet makeovers and health choices in general. While smoking is a known preventable death cause, secondhand smoke is almost as costly at $10 billion a year. Diabetes care and treatment runs around $174 billion and heart disease costs around $108.9 billion per year.
At the same time, in certain situations doctors or health-care providers can be held responsible for preventable deaths – personal injuries, birth injuries, wrong diagnoses, delayed diagnoses and more. Because of this, $3 billion in medical malpractice payouts are made on a yearly basis.
Whether an individual has a risk factor associated with preventable death or not, the impact is global. Better reporting and proactive lifestyle changes stemming from educational campaigns are necessary to help the U.S. catch up with other developed countries. Understanding the context of these situations and the impact these deaths have on the country is the first step.