Why the U.S. ranks low in global health: lessons from Japan

We appear to be a pharmacologically-driven society, depending upon a magic pill to cure our ills. Photo: MSN Image Library

SAN DIEGO, May 20, 2013 — Have you ever wondered why Americans are relatively unhealthy? Americans rank among the lowest in the world on the global scale of good health, even though we outspend the rest of the world on health care. America spends billions of dollars each year. Apparently, spending more does not necessarily equate to healthy living and good quality of life.

The Japanese approach to health and well-being might hold some answers for Americans. With the quality of their health ranked number one in the world according to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the overall health of the Japanese people is inspirational and worthy of our attention. 

Communities columnist Russ Gerber examined this phenomenon while spending time in Tokyo. He intentionally engaged in random conversations with Tokyo’s citizens, representing different walks of life. Their responses were almost consistently matter-of-fact, and they appeared astounded that their high-ranking global health was considered extraordinary.

According to Gerber, “They (the Japanese) weren’t captivated by a disease model of life. Instead, they inherently embraced health and spirituality and seemed quite at peace with it.”


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Gerber’s conversations conveyed a variety of thoughts, comments and hypotheses, including crediting “strict dietary practices, strong social ties including family and friends, being a part of a strong traditional culture, which is selective about what it accepts of Western values and medicine.”

Americans are inundated daily by television commercials, sound bites, print ads, periodicals, and online ads focusing on a variety of diseases, while simultaneously offering the latest pills and remedies with their copious number of side-effects and contraindications.

America appears to be a pharmacologically-driven society, depending upon a magic pill to cure its ills. Expected are quick-fixes and easy solutions. Yet, the more Americans hear and learn about disease, while receiving mixed messages about lifestyle choices from diet to exercise and more, the more we may not be aware of the barriers we ourselves are creating to achieve optimal health and maximum longevity. 

MSN Image Library

Is it possible that the U.S. is a disease-promoting society without meaning to be?

“What we’re seeing today in the U.S. is a pervasive pattern of shorter lives and poorer health,” say a panel of experts convened by the National Research Council.

With poorer and poorer overall health and more and more health care spending, it just might make sense to conclude that the U.S. is doing something very wrong. It is time to learn from the successes of our global neighbors and start living longer and healthier lives.

Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!

Laurie Edwards-Tate, MS, is President and CEO of At Your Home Familycare in San Diego, Calif. In addition to her positions as entrepreneur, health care executive, educator, media guest and contributor, Edwards-Tate is also a wife, daughter and dog lover. Read more LifeCycles in the Communities at The Washington Times.

Follow Laurie: At Your Home Familycare on Facebook and on Twitter @AYHFamilycare.

Copyright © 2013 by At Your Home Familycare


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Laurie Edwards-Tate

Laurie Edwards-Tate, MS, President and Founder of At Your Home Familycare in San Diego, California, was among the first to recognize the growing need for services allowing individuals to remain independent created by the aging of America including the Baby Boomer generation, now being called the “Silver Tsunami.” It is the Baby Boomers who are rapidly redefining what aging and growing older means and looks like in America today.

Now celebrating its 28th year in business, AYHF is among San Diego County’s Top  Women-Owned Businesses and Fastest Growing Businesses, and enjoys a reputation for upholding the highest possible standards among its employees and its emphasis on customer service.  Edwards-Tate is a valued contributor to the public dialogue on current issues and challenges in the home care industry, and serves in leadership roles on the Home Care Aide Association of America Advisory Board and Private Duty Home Care Association Advisory Board, as well as the Home Care Aide Steering Committee of the California Association for Health Services at Home.

Edwards-Tate is frequently interviewed in the media on healthy aging, caregiving, and health care topics. 

 Follow Laurie and AYHF  at www.atyourhomefamilycare.com; on Facebook at www.facebook.com/atyourhomefamilycare, and Twitter at @AYHFamilycare

Contact Laurie Edwards-Tate

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