It seems we Americans just can’t help ourselves. A petty point often made by foreign anti-American intellectuals is that the US, despite its riches – or perhaps, because of them – has the world’s largest population of obese and unhealthy people. It would appear that such criticism, though I hate to admit it, is somewhat justified.
Although the number of people smoking went down during the early 1990s, and despite intense public knowledge that smoking is harmful and the social negatives that come with it, tobacco use has risen while long-term smokers who survived the habit a decade ago are still partaking. A whopping 21 percent of Americans are obese.
The average life expectancy of Americans is only 69.3 years. Twenty-eight countries are healthier and have longer life expectancies than the US, including Great Britain, France, Germany and Japan. The American infant mortality rate is twice that of Japan’s.
More worrying is that the number of young Americans graduating high school, which could certainly be said to affect health and life expectancy, is down to 68.3 percent. It is scandalous that the number of high school graduates is below 70 percent in what is considered a literate nation!
A lot of it has to do, of course, with America’s screwy health-care system, which gives the finest care in the world, yet is the most expensive – and for which a significant part of the population is uninsured and can not afford. But it’s not the entire story.
The US, despite its disparate health-care system, could still rank among the top nations for health and life expectancy if only more people weren’t so, in a word, ignorant about what constitutes a healthy life.
Rich or poor, it is basic knowledge that smoking is harmful and potentially carcinogenic. It should be common sense to anyone, no matter what their economic profile, that sitting on your posterior all day in front of the television while consuming McDonald’s and Ho-Hos three times a day will not help promote a healthy heart or a svelte body shape.
A significant amount of those who are considered unhealthy have only themselves to blame. Which is why it is refreshing to hear Reed Tuckson, vice president of the nonprofit organization United Health Foundation, declare that basic health issues are “not about more government money and heavy funding.” Do we really need to launch a government program and/or create a government agency just so Americans can learn to adopt a healthy lifestyle? Or maybe that’s to be expected from a nation where people can sue McDonald’s or Hershey’s for “making” them fat.
If you’re obese, start eating healthy foods. Exercise. If you smoke, stop. If you don’t have a high school diploma, get your GED and actually do something about improving your lot in life, instead of demanding that the government take care of you.
Mr. Tuckson is right. No amount of money is going to help people to become healthy. Changing one’s lifestyle, meals, and habits will see to that – and that won’t cost a penny.