Where the US Ranks in the Healthiest Countries of the World

By Trista
Where the US Ranks in the Healthiest Countries of the World

What makes for a healthy country? What makes for an unhealthy country? To help answer that question, some indices show what countries are the healthiest and why. Surprisingly, the United States ranks relatively low on international indices on public health, sometimes lower than undeveloped countries! On the Bloomberg Healthiest Countries Index, the United States came in at an abysmal 35 out of all the countries in the world. The healthiest countries in the world have high levels of nutrition and universal access to healthcare. The people regularly get plenty of exercise, and government policies promote the people’s health and well-being.

The world’s unhealthiest countries have considerable income disparity levels, meaning that the gap between the rich and the poor is vast. People have difficulty accessing healthy food, making processed foods easier to get since they are cheaper, and healthcare may not even be available. Thankfully, there are a few things that you can do which can help you be healthy. Keep reading to learn more about why some countries are healthier than others. You may find some things that you can do to improve your health and better understand why the United States’ public health is so poor.

 


Public health is a very big concern in determining how healthy a country is. Pixabay.

Many Factors Contribute To Public Health

Public health refers to an entire population’s overall health, not just one person or a few people. Personal doctors, such as physicians, tend to be concerned with the health of the people who are their patients. Your physician is concerned about your health and how to keep you at your best. Public health officials are concerned with aspects of health that shape entire populations. They look at long-term trends of things such as the prevalence of certain diseases, nutrition, pollution, and infant mortality. Also of concern are psychological health issues, including suicide and abuse.

Public health also has to promote and make sure to encourage healthy behaviors in the population. Officials have to conduct scientific research for better ways to help everyone become more educated about health. People in the field of public health work to check-in and ensure that the conditions in which people can be healthy. It can go from vaccinating adults and children to help stop the spread of diseases or even educate about tobacco and alcohol’s health risks. They also set safety standards to protect public workers and help develop school nutrition programs so that kids have the right diet and access to it.

One matter of concern is the lifespan of children after they’re born. Pixabay.

Infant Mortality Is A Matter Of Public Health

Infant mortality refers to the percentage of babies that die within the first year of life. In countries that are poor and undeveloped, there tends to be a high level of infant mortality. Preventable diseases and lack of access to clean water cause many babies to die. The healthiest countries in the world have low rates of infant mortality. Families have access to clean water, and children have protection against preventable diseases. The odds of a healthy infant surviving the first year of life, and going on to have a long and productive life, are much higher in the world’s healthiest countries.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (also known as the CDC) has been working with public health agencies together with health care providers to help reduce infant deaths in the United States. The team-up with various agencies is looking to address the social, behavioral, and health risk factors that can affect birth outcomes and contribute to infant mortality. These efforts to lower infant mortality and a good start to improve public health, especially on babies, are only a matter of time to see if it works and what other steps need to be done.

The more people smoke, the unhealthier the community is. Pixabay.

Tobacco Use Affects Public Health

Using tobacco is one of the worst things that a person can do for his or her health. When an entire population has a high tobacco use rate, that country will experience exceptionally high rates of preventable diseases, including heart disease and certain kinds of cancer. Many people in countries that have high rates of tobacco use die prematurely from tobacco-related diseases. The world’s healthiest countries have low rates of tobacco use. Their governments push education about the harmful effects of using tobacco and may instate high taxes on tobacco products.

In the United Kingdom, every cigarette box comes with a big warning of the perils of using tobacco. They even put medical pictures of what tobacco does to your organs; some can be a bit scary and explicit. Smoking causes over 480,000 deaths every year in the United States. That is, one in every five deaths is caused by it. It causes more deaths than HIV, illegal drug use, or even firearm-related incidents. There is a reason why it’s a big concern to educate the population about the risks and for them to decide.

Type-2 diabetes is a sign that people aren’t eating very well. Pixabay.

Diabetes Is Also A Matter Of Public Health

There are plenty of things that individuals can do to prevent diabetes, namely reduce sugar intake and exercise regularly. However, in some of the world’s unhealthiest countries, the percentage of people with diabetes is in the double-digits because they are unaware of how harmful sugar is. There is a lower intake of sugar in the world’s healthiest countries and a lower incidence of diabetes. Like a high tobacco tax, these countries may have a sugar tax to discourage people from buying sugary foods and discourage food companies from marketing sugary foods there, particularly to children.

In the United States, it has become a major public health concern because of the increase of cases in the past few decades. Currently, it affects an estimated 29 million Americans, and the numbers are still increasing. Nevertheless, there is light at the end of the tunnel, with experts seeing a slow reversing on national trends. Recent research from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that diabetes trends have slowed down in recent years. The overall frequency of increase went from 9.8% between 1988 and 2012 to increase by only 1.6% in the last ten years.

A focus on agriculture increases the likelihood that people are eating healthy. Pixabay.

The World’s Healthiest Countries Have High Nutrition

Many health problems that people face are the result of poor nutrition. In some of the world’s poorest countries, diets consist mostly of starches – such as bread and potatoes – and sugars. The people may not have access to a healthy supply of vegetables or may not understand the need to eat them. The world’s healthiest countries have high levels of nutrition. Their people eat fewer carbs and plenty of vegetables. They have ready access to healthy food, and when they are unable to afford it, the government often steps in and helps them buy nutritious food for themselves and their families.

Researchers have found that good habits like following a Mediterranean diet may explain why countries like Spain and Italy enjoy good health. The key to having a balanced diet with better choices like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish with healthy fats like nuts, avocados, and olive oil can help have a long and disease-free life. The Mediterranean diet has been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease, reduce bad cholesterol, and a lower risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. What’s more, shocking is that the Mediterranean diet was associated with a 25% lower chance of death from any cause.

Countries with unclean water have many illnesses. Pixabay.

The World’s Healthiest Countries Have Clean Water

Many of the world’s preventable diseases, which kill thousands of children every year, are spread by contaminated water. Families may not have access to running water and have to draw water from wells, which may be polluted. They may also not have a safe way to store their water. Maintaining a safe water supply is one marker of public health that sets the world’s healthiest countries apart. It is one of the most important things that a government can do to protect its citizens’ health and ensure that they can live productive lives.

The big problem in countries like that is that sadly even using the toilet is a health risk because, in most places, the toilet water ends with the drinking one, and that’s how the population gets sick. Diseases caused by inadequate sanitation and unsafe water can kill more people yearly than war or any other form of violence. Thankfully, many foundations like the Women Health and Conservation Society are helping improve water access, sanitation, and hygiene, among other issues that can help villages and civilizations get clean water.

Heart disease has several sources, such as eating fatty food, not getting enough exercise, and general inflammation in the body. Pixabay.

Incidence Of Heart Disease Also Affects Public Health

Heart disease is caused by many factors, including genetics, environment, and lifestyle. Unhealthy countries tend to have poor lifestyles that lead to high rates of heart disease. For example, people may consume high levels of salt and red meat, both of which can lead to heart disease. Additionally, air pollution and stressful lifestyles can contribute to heart disease, including that smoking can also create many heart diseases. The world’s healthiest countries have low heart disease rates because of public health efforts to address the causes.

Public health officials have educated the people about how they can prevent heart disease, and governments may have implemented policies to promote healthier lifestyles with reduced risk of heart disease. In recent years, Life expectancy at birth has increased from 74 years in 1980 to 78 in 2006. However, older adults aged 65 years or older are living longer with cardiovascular conditions. Prevention can be effective at any age. The important thing is that there is an action taken to take care of the population, especially those with heart problems or a family history of heart diseases.

Experiencing chemotherapy is not only painful, but it’s also expensive. Pixabay.

Incidence Of Cancer Shapes Public Health

Many people who have cancer could not have prevented it. However, some types of cancer are preventable through healthy lifestyles and a clean environment. The world’s unhealthiest countries tend to have high cancer rates because of poor lifestyle and a polluted environment. The people may also not have adequate access to healthcare. Cancer can take many forms. Cancer is the second leading cause of death around the world, with an estimated 10 million deaths every year, and it can bring a lot of physical, emotional, and financial strain to a person, so it is crucial to keep a healthy lifestyle to lower the risks.

In the world’s healthiest countries, cancer rates are lower because most people have lifestyles that are not conducive to the development of cancer. Those who do develop cancer have better access to quality healthcare and a higher chance of surviving. Countries with a health system in low and middle income are the least prepared to manage the public health risks that cancer can bring. Having a sound health system can help bring the survival rates higher because it will get early detection and quality treatment with good survivorship care. A 50% of cancer deaths could have been prevented by just modifying and avoiding risk factors, and having a healthy lifestyle is one of them.

Getting more exercise is a great way to improve your health. Pixabay.

People In The World’s Healthiest Countries Get Plenty Of Exercise

The single best thing that someone can do to improve his or her health is doing basic workouts. Yet in many undeveloped countries, people are unable to get enough exercise for many reasons. There may be a stigma associated with girls being outside the home, so they cannot play outside. There may be high numbers of people living in urban slums, where getting out for exercise is dangerous. Regardless, it is vital to have a healthy body, keep it active, and move to make sure you’re in great shape. Some places have found an excellent way to keep people moving.

In the world’s healthiest countries, people get to do basic workouts. For example, in many European countries, people walk or ride their bikes to work instead of driving. Companies may provide incentives for employees to get exercise, and public health officials educate the people about the importance of exercise. The World Health Organization (WHO) has researched people’s fitness levels in 168 countries for 15 years, and Uganda made it to the top among rich Western countries. They encourage people to stay active so they can stay out of hospitals by exercising. It’s exactly what the doctor prescribed!

Physical health isn’t the only measure; emotional health plays a part as well. Pixabay.

They Also Have Low Rates Of Suicide, Alcoholism, And Abuse

The world’s unhealthiest countries and the unhealthiest places within healthy countries tend to have high markers for psychological health issues, particularly suicide, alcoholism, and abuse. Communities may have 100% abuse rates and double-digit incidences of suicide. While no country has reduced its suicide rate to zero, eliminated alcoholism, or found a way to absolutely prevent all causes of abuse, the world’s healthiest countries have lower rates of these problems. People have access to mental healthcare, and public health officials educate parents on child-rearing practices that do not cause long-term harm to the children.

Suicide is an escalating public health problem worldwide, and it is believed that on some occasions, constant use of alcohol is implicated in the precipitation of suicidal behavior. Alcohol abuse can lead to disinhibition, impaired judgment, and impulsiveness. However, it can also ease the distress associated with committing suicide. However, multiple genetically related intermediate phenotypes can influence. Psychiatric disorders like anxiety, psychosis, and stress can impact. Having accessible mental evaluation and help available to the public for free or at a lower cost can help improve the public’s mental state, especially in a world crisis like the one we live in.

Affordable healthcare makes it easy for everyone to take care of their health. Pixabay.

People In Healthy Countries Have Better Access To Healthcare

Access to quality healthcare improves just about every marker that a population has for its public health. When people can talk with their doctor or a nutritionist about their child’s health, childhood obesity can drop. When people can be vaccinated for preventable diseases, infant and childhood mortality goes down. The world’s healthiest countries have universal access to healthcare so that no one is left out. Anyone, regardless of ability to pay, can access the care that he or she needs to ensure that each person in the country can live a healthy and productive life without stressing out about not be able to afford it.

In the United States, before the Affordable Care Act was introduced, the nation had worse outcomes and spent more on health care. Why? Because of the higher prices and greater use of medical technology than other high-income countries like the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Even with all the health care spending, the United States still has the lowest life expectancy, with Americans visiting physicians less than in other countries. However, the U.S. has the highest rates of breast cancer screenings among women ages 50 to 69 and the second-highest flu vaccinations rate among people aged 65 and older.

Countries all over the world were examined to determine which country was the healthiest. Pixabay.

The Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index Rates Each Country

According to the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index, multiple factors that contribute to public health are used to determine which countries in the world are healthiest. These include the above factors, which are rated according to how the population fares. For example, if 10% of a country’s population has diabetes, that percentage will be measured into the index. Four out of the top five healthiest countries, according to this index, are in Western Europe. The United States ranks number 35, making it one of the lowest-ranked of the world’s developed countries. The world’s unhealthiest countries are also the poorest and often driven apart by conflict and disease outbreaks.

According to the Bloomberg Global Health Index, Spain can be considered the world’s healthiest population with a score of 92.8 and a life expectancy of 83.5 years. Another thing that might make things better for Spain’s population has a very successful Universal Healthcare program that has a preventable death rate of 45.4 per 100,000 residents. One of the reasons America ranked so low is because of an increase in obesity around the nation, although more Americans are exercising, which is a good start.

Spain is ranked the number one country in terms of health. Pixabay.

In 2019, The World’s Healthiest Country Was Spain

Spain edged itself over Italy in 2019 to become the world’s healthiest country beating Italy, which was number one for a few years. It scored 92.8 out of 100 on the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index because of its high life expectancy, healthy diet, and laid-back culture. While Spain does have a high level of wine consumption and tobacco use, the people also enjoy a Mediterranean diet that is high in vegetables and healthy fats and low in red meat. Spain also has universal healthcare so that everyone can access medical attention to their health needs.

Being one of the places in the world that consumes less fast food also has helped their score. Other reasons they are the healthiest are the environmental contributions that include having easy access to clean water and adequate sanitation, which helped a lot get its score high. Having the highest life expectancy at birth among European Union member nations helped it go up five spots since the last ranking in 2017. It shows that when Public health is well attended with good access to treatments and health professionals, it can make its population have a better life.

It helps that football is a significant sport in Spain. Pixabay.

People In Spain Get A Lot Of Exercise

While only 6% of Americans walk or ride their bikes to work, that number is a whopping 37% in Spain. Spain has the most walking commuters of any country in Europe, so exercise is already built into their daily schedule for many Spaniards. They don’t even have to go to the gym. The benefits of exercise are too numerous to mention. Not only does it burn calories and help people lose excess weight, but it also stimulates the production of endorphins, which help people feel happy. It burns off cortisol and adrenaline, the stress hormones that build up in people’s bodies. As Spain shows, people who exercise the most have the most exceptional health.

Because of the pandemic, Spaniards had made it harder to exercise or walk around, mostly when they were one of the worst countries being hit by Covid-19. After months of being in total lockdown, the government allowed people to go outside to exercise, but with some rules. They gave people specific times to do so designated by age groups to keep crowds small and protect the most vulnerable at this time. They were other rules like no lounging, every child younger than 14 needed to be accompanied by an adult, and they needed to stay within one mile of home.

Italy is the second healthiest country in the world. Pixabay.

Italy Came In Second

This country, like Spain, also follows a Mediterranean diet. The country scored an enviable 91.5 out of 100 on the Bloomberg Healthiest Countries Index. Like Spain, Italy has universal healthcare, so everyone who needs care can get it, regardless of income or status. Italians also drink a moderate amount of red wine, which is high in protective antioxidants. Drinking one glass per day, as many Italians do, can help improve cardiovascular and heart health and even help prevent cancer. That is in addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle that allows for ample workout time.

They fell one spot from 2017, which they were number one. Researchers concluded that part of their positive health trend has to do with their Mediterranean diet, which is supplemented with extra virgin oil and lots of nuts. They also took into consideration obesity, smoking as well as their environment. They also keep themselves active with a lot of walking and using bikes as transportation. Americans can learn a lot from places like Italy and Spain who had found a food formula to stay healthy and away from foods that might do more harm than good.

The Mediterranean diet is rich with antioxidants and healthy fats. Pixabay.

Many Of The World’s Healthiest Countries Have Mediterranean Diets

A Mediterranean diet refers to the eating habits of countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. It includes a high intake of nuts, herbs, fruits, beans, vegetables, and healthy fats, such as olive oil and avocados. Consumption of red meat is low; many who follow this diet are vegetarians or eat much fish. Public health officials consider a Mediterranean diet to be ideal for promoting public health. It lowers the risk of heart disease, as the focus is on the whole, unprocessed foods with little salt or sugar. It also reduces the risk of cancer and other health concerns.

In the 1960s, people started getting some interest in the Mediterranean diet when they noticed that coronary heart disease causes fewer deaths in Mediterranean countries like Italy, Spain, and Greece. After many studies, they confirm that this diet is associated with reducing cardiovascular diseases’ risk factors. Today, it is one of the most recommended healthy eating plans by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to promote health and prevent chronic diseases. It is also recognized by the World Health Organization (also known as WHO) as a healthy and sustainable dietary plan and intangible cultural asset by the United National Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization.

You wouldn’t think that Iceland would be so high on the list. Pixabay.

Next Comes Iceland

Iceland is a tiny island in the North Atlantic that seems to have high markers for public health and overall well-being consistently. Its people have mastered the island’s rugged terrain and harsh climate to build a world-class healthcare system and one of the happiest cultures on the planet. Iceland scored 91.44 on the Bloomberg Healthiest Countries Index, making it just behind Italy. It has a high life expectancy, with many people expecting to live into their eighties and beyond. Additionally, a diet that includes plenty of wild-caught fish from the North Atlantic improves public health.

Not only is their simple diet of fresh dishes with plenty of lamb and seafood part of the reason why they are healthy, but they also have a few other tricks on their sleeves. Icelanders also attribute their health to natural hot springs. It hasn’t been confirmed yet, but swimming or sitting in these volcanically heated waters full of minerals is a way for Icelanders to relax, which minimizes toxic stress. They also do much indoor exercise in the winter to keep fit and improve their mood in those cold months. They also practice a lot of rock climbing, ice climbing, and kayaking to keep themselves busy.

Countries with smaller populations tend to be more healthy. Pixabay.

The Healthiest Countries Tend To Be Small

The United States, which ranked number 35 on the Bloomberg Healthiest Countries Index, has 330 million people. On the other hand, Spain has a population of not quite 47 million, making it one-eighth the size of the United States. Italy has a population of just over 60 million, and Iceland is downright puny, with only 340,000. See the pattern here? The smaller the population is, the higher the chances to have better public health and are higher on the list of the healthiest countries.

Public health officials seem to have an easier task of improving public health when there are fewer people. Passing legislation and implementing government programs is also easier when fewer people claim to have their voices heard. The result is that countries with high populations tend to rank further down among developed countries. It takes more time to implement new things for public health when there’s a more significant population, which is a problem when obesity is still growing in places like the United States. In bigger countries, it’s up to each individual to make a change by themselves first instead of waiting for the government to react and take action, which is very difficult to do.

The Japanese have a vibrant and healthy lifestyle. Pixabay.

Japan Ranked Number Four

Japan, a series of islands on the eastern end of Asia, scored 91.38 out of 100, meaning that its people’s health is exceptionally high. There are plenty of reasons for Japan being such a healthy country, and public health officials have been studying Japan for a long time to better learn the secrets of longevity. The Japanese diet has long been high in fish, as the island lifestyle usually means much fish. The Japanese people also consume little dairy but much green tea, which is exceptionally high in antioxidants. They also eat many vegetables, including seaweed.

Besides a good diet, there is also the matter of transportation. People of Japan prefers to use public transit like their fast trains instead of getting their own cars. That means that there are fewer carbon emissions, which can drastically affect your health over time. It also means that to make it to the train or take the bus, they need to walk, which is a plus because they will be more active. There is also exercising in the workplace during breaks, which helps them stretch their muscles, so they don’t spend an 8-hour shift sitting, which is terrible for you.

Drinking much green tea also helps promote good health. Pixabay.

Japan Has Been Leading The World’s Life Expectancy

Life expectancy refers to how long a person can be expected to live. It varies based on geography – people in undeveloped countries usually have much lower life expectancies, while people in the world’s healthiest countries have much higher life expectancies. In the United States, life expectancy has long been in the seventies and has been decreasing. However, in Japan, the average life expectancy is 84.19 years! The Japanese diet, access to quality healthcare, and a healthy lifestyle have helped improve its life expectancy so that it is the highest in the world.

The oldest person in the world is from Japan, and she’s 118! The island of Okinawa has the greatest concentration of centenarians that have been fascinating people for a long time. Some of their residents are still fully active and independent at the age of 97, and one of the reasons is their diet and how busy they are, from going to the park to do tai chi to working on their garden. What’s even more interesting is that they have fewer cases of cancer, heart diseases, dementia, or even Alzheimer’s, and it’s something that researchers are still looking into.

Swiss chocolate is famous, but the Swiss people don’t indulge in it very often. Pixabay.

Switzerland Ranked Number Five

Switzerland, a small country in Western Europe, scored 90.93 on the Bloomberg Healthiest Countries Index, making it the world’s fifth-healthiest country. It has a small population of just 8.5 million and world-class healthcare and education systems to help make that small population one of the healthiest in the world. One reason for Switzerland’s high level of public health is simply its geography. It is covered in mountains, so trekking up and down hills is a part of many Swiss people’s daily lives. Just getting to their front door burns calories and gets them enough exercise to reap all of its benefits.

Having one of the best health care system is not as expensive as you might think. The Swiss government only spends 2.7% of GDP on health care, which is a third of what the United States spends. Interestingly enough, they are one of the healthiest countries and the happiest with one of the lowest rates of depression in the world. Being the eight-s lowest rate of depression in the world has a positive impact on the workforce and the economy. Having a high level of well-being in the economy too also helps people to stay active and happy.

The elderly in Switzerland are very happy. Pixabay.

Switzerland Has A High Life Expectancy

Like the Japanese, many Swiss can reasonably expect to live into their eighties. The average life expectancy in Switzerland is 84 years! They have healthy diets high in good fats, clean glacial water, and low crime rates. Statistics also show that the Swiss have an optimal work-life balance, which helps reduce stress and stress-related diseases, although it’s something that they are still working hard to make better. Having so many natural resources, beautiful mountains, and places to relax, have helped keep their people busy and happy. For a small country, it has many activities to keep the soul young.

Additionally, the Swiss can enjoy Alpine winters by skiing! Instead of hunkering down to survive the cold and dark winter months, many Swiss welcome the winter because they can get out the ski gear and enjoy their favorite sport. Many studies point out that wealth, a sense of well-being, and a diet rich in dairy products are some of the reasons why people tend to live longer. It is also interesting that more women are giving birth after their 35 years of age rather than in their 20s. Having less stress, a great diet, and being active are the primary keys here.

Scandinavian countries tend to score high because they have less access to high-fat foods. Pixabay.

Scandinavian Countries Scored High On The Index

Scandinavia refers to the northern part of Europe, particularly the Scandinavian Peninsula. The Scandinavian countries are Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and sometimes Iceland (though Iceland is far away). These countries consistently score high for public health, as well as overall happiness and well-being. Sweden ranked in number sixth, Norway number nine, and Finland number 14. These countries all have universal healthcare, low gaps between the rich and poor, and healthy diets that are generally low in carbs and high in healthy fats. Finland, in particular, is recognized across the world for its superior education system.

Scandinavians are outdoor people who love hiking and enjoying the breathtaking scenery. It didn’t start because they wanted to post pictures on Instagram; Scandinavian people have been doing so for centuries. It is a habit that is embedded basically in their DNA to go out and explore. It is good to work on a habit cycle to go out and hike in your favorite place like a close by park. Walking a little bit a few days a week, and seeing some results in your mood and health, will inspire you to keep going and follow the Scandinavian way.

Singapore came in at number nine on the list of healthiest countries. Pixabay.

Australia, Singapore, and Israel Also Scored In The Top 10

Australia’s world-class beaches and beautiful scenery make it easy to understand why the country would rank high in public health. Australians prefer to spend time outdoors in their beautiful environment instead of inside playing video games or watching movies. Singapore’s government gave out free Fitbit health tracker watches to all of its citizens in 2019 to encourage its citizens to get more exercise and research the city’s healthy habits. It is one of the healthiest countries in Asia, and it shows how much effort the government makes to find ways to make people more active.

Israel ranked number ten on the list, due in part to its healthy Mediterranean diet. Israel has the lowest quantity of deaths related to poor nutrition in the entire world. A survey conducted by the Volcany Center, which is Israel’s government-sponsored Agricultural Research Organization, researched diets but, most importantly, their consumption of fruits and vegetables. It showed that 80% of the surveyors eat fresh fruits and veggies daily. People eat many vegetables and fish instead of red meat and have low diabetes and heart disease rates.

It’s strange to see a developed country score so low on the list. Pixabay.

The United States Ranked Number 35

That’s right; the U.S. ranked behind just about every single developed country in the Bloomberg Healthiest Countries Index. The tiny communist state of Cuba ranked several points ahead! It barely pulls ahead of countries in the Arab Gulf, such as Bahrain and Qatar. America’s life expectancy of 73 years is nearly 12 years below that of Japan. The American people generally have a poor diet, and their access to healthcare has more to do with their economic standing than whether they need medical assistance. In terms of developed countries, the United States has some of the worst health in the world.

The are 34 countries that are ahead of the United States in the Bloomberg health rankings. They all have Universal Health care available for everyone. In contrast, there are around 30 million Americans that do not have health care insurance. Also, an equal number of people are underinsured. Furthermore, 15 to 18% of the population have financial concerns about how to pay for a visit to a doctor. Let’s not even mention how to afford insurance payments and the high insurance deductibles. So most people go to the hospital for ailments that could have been prevented in the first place by going to a regular check-up.

The significant wage gap makes it difficult for people to find anything affordable. Pixabay.

Economic Disparity In The US Is Some Of The Highest In The World

According to the CIA World Factbook, the U.S. ranked number 106 out of 149 countries regarding income inequality. It means that the gap between the wealthiest Americans – people like Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates – earn and what the poorest Americans earn is one of the most significant gaps in the world. Why does this matter? Because income inequality is a marker of an undeveloped economy that favors the rich. As a result, those who are not in the U.S.’s upper strata, in terms of income, have a hard time accessing healthy food, opportunities for exercise, healthcare, and even childcare so that parents can go to work.

You might think that after America went into a great depression in 2009 with the economy collapsing, things would have been better when it comes to economic disparity. Sadly that is not the case. In 2019, the Census Bureau reported that income inequality had reached its highest record in 50 years. The GINI index went from 48.2 in 2017 to 48.5 in 2019. Experts are anticipating a more significant increase in the next few years. Even though it is expected for incomes to get higher for the lower class, it is also likely for the higher level to keep getting higher, so sadly, this will keep getting worse.

Bad foods are advertized in more attractive colors. Pixabay.

The American Diet Is Notoriously Lacks Proper Nutrition

McDonald’s, the international symbol of poor health, was born and bred in the United States. Americans eat an excessive amount of junk food that is high in sugar, sodium, and calories but poor in nutrients that promote good health. Children are likely to eat a sugary breakfast of Pop-Tarts or heavily sweetened cereal before going off to school for the day. It has gone for decades, and now slowly, Americans are starting to realize how bad and how much junk food lacks nutrition that we need to keep a healthy lifestyle.
Many Americans go for several days at a time without eating vegetables.

One reason is that the American people do not understand why a healthy diet is so important. Another reason is that the country’s extreme income inequality means that many people simply cannot afford healthy food. It is much much cheaper to buy a bag of fried chips than to buy fresh lettuce and tomatoes, so when families are low on cash, they lean into over-processed foods that lack any type of nutrition and are high in fats, sodium, and sugar. Gulping on supplements will do no good if you’re still eating tater tots at 3 in the morning.

Junk food is cheaper, and there is easier access to it. Pixabay.

Companies Advertise Junk Food To Children

The United States stands pretty much alone because it allows companies to advertise junk food to children. When children see commercials of colorful, sugary foods, they tend to want to eat those foods instead of healthy fruits and vegetables. Overwhelmed parents may not know how to communicate that their children need to eat fruits and vegetables. Alternatively, some parents themselves don’t understand why a healthy diet is essential for their children. Many cannot afford the healthy foods that their children need for healthy growth and development. As a result, as many as one-third of American children are either overweight or obese.

Sadly, childhood obesity is an epidemic and a public health problem that increases morbidity, mortality, and long-term social and economic costs. In the last 25 years, the rates of obesity in kids have tripled. Around 20% of youth that are overweight are within preschool age. Childhood obesity can put them at risk of becoming obese as adults. Furthermore, it increases health problems like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and even cancer. Kids spend more time on the computer and T.V. than any other activity during the week. They don’t know how to differentiate between what’s advertising and what’s not, so they are easy to manipulate.

Eating a lot doesn’t mean that you’re getting all the right nourishment. Pixabay.

Many Americans Are Overfed And Undernourished

Obese and starving is the paradox of life for many Americans. Getting a hamburger at McDonald’s is often cheaper than cooking a healthy meal at home. Moreover, many cannot afford the latter. Plus is quicker than having to cook something, which can take time. With the fast life Americans live, it’s easier to buy it from the drive-thru. As a result, they consume far too many meals that are high in calories, sodium, and sugar but very poor in nutrients. It’s a cycle that is making people sicker with heart problems and all types of diseases.

Meals cooked at home tend to have more vegetables, fresh, with no hidden ingredients, and lots of vitamins and minerals that our body needs to be healthy. Besides, children who eat family dinners at home are healthier, happier, and better adjusted than their peers who frequently eat fast food. Home-cooked meals are generally more abundant in nutrients and lower in calories; unfortunately, they are becoming quite rare for many American families. It is something that many people need to adjust and change. Finding your flow and the road to a healthier lifestyle can be difficult sometimes, but there’s a higher payout in the end.

High blood pressure, heart diseases, and diabetes are some of the most common diet-related conditions. Pixabay.

Americans Have High Rates Of Diet-Related Diseases

Countries with proper nutrition, such as the Mediterranean countries of Spain, Italy, and Israel, have low rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases. A healthy diet helps prevent many medical problems, some of which can be life-threatening. In the United States, heart disease and cancer are some of the leading causes of death. While not all heart disease cases and cancer are caused by poor diet and lifestyle, many are. The primary culprit is the poor diet – high in calories, low in nutrients – that many Americans consume.

Having an unhealthy diet contributes to almost 680,000 deaths every year in the United States. Most of them are due to nutrition and obesity-related diseases like diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer. What’s worse is that it has gotten worse in the last 30 years, with rates doubling in adults, tripled in children, and quadrupled in teens. This public health problem needs to be modified if the U.S. wants to give the American people prosperity and have a healthy longer life than any other place in the world. We have the resources to make it happen. It’s a matter of urgency at this point.

Healthcare is costly for those who aren’t rich. Pixabay.

Americans Also Have Poor Access To Healthcare

Americans have long known that their healthcare system is broken. President Obama attempted to fix it through Obama Care. However, many opposed his measures because he socialized the healthcare system instead of addressing the high costs that many Americans incur. Moreover, while Obama Care did help improve access to healthcare for many Americans, for others, it did not help at all. Many Americans remain uninsured and unable to access preventive care, which could help reduce their risk of suffering from a debilitating disease later in life. The United States is the only developed country in the world that does not provide universal access to healthcare.

There’s also the problem of health care inequality. It means that one group of people with many health conditions than another group has limited access to the care they need. That goes hand in hand with income inequality, to the point that researchers have found that the higher the income, the better, the healthier the person is. Because so many households can’t afford health insurance when a health emergency happens, their savings get wiped out, and some have lost everything and end up bankrupt because of high medical costs.

It’s challenging to be healthy when one’s leaders determine the rules of lifestyle. Pixabay.

The World’s Unhealthiest Countries Are The Most Undeveloped

Countries that rank the worst in terms of health are some of the world’s poorest countries. Many are led by autocratic dictators who enact harsh policies that impoverish the people, stopping citizens’ help. Some are driven by military juntas and have been in a perpetual state of war for years. Others have experienced massive disasters that they are still recovering from. Having an irresponsible government administrating the weak economy can lead to many problems that can damage the population’s health.

These factors cause preventable diseases to spread rampantly among the population. Without clean water to drink, diseases like cholera can decimate entire villages. Malnutrition is a constant concern, with many children dying of hunger and starvation. Healthcare may be nonexistent except for a few clinics operated by international volunteers. Having any type of control or regulations that help the people’s health or well-being is a problem that countries like Egypt, Samoa, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Barbados, Armenia, Serbia, and Iraq are having. It is affecting their mental and physical health drastically.

Picking up the pieces from a natural disaster makes it difficult to focus on health. Pixabay.

Haiti Is Still Recovering From A Devastating Earthquake In 2010

Haiti, located next to the Dominican Republic on the island of Hispaniola, has long been the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. In 2010, a massive earthquake destroyed it and claimed over a quarter of a million lives. The country’s entire government collapsed. Its already impoverished population had to deal with some of the world’s most abject poverty. It’s been tough for Haiti to get back to having a better economy and reconstructing after the natural disasters.

Ten years later, Haiti is still recovering. As a result, it has some of the most mediocre health outcomes in the world. Childhood diseases and malnutrition claim the lives of many children. Many people are unable to access healthcare, and clean water is hard to come by. Even with the help of various entities like the Red Cross, it’s been hard for Haitians to go back to normal, with a most unhappy population and a government overspending on non-important things instead of rebuilding the island. With many confrontations happening, let us hope that things start looking up soon.

Many countries in the Middle East have hard times; physical and emotional health are the last things on their mind. Pixabay.

War Has Destroyed Syria, Afghanistan, And Yemen

Many of the world’s unhealthiest countries have experienced at least one civil war since the year 1990. Syria has been in a state of war since 2012. Though there have been some ceasefires, the country is destroyed. Yemen has been in a civil war since 2015. The people have been experiencing cholera and diphtheria outbreaks due to a collapsed infrastructure. Afghanistan has known little peace since the Taliban took over in the 1990s. Sudan experienced a civil war that led to genocide in the late 1990s. Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau, also very low on the list of healthiest countries, have experienced a civil war in recent years.

Somalia’s failed state has not had a functioning government since its ongoing civil war began in the late 1980s. Researchers had warned that these countries’ problems are shaping many new civil conflicts. That included outbreaks of terrorism and extremism in the area. The pressures of having poor governance, corruption, and population increase can go far beyond their current problems with any group of extremists. It can take over ten years for all those conflicts to end, and still, this might bring more that will keep destabilizing the population.

Vaccination ensures that common diseases aren’t spread. Pixabay.

The World’s Unhealthiest Countries Also Have Low Vaccination Rates

The single best way to prevent childhood diseases from killing children is to vaccinate them. However, for many of the world’s unhealthiest countries, only a small number of children are vaccinated against diseases. Diphtheria, tuberculosis, and pertussis are claiming the lives of many children in these countries. Additionally, Syria and Afghanistan are both experiencing polio outbreaks. Children who contract polio and survive it are often crippled for the rest of their lives. Malnutrition, lack of clean water, and poor healthcare access complicate these diseases and cause them to spread more prolifically.

In this date and age, when the world depends on the distribution of a vaccine to help end the Covid-19 pandemic, 67 of the poorest countries will have to wait much longer to get it. In countries like Mongolia and Mozambique, only 1 in every ten people will get vaccinated. The reasoning is because of the disparities between the rich and the poor in these countries. Some places will only gain access to the vaccine through COVAX, a project that can pool resources from many countries to broaden access to vaccines. They have secured at least 700 million doses from the developers of the leading vaccine candidates.

Making food more affordable to all people allows them to make healthier choices. Pixabay.

Public Health Requires Addressing Systems, Not Just Individuals

Many people, particularly in the United States, insist that public health is about personal responsibility, not government legislation. Nevertheless, looking at the world’s healthiest and unhealthiest countries reveals that public health is not only about individual health. There also needs to be some type of help from the government to get things running. It is about addressing entire systems that create inequality and endemic violence. Having a system that encourages a healthier population by giving them tools and programs does much more than some people might imagine.

People should take responsibility for what they choose to eat. However, they are not always responsible because they cannot afford healthy food. Improving public health in the United States will require addressing income inequality. It prevents many people from eating healthy food and access the healthcare they need. Making programs that can help poor income families get the tools they need to get up their feet can help shift gears into a healthier nation. Improving and lowering the income inequality will benefit the government and the population, which will improve their health.

Human violence also makes it difficult to have access to necessities. Pixabay.

Public Health Also Requires Addressing Violence

Children who are exposed to traumatic experiences have noticeably poorer health outcomes throughout their entire lives. The quality of health deteriorates with the number of adverse childhood experiences (ACES) that they have. Improving public health requires addressing child abuse problems to ensure that children have the opportunity to thrive. On a larger scale, public violence has a massive impact on public health. War-torn countries have inadequate access to healthcare and nutrition. Similarly, war-torn neighborhoods in the United States, such as in the worst inner-city areas, have poor access to what people need to thrive. Addressing violence on all levels is a necessary component of public health.

Researchers have gathered information that links childhood trauma to many issues when they grow up. Trauma may include things like neglect, violence at home, and substance misuse. They found that adults who experienced traumatic events as kids have a higher risk of dying from at least five of the ten leading causes of death in the United States, including heart diseases. They also have higher chances of developing a mental illness like depression or conditions like asthma, cancer, and diabetes. The cases were worst when the person experienced multiple traumatic events or traumatic experiences for an extended period.

Having too many people in a small area cannot be ideal for health, either. Pixabay.

Urban Density Can Affect Public Health

When we talk about urban density, we refer to the number of people that inhabit an urbanized area. It is mostly used for urban planning and design, and it’s an essential factor for understanding how cities function. In the same way, urban design can affect many factors like physical activity, pollution exposure, accident risks, and the accessibility of health resources like mental health. When the area’s density is high, it’s harder to find jobs. Eventually, it ends with not being able to afford critical goods like healthy food or medical care.

 In cities like Tel Aviv in Israel, it can be stressful for people to find ways to get the help they need, leading to many health problems. The U.S. National Research Council and the U.S. Institute of Medicine found that many factors in the physical environment are important to health. These include air pollution or proximity to toxic sites. The harmful substances can impact the long haul and even the community design and the built environment. For example, land used, street connectivity, and transportation systems. Living in the right place can make a difference in your well-being. 

Sources:

“The World’s Healthiest Countries, Ranked,” by Ashley Welch. CBS News. February 25, 2019.
“10 Healthiest Countries in the World,” by Health Fitness Revolution. Health Fitness Revolution. May 31, 2017.
“10 Healthiest Countries in the World,” by Caitlin Morton and Katherine Lagrave. Conde Nast Traveler, January 10, 2020.
“Healthiest Countries 2020.” World Population Review.
“These are the World’s Healthiest Nations,” by Lee Miller and Wei Lu. Bloomberg. February 24, 2019.
“Why Are Americans So Unhealthy?” by Harlan Green. Huffington Post. July 28, 2017.

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