Eight Americas

A new study in the Public Library of Science (available free), divides the nation into “Eight Americas” in terms of life expectancy — which, after all, is the name of the game when it comes to health.

The differences from top to bottom – Asian women in Bergen County, N.J., living 91 years on average and Native American men in southwest South Dakota checking out on average at 58 – have little to do with income, race or access to health care.

Rather, the differences are based largely on preventable chronic diseases among overweight and unfit young and middle-aged adults as well as on preventable do-it-yourself killers like alcohol, tobacco and firearms.

Obviously, there will always be variations among human beings, and there should be ways to narrow health disparities.

But as the authors conclude: “Because policies aimed at reducing fundamental socioeconomic inequalities are currently practically absent in the US, health disparities will have to be at least partly addressed through public health strategies that reduce risk factors for chronic diseases and injuries.”

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