There are many things Americans seem to excel at when compared with the rest of our global neighbors. Movies and television shows. Wildly popular music, whether country music, rock, or jazz. Top rated universities. A highly respected military force. Gorgeous national parks. Mountains. Beaches. Free speech.

And don’t forget barbecue.

But when it comes to our health, we struggle when compared to many other nations. 

Americans come in 34th in the world when it comes to life expectancy, even though our life expectancy rates have continued to slowly rise. Currently, the average lifespan in the U.S. is 79. Japan, Australia, Italy, Lebanon, and Chile are just a few of the countries who have life expectancies that exceed ours by several years. 

A recent report by The Commonwealth Fund showed that ”the U.S. spent 16.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on health care, nearly twice as much as the average OECD country. The second-highest ranking country, Switzerland, spent 12.2 percent. At the other end of the spectrum, New Zealand and Australia devote only 9.3 percent, approximately half as much as the U.S. does.” It’s important to note here that Switzerland, New Zealand, and Australia far exceed the U.S. in terms of longevity. 

Infant mortality, low birth weight, and maternal death are also the highest in the U.S., among developed countries. Diabetes, cardiac issues, and many other health issues are again more prominent in the U.S., in spite of our medical spending. While American women diagnosed with breast cancer fare better in terms of recovery than the rest of the world, those with cervical cancer find themselves back in the difficult statistics of again being behind many other countries. 

It doesn’t seem to compute, that health spending would not be a better indicator of overall health. So what are the reasons that we as Americans aren’t enjoying better health? And what can we do about it?

High spending doesn’t mean better

Traditional insurance rates have skyrocketed over the last few decades, as have medical costs. Those costs are passed on to consumers. While the U.S. makes significant advances in medical technologies and treatment modalities with research dollars, those advancements aren’t reflected in a better level of health for Americans. Researchers Roosa Tikkanen and Melinda K. Abrams write, “the U.S. has the highest rates of avoidable mortality because of people not receiving timely, high-quality care. The findings from this analysis point to key policy implications, as well as opportunities to learn from other countries.” 

It’s important to note that healthshares, a unique alternative on the healthcare front, help reduce medical care costs, by members of the healthshare agreeing to a set of shared beliefs and lifestyle choices. Altrua HealthShare, for example, is a national leader in bringing high-quality healthcare to its members for a far lower monthly amount than traditional insurance.

Lack of access to care for certain populations 

For individuals and families who cannot afford expensive traditional insurance products but who make too much for government programs, access to quality medical care can be limited. That’s one reason that health shares like Altrua HealthShare are so important, so that access to quality health care is available.

Lifestyle choices

The U.S. has the highest obesity rates in the world, and also has the highest diabetes Type 2 rates. While there can be many barriers to maintaining a healthy weight, as a country we seem to not do well in overcoming those barriers. As a result, debilitating levels of arthritis and cardiovascular disease plague Americans at a higher level than in other countries. With cheap, fast, and ultimately unhealthy food options on every corner, our face-paced and stressful lifestyle often has us grabbing for what is convenient, rather than what is nutritious. We often prefer dessert over exercise for stress relief. Those lifestyle choices, as a nation, cost all of us.

That’s part of power of choosing a health share option for your healthcare. With Altrua HealthShare, members agree to a set of standards, which include living a healthy lifestyle regarding taking care of one’s physical body by avoiding harmful substances and by making healthy choices. 

Utilization of surgeries and procedures rather than preventive and recuperative approaches

More often than our peers, we tend to go for surgeries and expensive procedures to help us deal with our health issues. However, there are many situations in which preventative and/or recuperative approaches that involve physical or occupational therapy or significant lifestyle changes are a less expensive and possibly better approach. Even though Americans tend to prefer what we see as faster and more tech-driven solutions to health challenges, that doesn’t always lead to better outcomes. Those technologies and surgeries come with high price tags, which, again, drives up our spending on health care without necessarily providing a better result. 

Lack of transparency on pricing

Healthcare is one of the few areas in the American economy where it has been almost impossible to compare costs between medical providers’ offices and between hospitals. As a result, Americans are often having to make major financial decisions about their healthcare without the full scope of information needed to make fully informed decisions. It also means that there can be a lack of accountability on what medical practices are charging and what traditional insurance is paying. 

What you can do

It’s important to educate yourself on your own health and how you intend to pay for medical costs for you and your family. It’s helpful to ask questions while working with your medical provider for any tests or procedures you are undergoing. Be sure to go over your medical billing statements to understand what you are being charged for and why. And most importantly, make daily choices about how you live your life and how that impacts your health. Proper nutrition, good sleep, movement, and an overall positive mental outlook impact your health at a significant level, and those are generally things over which you are able to have control. You can beat the overall statistics on American healthcare with intention and education.

Disclaimer: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions regarding a medical condition.