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Readers Confront Mortality

Health care is an important issue in this year's political battles, and today David Brown cites a study showing that, for the first time since 1918, life expectancy is falling for a significant number of American women, especially in rural and low-income areas. Diabetes, lung cancer, emphysema and kidney failure are the primary causes of death.

A number of our Readers Who Comment blame the absence of a functioning national health care system; others blame individuals for smoking or for eating too much and seem to suggest that folks should have a passing grade on a meritorious behavior examination before receiving medical attention. Others blame environmental causes or a profit-driven health care system that they see as ignoring the poor and the rural, the areas where the life expectancy among women is falling.

There are, of course, those who question the study and those who think that a political victory by Democrats is the only way this will be fixed.

We'll start with kats1, who said, "This is a story about smoking and obesity, but it is also a story about what the lack of a national health service does to a country. The problem is only going to increase."

And cassidyt seconded the motion, in writing, "Another disgrace for the U.S. and its absurd healthcare system. For years we've made asses of ourselves by foolishly deriding the healthcare systems in foreign countries even as these other systems have consistently outperformed ours... Every day we delay in instituting national healthcare we are literally killing people."

But PJTramdack, in an extended entry, said, "...I am an elitist... I am all for giving health care to people with pre-existing conditions, but not for people who are not TRYING to be healthy. Give up smoking, give up drinking, get the cholesterol down, get on a diet and get the weight going in the right direction, wear a helmet, and get as fit as your disabilities allow you to be, and I will give you health care..."

victordelta had a different view in writing, "...Most of this reads like speculation from some health-fascist who is convinced that people die only because they have bad habits. Last time I checked, I was living to LIVE, not just living to avoid death... A life devoid of all hedonism is not worth living. Obsession and elitism, however, are not on my menu, and certainly not things to strive for."

johnkwhite1 citing a sentence in the story that said "it is impossible to know exactly what is going on in the 1,000 counties" studied, asked, "where did the Harvard researcher get his knowledge of what was going on? While I agree that smoking and obesity are bad for your health, so are other things like Meth and Oxycotin which are horrifyingly common in that area of Applachia along the I-81 corridor."

WildaHughes said, "You can target lower income folks for health programs, but that doesn't mean they'll be able to afford the foods that are better for them when MacNCheese is cheap. Nor will it help them get exercise when they're working 3 jobs... a stressful life, which poorer women have in spades, limits their ability to modify..."

theduke89 questioned the underlying premise, writing, "The Study covers 12% of women in the US. Is the average life span of the other 88% of women increasing? Is the lifespan of women in general in the US still increasing? My guess is that it is... It's common knowledge that the poorest areas in the country are being abandoned by the young people who grow up there. How does that skew the statistics we are being asked... to view as alarming?"

LibertyBelle said, "This is what happens when people can't afford healthcare or medications. When insurers are allowed to drop people for no reason, refuse to pay for tests and deny coverage to those with preexisting conditions... Yet another good argument for voting Democratic--the only party that supports universal healthcare coverage for ALL Americans!"

mvm_ffx observed that "This is a story about poverty as well - try buying a vegetable in a poor neighborhood. You can't, though there are plenty of McDonalds and liquor stores to fill the void."

JillCalifornia wrote, "I am sick and tired of the American Medical community blaming people for being sick. Looking for an excuse that explains why they do a lousy job, why people die in American Hospitals due to a medical system that thinks only of money..."
4/22/2008 5:14:43 AM

ggwalt123 warned that "...Until this country decides to get its priorities straight by investing in the well being of its citizenry, we will continue to fall behind, whether it be in healthcare, education, or any other category..."

Last word goes to lynnellingw, who wrote, "They are not only religious and bitter, they're dying. Let's get some health care in our rural areas, it's only right."

All comments on this article are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  April 22, 2008; 9:25 AM ET
Categories:  Health  
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Next: The Beat Goes On


Doug's distillation is an excellent brief on health care issues that deserve to impact our November votes.

Posted by: jhbyer | April 23, 2008 6:28 AM | Report abuse

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