Alan Bavley | The Kansas City Star Posted on Monday, April 30, 2012
Pundits and politicians like to say the United States has the best health care in the world. If so, it’s not showing up in how long we live, a new study suggests.
While life expectancies in some parts of the U.S. match those of the healthiest nations on earth, in vast swaths of this country preschoolers can expect to live no longer than their peers in some of the poorest and most strife-ridden parts of the world.
That holds true in the Kansas City area, where life expectancies in Johnson County match those of Switzerland and Sweden, while those in Wyandotte County are more like what’s found in Libya or Sri Lanka. Jackson County life expectancies compare to those in Mexico and Uruguay, and Clay County’s to those in Cuba.
“What are we getting for our health care dollar if we’re spending more per capita than any other country and we have the life expectancies of countries that are reeling from civil wars or natural disasters?” asked William Heisel of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. “By many measures, we should have better outcomes.”
The institute, based at the University of Washington, compiled data on every county in the U.S. to calculate life expectancy each year from 1989 through 2009. It also compared county life expectancies to those in other countries.
The average life expectancy for men in the U.S. in 2009 was 76.2 years and for women 81.3 years, the institute found.
But life expectancies varied dramatically. In Marin County, Calif., men could expect to live to a ripe 81.6 years. In two Mississippi counties, male life expectancy was just 66.1 years, about the same as in Pakistan.
Women’s life expectancies ranged from 85.8 years in Collier County, Fla., to 74.1 years in McDowell, W.Va., comparable to that of Algeria.
Overall, life expectancies in the U.S. have increased by 4.6 years for men and 2.7 years for women since 1989. But Heisel said that was “not a great improvement. That’s far behind the countries that are doing the best.”
In hundreds of U.S. counties, life expectancies remained the same or even declined, the study found. That was the trend through most of Oklahoma and Tennessee, and in a third of Georgia counties.
Kansas City area counties all showed improvements in life expectancy. But the differences among them were significant.
Life expectancies were lowest in Wyandotte County. On average, men could expect to live only to 71.6 years, putting them on par with men in Libya, Poland and China. Women live on average 77.9 years, about the same as they do in Sri Lanka, Ecuador and Lithuania.
Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/04/30/147111/study-life-expectancies-in-much.html?storylink=MI_emailed#storylink=cpy
Infant mortality rates in Kansas City’s poorest ZIP codes were five times higher than in its wealthiest, according to the Health Department’s data.