WASHINGTON: From high levels of obesity and opioid addiction to inequities in access to care, America’s pre-existing conditions make the country an easy target for COVID-19, as well as future pandemics that could cripple the U.S. for decades to come.
Why it matters: One of the best ways the country could prepare for future threats — and boost its economy — is to improve Americans’ overall health, Axios’ Bryan Walsh reports.
Even before COVID-19 arrived on its shores, the U.S. was an unusually sick country for its level of wealth and development.
By the numbers: That much was shown by the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) project, a massive database of what kills and sickens people around the world, which published its latest figures for 2019 in The Lancet last week.
Mortality for mothers and children under 5 is 6.5 per 1,000 live births in the U.S., compared to 4.9 for other wealthy countries.
Healthy life expectancy — the number of years people can expect to live without disability — is 65.5 years in the U.S., more than two decades fewer than in Japan.
Overall life expectancy in the U.S. hasn’t risen since 2010, in part because of a 16.7% increase in the number of deaths due to cardiovascular disease since that year.
Context: Lancet editor-in-chief Richard Horton has called COVID-19 a “syndemic” — a synergistic epidemic of a new and deadly infectious disease and numerous underlying health problems. The U.S. is squarely in the heart of that syndemic.