June 15, 2009


Mark Steyn:

According to the U.N. figures, life expectancy in the United States is 78 years; in the United Kingdom, it’s 79 — yay, go socialized health care! On the other hand, in Albania, where the entire population chain-smokes and the health-care system involves swimming to Italy, life expectancy is still 71 years — or about where America was a generation or so back. Once you get childhood mortality under control, and observe basic hygiene and lifestyle precautions, the health “system” is relatively marginal. One notes that, even in Somalia, which still has high childhood mortality, not to mention a state of permanent civil war, functioning government has entirely collapsed and yet life expectancy has increased from 49 to 55. Maybe if government were to collapse entirely in Washington, our life expectancy would show equally remarkable gains. Just thinking outside the box here.

Posted by: Sarah at 07:09 AM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
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1 I can't remember the study - but I saw one that purported that "preventative health care" isn't the public savior it is purported to be.  Not that hygiene should not be followed (and even this is one of degrees - many scientists and medical professionals are of the opinion that the recent rise in things like asthma and peanut allergies are due to us being TOO clean!), but that the constant visits to the doctor for this procedure and that procedure don't really make the difference in our quality or quantity of life that the current conventional wisdom purports. 

There are always outliers, and those are the ones we remember:  Jade Goody and cervical cancer, Farah Fawcett, or personal stories we know.  But much like we only remember those times we washed our car and it rained right after, the majority of the statistics don't bear this out.  Lifestyle choices and genetics play a much bigger role than the amount of times we visit the doctor for "preventative care."  And even "lifestyle choices" don't necessarily follow the conventional wisdom of what is good and what is not. 

My grandparents on my father's side all live to their 90s (and beyond in one case) - eating red meat every single day.  And those people are/were HEALTHY.  Oh, and they drank a lot of alcohol, too.  Not that they were alcoholics, but my grandmother's family were German. 

Perhaps we need to look at health care more like what we look at for car care.  We don't expect insurance to cover tune ups or oil changes.  We expect it for catastrophes. 

Perhaps we need more of that for health care?  Just a thought...

Posted by: airforcewife at June 15, 2009 08:10 AM (NqbuI)


I think that the problem with the current idea of health care is that it is more illness management than actually making someone healthy. If you have diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc, there is a pill to help you manage that, even though steps could be taken to get rid of that (usually weightloss). And the healthcare industry pushes managing the symptoms more than treating the problem. And patients seem to be okay with that.

And yes, we do live longer now, but I wonder if we are actually healthier. I mean, I think all the pills just keep us alive, but I think overall health might have decreased.

I agree with you AFW: we need to look at health insurance as catastrophic health insurance for those unfortunate incidents/ailments (car accident, broken arm, cancer)...not the ones we actually see coming (heart disease from obesity, prenatal care and delivering a baby, etc.) But this is another one of those issues that is argued on the margins (i.e. what about the poor person who can't afford his cancer treatments? uh huh...but what about the millions of others who are sucking down a gallon of soda a day and then get heart disease?)

Posted by: CaliValleyGirl at June 15, 2009 08:43 AM (irIko)

3 Well, just like tobacco, we can tax soda, and people won't drink it as much!  (Except, they'd have to REALLY tax soda, as the $1.50 coke at McDonalds really only costs them $0.03, the rest is pure profit).  And of course, we still smoke.  The gov't has never shown any correlation between taxing an item and limiting its use, and where would they get the money to pay for the programs their "sin taxes" currently fund, if it really was a deterrent?

Taxing things we like to pay for things we don't is ridiculous.  We'll tax soda because it makes you fat and drives up the cost of health care!  How about this instead:

We didn't feed you butter and sugar for fifty years, don't come crying to us when your ticker goes ker-thunk if you climb more than three stairs!

Of course, I completely threw out you argument on its face when you (or Steyn) opened with "According to UN figures..."  Sorry.  All the UN is is good for is child rape and supporting anyone who is against Israel.  And being honets brokers in the oil-for-food program.  I'll give them that one.

Posted by: Chuck at June 15, 2009 01:52 PM (bQVIy)

4 Hey, you are hitting pretty close to home here!  I'm 72. I plan on another 20 years, too. I can't say I haven't had some major illnesses because I have, but between the extremely good health care here in America, my genes (they caused some of those illnesses, but helped me through some also) a lot of prayers and help, I can say I am really in good shape. Or as my dad would have said, for the shape I'm in.  I am one of seven siblings, we are all alive and four are in our 70's.  Only one of us has even lost children and he has lost two. One at birth and one of ovarian cancer.

I really don't think what you eat has as much to do with it as some like to think. I think that is a little bit of blaming the victim.  We have a lot of diabetes in our family, both type 1 and type 2. Bad genes. But due to medical miracles like insulin my little brother, he's now 68, who was diagnosed with type one at age 21 is planning on getting into the 70's also.  My granddaughter who was diagnosed at age 12 is now 16 and at age 14 was the youngest diabetic to complete a marathon, a full marathon and has since run two more. She also does cross country.  Illness and disease happens but what you do with you life in spite of these things count. Oh yes, I have a nephew who was diagnosed at age 4, he is mid 40's now a great person and an extremely healthy person, just needs his insulin.  He ate only Oscar Meyer weiners and peanut butter while growing up. We feared the worse for him because of it. His body shows no signs of a lifelong diabetes. Yet that is what he has had as long as he can remember. Nothing to do with his weight or life habits, just genes. 
Some of my siblings have smoked, most have not. The ones that did have had no ill effects from it. Some people smoke and never have any ill effects some have many. I think genetics has a lot to do with that.

I agree that the sodas and chips young children eat can make them way too fat and can cause diabetes. But I wonder if we took away the Mexican immigrants from our databases if we would see that skewed the diabetes statistics because of the strong genetic predisposition. I don't know this, I just wonder. I know that here in S Texas that is a large component of the diabetes population. And they have a very high percentage of leg amputations also. Grim, grim stats.

Posted by: Ruth H at June 15, 2009 02:41 PM (4eLhB)

5 Holy cow Sarah - the quotable things you discover. So true in so many ways.

Posted by: Darla at June 15, 2009 06:44 PM (LP4DK)

6 Ruth,

Genetics is a bad word for some. It's like the modern equivalent of fate in the old days. No one wants to be resigned to their fate. Modern people want to think they can be anything they want to be. But they can't. They can, however, be the best they can be - within limits. Genetic limits. The G-word again. Oops.

I too "really don't think what you eat has as much to do with it as some like to think." I eat anything I want at any time with no ill effects. I realize I'm very lucky. My diet might seriously harm someone else with different genes. (Granted, it's a low-meat, no-sweets, no-soda diet, but still ...)

Posted by: Amritas at June 16, 2009 12:49 PM (x4B1D)

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