The Path Forward
Longer lives don’t always mean healthier lives, but health advocates know how to improve life expectancy for neglected counties. First, interventions need to be made to reduce health risks that can lead to early deaths, and second, costs of healthcare need to continue to come down given the strong relationship between life expectancy and income.
🫀 Reduce health risks—The US needs to reduce the risk of heart disease and drug overdose. For heart disease, early interventions like improving diets, increasing exercise, reducing cholesterol, and decreasing a person’s blood pressure can ensure that more Americans stay out of hospitals and avoid early death. As the leading cause of death in America, we can do more to ensure that more 655,000 individuals per year don’t die from this disease. For drug overdoses, we need to reduce the over-prescription of opioids and also help those who are already addicted. State and local governments can improve mental health facilities, provide drug overdose prevention kits with naloxone vials, and create protective locations for Americans in need. Mississippi, Alabama, and Kentucky are the states with the lowest life expectancies and also some of the highest incidences of heart disease and drug overdose and so interventions should begin here first.
🏥 Reduce healthcare costs — For the 38 million Americans living in poverty, healthcare costs can often be almost half of a family’s income. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Affordable Care Act was able to reduce healthcare spending by $2,000 per person from 2010–2017. Nevertheless, countervailing factors like rising prescription drug costs and rising hospital costs have offset some of these reductions. Telehealth services have greatly reduced the cost and barriers associated with healthcare. Families in rural regions can now access medical services even when they’re miles away from a hospital.