Given that people in the U.S. spend more money on health care than the rest of the world combined, then logic would dictate that we have the best health outcomes. Well, we don’t. Why? Increasing evidence from epidemiologists— the scientists who study the health of populations — indicates that everything from life expectancy to infant mortality to obesity, can be linked to the level of economic inequality within a given population. Almost a quarter of U.S. families live in poverty, the highest of all rich nations. Poor health and poverty go hand-in-hand. Checkups are deferred. Pain is endured. People engage in wishful thinking, i.e., maybe that numbness in my foot will just go away. Single payer universal health care would go a long way toward addressing our absurdly expensive health care system and reducing the number of unnecessary early deaths.
Stephen Bezruchka is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington. He worked for many years as an emergency physician in Seattle. His particular areas of research are population health and societal hierarchy. He has spent over 10 years in Nepal working in various health programs, and teaching in remote regions. He is author of numerous articles and essays. He is a contributor to Sickness and Wealth, a book on the effects of global corporatization on health.