America's Greatest Health Problem

What is the greatest health problem in the U.S.?  If you watch television you might conclude that it is erectile dysfunction, testosterone deficiency or postmenopausal vaginal dryness; after all, medications for those maladies are heavily advertised on prime-time programming, including the evening news.

Looking at statistics, others might suggest that our greatest health problem is heart disease, cancer, diabetes or some other common American disorder.  But, in my opinion, our most pressing health issue relates to preventive care, specifically to the lack of attention that it receives among the general population.  While those with insurance might show up for their annual physical (a practice of questionable value in young, healthy adults), too many Americans ignore recommendations related to diet, exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption, illicit drug use, seat belt use and other lifestyle choices.  Among the reasons for this deficiency is the conviction that modern American medicine will bail them out with wonder drugs, invasive procedures, screening tests and the latest surgical techniques.

Unfortunately, this unbridled faith in American medicine is misplaced.  Despite our expensive, high-tech healthcare system, America does not rank in the top 50 countries when it comes to longevity.  This sad fact reflects both the lack of adequate healthcare services for impoverished citizens and the sedentary lifestyle of most Americans, reflected by the high rate of obesity and its numerous sequelae.  Americans should rely on their healthcare provider for guidance but their personal health will depend primarily on the lifestyle choices that they make.