If someone told you that Rutherford County is a better place for a man to live than the nation of Slovenia, you’d say, “Tell me something I don’t know.”
A new study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington finds that a man who lives in Rutherford County can expect to live 75.2 years, based on the statistics from 2000-2007.
That’s a higher life expectancy than Chile, Denmark, Portugal, the Virgin Islands and the United States as a whole.
It’s also a lower life expectancy than Bahrain, Brunei Darussalam, Puerto Rico (a U.S. territory), Qatar and, believe it or not, the aforementioned Slovenia.
For Rutherford County women, the study finds the life expectancy is an average of 79.5 years.
That tops Albania, Barbados, Brunei Darussalam, New Caledonia and Poland. But it’s worse than Argentina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Netherland Antilles and the United Arab Emirates.
If the U.S. has the greatest health care in the world, as those who are against implementing reforms that would make our health care delivery system more like that of Canada or Germany contend, why can’t one American county manage greater average life expectancies than nations in South America, eastern Europe and the Middle East?
The IHME study is important because the World Health Organization stopped trying to compare international health care delivery systems after its 2000 rankings, which placed the U.S. 37th in the world.
The WHO found it too complicated to throw all those statistics from all those widely varying systems into a blender and end up with a nice healthy smoothie they could pour into their databanks.
This study takes a different methodological approach.
“Despite the fact that the U.S. spends more per capita than any other nation in health, eight out of every 10 counties are not keeping pace in terms of health outcomes,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, IHME director and study co-author.
Mind you, he said eight of every 10 counties, not countries.
The researchers call the 10 countries with the lowest mortality the “international frontier.”
Compared with this group of nations, some U.S. counties have life expectancy rates that are no higher than those that the nations with the best health outcomes had in 1957—the year I was born (in the United States, in case you were wondering).
The authors of this research say it has nothing to do with the size of the nation, economics or racial diversity.
Preventable risk factors such as obesity and tobacco use are the keys, and it should come as no surprise that counties in Appalachia and the Deep South have the lousiest overall track record in the U.S.
According to the IHME study, Rutherford County is 15 years behind the international frontier for men and 24 years behind the international frontier for women.
So which countries are in the top 10 today when it comes to overall average life expectancy?
They are, from one to 10, Andorra, San Marino, Japan, Singapore, Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, Iceland and Italy.
There’s no need to move.
Let’s just face the fact that “the greatest health care in the world” and the personal habits of its consumers could be a lot better.