Picture of the Pentagon building, taken December 26, 2011/ AFP via Getty Images.
What Makes America Safe? Budget Priorities and Public Health

A new study has estimated that life expectancy in the United States dropped sharply between 2019 and 2021, decreasing by three years on average, the steepest decline in nearly 100 years. The impacts hit hardest in Hispanic, Black, and American Indian/Alaska Native populations. Despite the common threat of the Covid pandemic, there was no comparable drop in life expectancy in other advanced industrial nations.

A precise accounting of the causes of this devastating development cannot yet be made, but Dr. Steven Woolf, a co-author of the study, attributed it broadly to “the U.S. health disadvantage.” The New York Times summarized his definition of the term:

“ . . . a fragmented, profit-driven health care system; poor diet and a lack of physical activity; and pervasive risk factors such as smoking, widespread access to guns, poverty and pollution. The problems are compounded for marginalized groups by racism and segregation, he added.”

While many of the factors outlined above can be tied to behavioral and cultural factors, government policies also play a role. Budget priorities are particularly important. The United States is over-invested in war and preparation for war, and under-invested in measures aimed at alleviating poverty and disease, which kill more Americans than any current or recent global conflict, by a wide margin.

Read the full piece in Forbes.

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