Europe healthier than U.S.
Older Americans have higher rates of serious diseases than aging Europeans, a study says.
By Lisa Girion, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
October 2, 2007
Costly diseases, many of them related to obesity and smoking, are more prevalent among aging Americans than their European peers and add as much as $100 billion to $150 billion a year in treatment costs to the U.S. healthcare tab, a new study says.
The study by researchers at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health found higher rates of several serious diseases -- including cancer, diabetes and heart disease -- among Americans 50 and older as compared with aging Europeans.
..."We expected to see differences between disease prevalence in the United States and Europe, but the extent of the differences is surprising," said lead author Kenneth Thorpe, a public health professor at Emory and former deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Thorpe said the findings suggested that "we spend more on healthcare because we are, indeed, less healthy."...
...Physicians such as Rob Blackman, a Los Angeles internist, already counsel their patients to take a cue from Europeans in the way they eat -- less fast food -- and the way they pace their lives. Six-week vacations and afternoon siestas help reduce stress that makes people vulnerable to disease, he said.
Such conventions are commonplace in Europe but unheard of in the U.S., so the advice is often easier given than taken.
"Last year I took a 15-day vacation -- first time I took more than 10 days in 30 years," Blackman said. "I couldn't believe how much better I felt. It's like the old saying, 'You don't know how sick you are until you get better.' "...
...The U.S. healthcare system -- driven by when and how providers get paid -- does not promote prevention or effective and efficient disease management, Thorpe said.
Instead, he said, "We wait for people to get sick. They show up. We treat them. And doctors and hospitals get paid. That's not a very good way for managing disease."...