United States Vs. United Kingdom: Factors Affecting
the Health Status of these Countries
This paper aims to compare the health status of
the United States of America with another industrialized country. The paper
will analyze the health status of both countries. Then, it will look at access
to health care, the most prominent health problem faced by the residents of the
countries mentioned above, and the ways using which said health status of
people living in these countries could be improved. The country whose health
status will be compared to the United States of the America is the United Kingdom.
I selected the United Kingdom because it was
the first country ever in the world to become industrialized. (Sachs, 2015)
Also, it was selected because in term of their political setting, the United
States and United Kingdom are very similar. For instance, currently, Donald
Trump, who is a Republican, is the president of the United States, and the
current prime minister of the United Kingdom is Theresa May, who belongs to the
Conservative Party. Both these leaders share similar values and ideas in term
how their countries should be governed. Specifically, in terms of healthcare,
one can observe that the views shared by these leaders are very similar in
nature. For example, Theresa May has made cutbacks to the funding of the United
Kingdom’s healthcare system: the National Health Services (Campbell and
Hopkins, 2017), and Trump’s administration is currently in the process of
repealing the Affordable Care Act (BBC, 2017). Therefore, considering the sociopolitical and economic situation of
both United Kingdom and the United States, it can be assumed that people living
in the U.S. and the UK live very similar and equally unhealthy lives.
Currently, UK’s life expectancy is 81.60 years
while the U.S.’s life expectancy is 78.74 years. (World Bank, 2015) Additionally,
the current death rate of the UK is 1.010 per 100,000 population (Office for
National Statistics, 2017) while the current death rate of U.S. is 823.7 deaths
per 100,000 population (CDC, 2017). These differences may not seem huge to a
casual observer, but to those of us in the field of health care, these
difference are massive. This difference in life expectancy can be attributed
towards several different issues. However, this paper will only take three most
pressing health concerns faced by both countries into account: obesity, access
to healthcare, and smoking.
The World Health Organization ranked the U.S.
as the most obese country in the world, with 30.6% of its population suffering
from obesity. According to the World Health Organization, rise in fast food
consumption is directly correlated to the rise in obesity in the U.S. and the
UK. (De Vogli, 2013) Since both these countries are extremely capitalistic and
highly industrialized, the need to consume fast food, or food that is available
in a really short period of time, is understandable. However, fast food
contains saturated fats, salts, and sugars in high proportions. These additives
do nothing but make one fat.
Additionally, for the U.S., the sedentary
workplace is attributed as another reason for obesity. According to a study,
“only 20% of today’s jobs require at least moderate physical activity, as
opposed to 50% of jobs in 1960.” (Parker-Pope, 2011) The same reasons apply to
the UK as well.
Even though the funding for the NHS has been
gutted with a machete, the UK still fares better than the U.S. when it comes to
providing healthcare to its citizens. According to the Guardian, “The survey,
by U.S. health think tank the Commonwealth Fund, showed that while a third of
American adults “went without recommended care, did not see a doctor when sick,
or failed to fill prescriptions because of costs”, this figure was only 6% in
the UK and 5% in Holland.” (Ramesh, 2010) Additionally, healthcare in the UK is
free for its residents, while it is not the same for the U.S. Residents of the
U.S. have to pay heaps of money to see a doctor, even if it is for a minor
condition. To those who were underprivileged, the Affordable Care Act, or as it
is better know as Obama Care, provided some solace. However, now Trump’s
administration is in the process of repealing Obama Care, making access to
healthcare even scarce and extremely expensive to those in need.
The Center for Disease Control, U.S., (2016)
cites smoking as one of the biggest reasons for death in the U.S. According to
the CDC, 1 in every 5 death in the U.S. occurs due to smoking, with smoking
leading to a total of 480,000 deaths every year. Additionally, by 2016, 17.7%
of the population of ages 25-44 was found to be smoking. While the number of
cigarette smokers in the United States has dropped by 8.6 million since 2005
(Harris, 2016), the incidence of smoking is still high in comparison to the UK.
According to the Office of National Statics, and as seen in Figure 1 below, in
2015, “of all adults in the UK 17.2% smoked, down from 20.1% of adults who
smoked in 2010.” Additionally, “2.3 million people in Great Britain used
e-cigarettes in 2015; for half of these, “vaping” is used as a means to quit
smoking.” (ONS, 2016) From this data it can be inferred that the rate of
smoking in the UK is less than the rate of smoking in the U.S. While both
countries have seen a significant decrease in the use of tobacco, the United
States is still at risk as compared to the UK.
the Possible Response to Address the Health Disparities
First, we shall address the issue of obesity.
The United States and the United Kingdom are both grotesquely obese in their
entirety. According to De Vogli (2013) obesity can be reduced by adopting a
healthier lifestyle, i.e. exercising more, eating less junk food, eating more
vegetables, cooking at home instead of ordering takeout etc. However, for those
living in a high-paced life, or for those living on a very limited pay, these
options are not suitable. Supposedly, the only way obesity can be reduced is by
exercise. Exercise is the only option that can be used by people of all classes
and work schedules in these countries.
Secondly, the UK’s healthcare system does not
need improvement; it is catering to the needs of its citizens in a very
efficient way. The U.S should follows the UK’s footsteps and establish a
universal healthcare system that is available to every single person living in
the United States.
the incidence of smoking is high in both countries; and while the UK has less
smokers per capita than the United States (ONS, 2016), that does not mean
smoking is not a problem in the United Kingdom. The only solution both the
governments of the U.S. and the U.S. have come to is increasing the tax on
tobacco. This solution is not a sustainable or feasible one since this does not
change the ratio of smoking much (NPR, 2017).
perspective of this topic has not changed very much after conducting a research
on this topic. I was already aware of these disparities existing between the
two countries, but now I have substantial proof to backup my claims. However, I
have learned to use academic websites to look for research papers. I
particularly liked JSTOR. This form of research has given me practical
experience that I will continue to benefit from in my academic journey.