Americans today live shorter, sicker lives than people in other developed countries, and, across the nation, health varies by income, education, race and ethnicity, and geography. Warning that the United States will pay the high price in lost lives, wasted potential and squandered potential resources until these gaps are closed, a comprehensive report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) calls for leaders across sectors to make health equity a priority for the nation.
Why Does Health Equity Matter?
When health equity is achieved, “everyone has the opportunity to attain full health potential, and no one is disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of social position or any other socially defined circumstance,” the report says. And ensuring that opportunity is crucial not just for individuals, but also for the nation’s economic and growth prospects, for its national security and for its communities’ well-being and vibrancy.
Data show the costs of current health inequities: The report estimates that racial health disparities alone are projected to cost health insurers $337 billion between 2009 and 2018. The impact on national security is also high, with some 26 million young adults unqualified to serve in the U.S. military because of persistent health problems, or because they are poorly educated or have been convicted of a felony.
…The Cost of Inequality
- In 2015, the percentage of low-birthweight infants in the U.S. rose for the first time in seven years.
- Racial health disparities alone are projected to cost health insurers $337 billion between 2009 and 2018.
- Health care spending accounted for 17.5 percent of GDP in 2014.
- In 2014, VA-enrolled veterans accounted for 17.9 percent of suicide deaths among U.S. adults.
- People with disabilities are more than twice as likely not to receive medical care because of cost.
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