Dying of Poverty

New Orleans      The trend for advanced countries and economies like the one we have enjoyed in the United States is that the net effect is that we live longer because health care, nutrition and the bounty of modern life extends life expectancy. The gap has traditionally been between developing countries and advanced economies.

It was startling to see an article in my stack of New York Times from my trip to India by Kevin Sack pointing out that there are “widening gaps in life expectancy based on the interwoven variables of income, race, sex, education and geography.” A government funded study by Harvard researchers found a decline in counties in the southern Delta counties of the Deep South, Appalachia, the southern Plains, and in Texas particularly in the counties along the Rio Grande.

Diabetes, lung diseases, and cancer were the big killers pushed along by smoking, obesity, and hypertension. Majid Ezzati, one of the authors, noted that “The line of excuse that we can live with inequality as long as on one is getting worse is just no longer there.”

The Congressional Budget Office director, Peter Orszag, noted that it was “remarkable in an advanced industrial national” to see the declines in some of these areas that are masked by general advances enjoyed by the top end of the wage and wealth scales. The docs also noted that in the US we simply don’t have policies that are aimed at reducing “fundamental socioeconomic inequalities” so we really shouldn’t be surprised.

John Edwards noted frequently that there are two Americas. The one at the bottom turns out to also be dying of poverty and dropping like flies. How can we allow this?

Signs of a widening health gap