Presidential candidates say little about health challenges

2 min read

The current presidential candidates “have precious little to say” about some of the most compelling challenges relating to the nation’s health—such as the fact that Americans are living shorter lives and experiencing poorer health than people in many other countries, even though the U.S. spends more on health care than any other country, according to health policy expert John McDonough.

In a March 2016 article in the American Journal of Public Health, McDonough, professor of the practice of public health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, cited data from a 2013 National Academy of Medicine report that sheds light on what he calls “our nation’s dismal performance” in health outcomes. For example, the report found sharp disadvantages in the U.S. in areas such as infant mortality, injuries and homicides, adolescent pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections, and HIV and AIDS.

McDonough also cited an Urban Institute study that found “a shocking increase” in the mortality rate among U.S. middle-aged women that was three times faster than that of similarly aged white males.

Even though conversations about these health challenges aren’t happening in the 2016 “political circus,” McDonough said he is hopeful that, sometime soon, the political right and left will start discussing ways to offset the U.S. health disadvantage. He hopes they’ll start paying more attention to nonmedical social services such as education, day care, job training, housing support, and nutritional assistance—all social determinants that appear to boost health outcomes.