2005_03_health_NYCWomen.jpgThe best predictor of one’s health is one’s wealth. And no better an illustration of that fact is this week’s NYCDOH’s report about the health of women in New York City. Women in the poorest neighborhoods have a life expectancy 5 years shorter than those who live in the highest income neighborhoods. Hispanic women and women with low incomes are less likely than others to have health care coverage. Low-income women are the most likely to report fair or poor health, regardless of race/ethnicity. Low-income Hispanic women exercise less. Black and Hispanic women are more likely to be obese and low-income black women have the highest rates of obesity. New AIDS diagnoses are highest among black women (likely heavily contributing to the Black community’s widespread belief the HIV virus was concocted in a federal laboratory). AIDS deaths are lowest in high-income neighborhoods in NYC. Black women in NYC have the highest hospitalization rates for mental illness. Alcohol and drug-related hospitalization rates are highest among women living in very low-income neighborhoods. Women with health care coverage are more likely to receive mammograms and Pap tests than those without coverage.

Gothamist Health could go on and on and on. About forty-five million people are uninsured in America. A little over twenty-five percent of the uninsured are children and ninety percent of those children have at least one working parent. But a person's health is not always about having insurance and easy access to medical care. The states that spend the most Medicare dollars per capita often have similar health outcomes indices than those states that use far fewer dollars. Also, countries with a higher per capita number of physicians tend to have higher mortality rates.

Gothamist Health believes there are essentially four factors that contribute to a population’s health -- our genes, our lifestyle, our environment, and the medical care we receive. The government and the public health system can regulate our environment (through the EPA or designing safe roads) and lifestyle (thanks for the smoking ban Mayor Bloomberg!), but the vast majority of money spent on the health of our nation is spent on medical treatment. The investment in medical treatment possibly uses up resources that might otherwise be better spent on the other factors that influence our health such as education, clean housing, or events to ensure a safe neighborhood. We already spend nearly fifteen percent of our GDP on healthcare meanwhile other industrialized countries spend an average of 8.9%. We are spending more and more on medical care and much less on prevention. Maybe this is the reason the U.S. ranks 25th in the world for infant mortality rates and 24th for "Healthy Life Expectancy."