Are Americans Healthy?

The US Government has just released a report on the health of Americans, entitled appropriately Health, United States, 2003. This report is big -- 471 pages long. It is available as both a printed volume and on-line. The advantage of the on-line version is that it will be periodically updated and revised.

The report is full of both good news and bad. The good news is that the life expectancy of Americans has reached an all time high. But the bad news is that, during the last five years, the number of Americans diagnosed with diabetes increased by 27%. In addition to statistics concerning Life and Death, the report also includes Preventive Care (for example, vaccinations and pap smears), Behavior and Risk Factors (such as obesity and smoking) and Access to Health Care (visits to a doctor or clinic).

Comment: Statistics can point out the problems. The real challenge is to find the solutions.

For more in-depth information, please see the following articles:



Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors,

HHS Issues Report Charting Steady Gains in Americans' Health, Though Diabetes Remains Growing Concern

Life expectancy in the United States reached an all time high in 2001, and the gap between blacks and whites has narrowed, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) annual report on the Nation's health. The report also finds evidence that the diabetes epidemic is getting worse; between 1997 and 2002, the percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes increased by 27 percent.

"While this report shows we're continuing to make progress in improving Americans' health, we know that we can do much more to reduce the impact of diabetes and other chronic, preventable diseases," HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said. "There are simple steps we can all take, such as eating wisely and staying active, that can reduce the toll that diabetes, obesity, and heart disease take on our lives."

Health, United States, 2003 is a comprehensive report with the latest statistics from Federal health agencies, the U.S. Census Bureau, population surveys, and other data. The report was prepared by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) in HHS' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is the 27th annual report to the President and Congress, as required by The Public Health Service Act.

In a special section on diabetes, the report notes that 6.5 percent of American adults were diagnosed with diabetes in 2002 compared with 5.1 percent in 1997. Another recent study shows that about 12 million adults have been diagnosed with diabetes and an additional 5 million adults have the condition but don't know it.

An estimated 12 million adults have impaired fasting glucose tolerance and many of these will go on to develop diabetes unless they successfully adopt changes in weight management and physical activity -- steps that can prevent and reduce obesity, which is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. In addition, visits to physician offices and hospitals for diabetes have increased dramatically since the mid-1990s.

Diabetes was the fifth leading cause of death among women and sixth among men in 2001. People with diabetes run the risk of severe complications, including heart disease, chronic kidney disease, blindness, and amputations.

"Prevention is the only sure way to stem this epidemic," said Dr. Julie Gerberding, CDC director. "By eating a healthy diet and engaging in regular physical activity, individuals can greatly reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes."