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Health Indicators Analysis: Life Expectancy and Neonatal Death Rate

As compared to other countries, United States incur higher per person cost on health. Despite the heavy investment in healthcare, United States still trails various developed nations in healthcare. Multiple health indicators reveal that United States has not achieved universal healthcare as many would expected. Two major health indicators where US lag other countries are life expectancy and neonatal death rate.

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Health Indicators Analysis
Source (Gapminder, 2013).

Life expectancy is defined as the average number of years people are expected to live assuming mortality rates remain constant across time. The world’s average life expectancy is 71 years (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2010). Females have a higher life expectancy at 73.6 years compared to 68.4 years for men (Wang, 2012). This is according to a UN that covered the time period from 2010 to 2013. The US is ranked 35th in life expectancy at 79.8 years (Central Intelligence Agency, n.d.). Females are expected to live longer at 82.3 years while men’s life expectancy is 77.3 years (CIA, n.d.).

According a recent OECD report, despite United States spending heavily in healthcare, there is an inescapable trend of short lifespan across multiple socio-economic fronts (National Association of County and City Health Officials, 2013). The report reveals that Americans’ lifestyles make them vulnerable to multiple health risks that lower their life expectancy (CIA, n.d.). For instance, Americans eat a lot, rely on cars for movement and incur high medical costs. Moreover, there are accessibility issues in addition to engaging in many other unhealthy behaviors. As a matter of fact, it is projected that despite the adoption of extensive health coverage, pressure on healthcare staff is likely to limit expected gains.

Amongst the health risks blamed for short life expectancy are drugs and alcohol abuse, obesity, diabetes, lung problems, heart ailments, high infant mortality, homicides and HIV/AIDS (CIA, n.d.). These are major contributors to short life expectancy in the US. Additionally, it is important to point out that Americans are prone to gun violence, which is a factor that also contributes to a lower life expectancy.

Life expectancy is highest in Hawaii and Minnesota, 81.48 and 80.85 years respectively, while it is lowest in West Virginia and Mississippi at 75.5 and 70.1 years respectively. The low life expectancy in West Virginia is attributed to poor staffing, high level of poverty, increase in use of tobacco, obesity, heart disease and cancer. On the other hand, Hawaii and Minnesota have high life expectancy due to their high average income per person, as well as increased accessibility to healthcare and number of public health initiatives.

As far as the second health indicator is concerned, surprisingly, United States has a high rate of neonatal death rates as compared to other industrialized countries. Additionally, various reports indicate that United States records the highest number of first day infant mortalities as compared to other developed nations. Neonatal deaths covers only babies that die aged four weeks and below. Based on data collected between 1990 and 2013, deaths per 1000 live births declined from 33.2 to 23.9 globally. In the US, neonatal death rates have declined from 8 per 1000 live births to 6.17 deaths per 1000 live births from 2009 to 2013 (World Health Organization, 2014). However, this was not enough to raise its global health profile; US is till ranked at position 41 way below other developed nations (United Health Foundation, 2013). As a matter of fact, many would be surprised to find that the mighty United States could be ranked as low as this when it comes to an issue as serious as health.

Alabama and Mississippi currently have the highest mortality rates in the US, 8.71 and 9.67 respectively per 1000 live births. On the other hand, the lowest rates are recorded in Alaska and New Hampshire, that is, 3.75 and 3.96 deaths per 1000 live births respectively (Centers for Disease Control, 2011). Although in Alabama one is more likely to be gunned down, die in a car crash or be murdered, such deaths are few and do not contribute to its high mortality rate. High infant mortality rates in Alabama and Mississippi are attributed to reduced number of healthcare providers, low income and inadequate access to healthcare (Bezruchka, 2010). On the other hand, Alaska and New Hampshire have heavily invested in maternal healthcare as well as post-natal care. These factors have without a doubt contributed to the low infant mortality rates in the two states.

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In general, the overall picture in the US based on health indicators discussed is blurry. As a matter of fact, the statistics reveal that it is not enough to spend a lot on healthcare; rather it is important that the money is invested based on the priority areas. Most evidently, the problems in the US lie not in curative healthcare, but rather in preventive healthcare. It is crucial that more money is invested in public health initiatives that target behavior change with emphasis on the ones that increase health risks. Additionally, the disparities between states indicate the varied factors that should be considered if life expectancy is to be increased and neonatal death rates reduced. The states with higher neonatal death rates and low life expectancy are those with low income per person, inadequate healthcare givers and poor investment in healthcare.


Bezruchka, S. (2010). Health equity in the USA. Social Alternatives, 29(2), 50–56.

Centers for Disease Control. (2011). Health disparities and inequalities report—United States. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 60(19), 1–116.

Central Intelligence Agency. (n.d.). The world factbook. Web.

CIA. (n.d.). Country Comparison: Infant Mortality Rate. Web.

CIA. (n.d.). Country Comparison: Life Expectancy at Birth. Web.

Gapminder. (2013). Gapminder world offline. Web.

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National Association of County and City Health Officials. (2013). Health demographics. Web.

United Health Foundation. (2013). America’s health report. Web.

Wang, H. (2012). Age-specific and sex-specific mortality in 187 countries, 1970–2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. The Lancet, 380(9859), 2071–2094.

Wilkinson, R., & Pickett, K. (2010). The spirit level: Why greater equality makes societies stronger. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Press.

World Health Organization. (2014). World health statistics. Web.

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