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01/31/2021

Dr. Steven Woolf Discusses How (Un)Healthy Are Americans (January 31st)

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(As noted below on the podcast website this discussion is the first of eight interviews concerning federal healthcare policy reform.  This discussion with Dr. Woolf was conducted in early November.  As you will hear this podcast, and all seven others, are introduced by ProMedica's CEO, Randy Oostra.  This series was produced in an effort to interest or persuade federal healthcare officials to pursue substantive health care policy reform.)   

Devoted listeners of the podcast will recall I interviewed Dr. Woolf in early 2013, or soon after the Institute of Medicine published,  "US Health in International Perspective, Shorter Lives, Poorer Health," a report in which Dr. Woolf served as the lead author.  As the 2013 report demonstrated, Americans are, compared to our peers in comparative countries, more disease burdened throughout our lifespan leading to earlier mortality.   This is true even for Americans whom are white, educated and insured.  Since the IOM report was published, US population health has not improved.  It has worsened.  Added to continuing epidemics in opioid overdoses and suicides, a long list of disease conditions, or over 30, have contributed to Americans experiencing shorter lifespans.   The greatest decline has been in midlife or among young and middle-aged adults, or from age 25 to 65.   US life expectancy stopped increasing in 2010 and have been decreasing since 2014.  Needless to say the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating this problem.   Systematic causes for our country's comparative health disadvantage include, beyond deficiencies in medical care, the prevalence of risky behaviors, socioeconomic inequalities, unhealthy environmental conditions and detrimental public policies.    

During this interview Dr. Woolf begins by discussing the effects the COVID-19 pandemic is having on US population health.  He goes on to discuss what explains our shorter life expectancy or our comparative health disadvantage, where geographically we see the greatest declines in life expectancy, he explains that even rich Americans are dying comparatively earlier, explains five systemic problems or factors that determine our health status, and notes the economic implications or poorer population health.      

Steven H. Woolf, MD, MPH, is the C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Distinguished Chair in Population Health and Health WoolfphotoMay2019-358x537 Equity Director Emeritus and Senior Advisor at VCU's Center on Society and Health in the Department of Family Medicine & Population Health, at Virginia Commonwealth University.  Among other credentials, Dr. Woolf has served as scientific adviser and member of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, has consulted in Europe as a visiting scholar, is a past North American editor of the British Medical Journal and was elected to the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences in 2001.  Dr. Woolf has published more than 170 articles in a career that has focused on evidence-based medicine and the development of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines, with a special emphasis on preventive medicine, cancer screening, quality improvement, and social justice.  Dr. Woolf, a clinical epidemiologist, he received in BA at the University of Missouri, his MD degree from Emory University and his MPH from Johns Hopkins.  in 1987. He is board certified in family medicine and in preventive medicine and public health.

For a transcript of this interview or to post a comment or question, please go to: https://commissiononhealthcare.org/

Concerning Dr. Woolf's more recent, related publications, see, for example, these 2018 BMJ and 2019 JAMA articles: https://www.bmj.com/content/362/bmj.k3096 and https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31769830/

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