You are surely familiar with the numbers. The U.S. spends much more per capita on health care than any other industrialized country; recent data indicate that the U.S. spent $7960 per capita annually, about $2500 more than its closest contender, Norway. Yet, over 30 countries have a longer life expectancy; this includes Japan, Portugal and England which spend less than half as much per capita on health care. Not only do we not live as long, we are also less healthy when you compare infant mortality rates, adult diabetes prevalence and a range of other serious health problems.

It’s obvious that spending lots of money on health care is not resulting in better health. Why is this so? One key reason is that the United States spends far less than many other countries on the many other factors that affect our HEALTH. Research consistently shows that people’s health is deeply influenced by their jobs, their income, educational opportunities and the social support their families can draw upon. According to a recent study published by Yale’s Global Health Institute, that was cited in The New York Times, the U.S. trails far behind other industrialized countries in its per capital expenditures on social services that can extend and improve life, like rent subsidies, employment-training programs, unemployment benefits, old-age pensions, family support, etc. So when you total the amount spent on health care and social services, the U.S. falls to 10th. And, as noted above, much of this spending is on health care not on other key approaches to improve health.

This is why health and public health advocates, as well as community members and policymakers, are joining together to improve how people live, learn, work and play as a means of achieving better health. We are forming partnerships in states and communities to increase access to education, secure jobs, community safety and other dimensions that improve lives and health. On the federal level, we are joining the fight to protect prevention funding in the Affordable Care Act from ‘raids’ to cover other budget items. We are expanding our sights and expanding our partners to improve health care and to improve HEALTH.

— Deborah Katz, Associate Director Roadmaps to Health: Community Grants