Among possible reasons cited in the report are communities built for vehicle travel, rather than walking or biking, American patterns of food consumption, risky behavior by American adolescents, stressful environments and polluted air, among others.
The panel that produced the report suggested better data collection and collaboration to make it easier to study what's going on. It said the National Institutes of Health and others should improve study methods to explain the differences in health between nations. And it said the NIH should seek soutions from a diverse pool of people.
It also called for national heath objectives, an education campaign to let the public know what's happening and creation of innovative policies to tackle the disadvantages.
"The consequences of not attending to the growing U.S. health disadvantage and reversing current trends are predicable: The United States will probably continue to fall further behind comparable countries on health outcomes and mortality," the report's summary said. "In addition to the personal toll this will take, the drain on life and health may ultimately affect the economy and the prosperity of the United States as other countries reap the benefits of healthier populations and more productive workforces."
"Research is important, but we should not wait for more data before taking action, because we already know what to do. If we fail to act, the disadvantage will continue to worsen and our children will face shorter lives and greater rates of illness than their peers in other rich nations," Woolf said.
The full report is available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13497.
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