About 40 percent of coronavirus-related deaths in the U.S. could have been prevented if the country’s death rates had corresponded with the rates in other high-income G7 countries, according to a report.
The U.S. has among the highest covid deaths and infection rates in the world, with almost 497,175 Americans dead and 28,262,355 million people infected. U.S. cases are expected to rise above half a million in coming weeks.
The Lancet, an international peer-reviewed medical journal owned by Netherlands company Elsevier, set up a Commission on Public Policy and Health that was tasked with assessing former President Donald Trump’s health policy record.
Launched in April 2017, the commission chronicled repercussions of the Trump’s administration’s actions and charted policies for a healthy future. The commission is made up of U.K., U.S. and Canadian commissioners from a variety of disciplines.
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The commission faulted Trump’s “inept and insufficient” response to covid-19 but said that poor health outcomes in the U.S. have been ongoing for decades.
In 2018, two years before the pandemic, the report said 461,000 fewer Americans would have died that year if U.S. mortality rates — frequency of death in a population — matched the lower mortality rates of other Group of Seven nations — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.K.
The report attributed the higher U.S. death rate to increased fatal substance use and suicides. Analyses of cause-specific mortality found increases in fatal substance use and death by suicide since 1999 — conditions that economists Anne Case and Nobel Prize winner Angus Deaton labeled “deaths of despair”.
The covid-19 pandemic has highlighted health inequalities faced by Black Americans and other minority groups, with the rate of death among African Americans three times higher than that of whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The overriding thing that we need to do in our country is to decrease the huge and widening inequalities,” said Dr. David Himmelstein, the Lancet Commission co-chairman and a professor at the City University of New York’s Hunter College, USA Today reported.
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Years of mistrusting government health initiatives and lack of access to healthcare have also made many Black Americans reluctant or unable to get the covid-19 vaccine. In Florida, where Black people constitute 16 percent of the population, just 5 percent have been vaccinated.
Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a co-chair at the Commission, said public health measures such as mask-wearing and physical distancing could have saved lives, but Trump failed to create a national response, and instead left crucial decisions to states.
“(Trump’s actions) caused a lot of citizens to fail to take it seriously and interfered with the kind of coordinated response they have been able to use in a lot of countries that are more successful than the U.S. in controlling the epidemic,” Woolhandler said.