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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Emory: Public Health Researchers Recommend Reevaluating Approach Amid Declining U.S. Life Expectancy

Since 2015, average life expectancy in the U.S. gradually declined among all racial and ethnic groups, which included declines in nearly 12 preventable diseases and conditions such as substance abuse, chronic diseases, mental health factors, metabolic diseases, and various cancers. In a recent opinion piece published in the February 12 online edition of Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health recommended possible solutions to this growing health issue.

“Our recommendation is that we take a more integrated and holistic approach to research whereby we do not study biology in a vacuum, but in the context of socioeconomic and political factors,” explains K.M. Venkat Narayan, MD, MSc co-author and the Ruth and O.C. Hubert Chair in Global Health at Rollins.

Life expectancy in the U.S. ranks lowest among other high-income countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). OECD includes 36 of the world’s most advanced and emerging countries that span from North and South America to Europe and the Asia-Pacific. The U.S. also averages 2.5 times the average health spending of OECD countries and spends nearly $171.6 billion annually on medical and health research. Authors suggest realigning priorities to create a better understanding of potential solutions for improvement.

“The difficult part is that we are not dealing with a single factor,” says Dr. James W. Curran, the James W. Curran Dean of Public Health at the Rollins School of Public Health. “We have to understand how all of these additional important factors — socio-economic and political — interact with biology and access to care.”