Popular Health Issues in the United States in 2017/2018

The extent to which the Affordable Care Act will be repealed hangs in the balance, but one thing we are sure of is that these health issues will play an important role in the American healthcare system in 2017.

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HIV: a popular Health Issue in the US

Despite vast advances in retroviral therapy, HIV and AIDS continue to be a problem for the United States, with 39,513 people having been diagnosed in 2015. Despite the spread of the disease, the percentage of Americans who consider AIDS the most urgent health problem in America has dropped significantly. Reasons for the drop in worry include statistics indicating that black men who have sex with black men make up 45 per cent of new AIDS diagnoses. This is the case despite the fact that young African American men take less rugs, have less unprotected sex and sleep with less partners, than in the past. The extent to which the Trump government may cut HIV spending (if at all) remains unknown, though LGBT groups have expressed concern that one of Trump’s first moves post-inauguration, was the removed of references to the LGBT community. Funding is vital for HIV positive individuals, who become 95 per cent less likely to transmit the disease to someone else if they are receiving antiretroviral treatment.

Unauthorized Substance Abuse:

Statistics show that opioid and heroin addiction has grown to epidemic proportions in the past 15 years. Accidental deaths and overdose are on the rise, involving a number of different drugs (not just heroin or opioids). The list includes stimulants, antidepressants, antibiotics and hormones. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the most pressing issues is the role played by cocaine in overdose deaths from heroin and synthetic opioids. A recent study shows, for instance, that the percentage of overdose deaths involving cocaine and opioids increased from 29.4 per cent in 2000, to 63 per cent in 2015. Under the Affordable Care Act, treatment is guaranteed to those suffering from mental conditions (including substance abuse). Treatment is vital, especially for those who abuse highly addictive drugs, or those with are used to manage pain. Once again, it is unclear whether or not this part of required coverage will be affected under the Trump administration.

Obesity: A serious Weight Challenge

Being overweight or obese is linked with some of the most devastating disease in existence – including specific types of cancer, heart disease and Type II diabetes. The National Cancer Institute has already stated that obesity can reduce an individual’s lifespan more than smoking can. In states like Kentucky or Tennessee, the obesity rate is over 32 per cent. In West Virginia, meanwhile, it stands at over 34 per cent. The issue lies far beyond the obvious – diet and physical activity. Factors such as genetic predisposition and cultural traditions are also relevant. Obesity is related to the most prevalent health problems in America, including heart disease, Type II diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure).

Smoking and Tobacco Intake:

Despite the growth in awareness campaigns and knowledge about the negative health effects of smoking and passive smoking, around 15 in every 100 adults in America currently smokes. The rate has declined from 21 out of every 100 adults in 2005, yet the fact is that over 36 million Americans continue to smoke. Given that the habit can be so difficult to quit and that it is related to heart disease and cancer, more coordinate population measures are necessary, including the provision of more smoking cessation services, an increase in tobacco taxation and mass media health promotions.

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Poor Environmental Quality:

Americans from the poorest economic strata and racial and ethnic minorities face a higher risk of suffering health conditions related to poor environmental quality. Issue which can affect health include fracking and reckless strip mining (found to have a strong link with birth defects, chronic heart, lung and kidney disease etc.).

The Race to Develop New Vaccines:

Scientists will keep busy in 2017 working on vaccines for viruses such as Ebola and Zika. In America, older vaccines such as those for measles and mumps, may not be as efficient as they once were.

Reproductive Health Care:

In states such as Texas, where spending on this issue has been cut, the number of pregnancy-related deaths has risen. One recent study showed that Texas has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world. Reproductive health advocates blame Republican-fueled budget cuts that saw $73.6m cut from the state’s family planning budget in 2011. Texas and other states with high maternal mortality rates can benefit from the establishment of more family planning tickets, which conduct well-women exams and cancer screenings, and provide free or cheap birth control.

The United States, like the rest of the world, will also be investigating into ways to fight highly-resistant ‘superbugs’, which kill around 700,000 people annually on a global scale. At a recent U.N. General Assembly, world leaders committed to specific measures aimed to stop superbugs from wreaking havoc.

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This is a guest article written by Helen Mullins (helen@arielback.org)
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