October 7, 2020 | The Hill
Restoring the American Dream will make America healthier
By Atheendar S. Venkataramani for The Hill
“What’s the point? I’m not getting out of here anyway.” That’s what my patient, a working-class man in his 30s, told me when I asked him whether he would consider quitting smoking. He went on to explain that he did not believe that he had a real chance at a better life, and so didn’t see the point of trying to kick his 20-year smoking habit.
It’s been years since I last saw that patient, but I think about him often. His story highlights a key reason that America’s health has declined so dramatically in the past few decades. For many Americans, the loss of hope for a better future has harmed their health.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, America had been mired in a 40-year health crisis. Starting in the late 1970s and early 1980s, life expectancy stopped increasing as quickly as it did for other industrialized countries and a few years ago it started to fall. Almost all of this has been driven by worsening health outcomes for low- and middle-income Americans.