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Health Care Issues in the United States Trumeka King Professor Gary Morris HSA 500 1/22/12

Health Care Issues in the United States The health care system of the United States has change in many different ways during the last century. It has evolved from a system which lacked technology and knowledge of medical science, to a nation full of the vast wealth of medical technology and how it applies to its community. Due to the rapid growth, health care has become a significant force The nations health care system has increasingly moved to center stage, drawing the attention of many Americans and our nations politicians. (Torrens & Williams, 2009) With all of this attention and government interaction, it is no wonder why our nation strives to improve and rationalize the health care system. While there are many aspects to discuss in terms of improvement, this paper will attempt to explain how health care is affected by behaviors, economics, and social structure. Also, it will discuss the three stages of medical technology, major trends in population demographics, as well as the most important trends in mortality over the past century. Behavior, Economics, and Social Structure The behavior or involvement of the public, economics and social structure are three aspects that greatly affect the health care system in the U.S. Behaviors or individual involvement of the nation has significantly impacted the health care system of the past as well as present day. Health care and medical science during the early stages of the health care development can be best described as hands on; people were basically responsible for their own health care and the care and treatment of their family members too. Surprisingly, the period from 1850 to 1900 may have been the time when people themselves were most involved in health care and how it worked. They did this, not because their efforts were elaborate or effective, but rather because they knew that they were all that their families and friends had to

rely on. (Torrens & Williams 2009) Disease was considered more of a target, there were epidemics of acute infections which were related to the poor living conditions and quality of life people faced at that time. As time and technology progressed individual involvement and behaviors toward health care began to change as well. Todays public is much more informed and educated about healthcare and how to utilize it. Chronic diseases such as mental and emotional illnesses have become more prevalent. Although the targets have changed to longterm continuous chronic conditions, the basic structure of the delivery system continues to function as if its targets are short term, discontinuous, and acute in nature. (Torrens & Williams 2009) Economically health care has shown tremendous growth; in its early stages technology and medical science were virtually non-existent. There was very little in the way of scientific knowledge, the professions were relatively primitive in training and practice, very little money was spent on health care and hospitals were places of simple shelter (Torrens, Williams 2009). As time transpired technology and medical science exploded and the number of doctors and hospitals grew along with it. However, with the growth of medicine, technology, and its professions grew the expense. Rapidly rising health care costs have definitely become a huge topic of concern amongst the nation. "Health care costs are partly so high because they have been increasing rapidly," said Stuart Guterman, assistant vice president for the Commonwealth Fund's Program on Payment System Reform. "There's a long list of factors like technology and the organization of health care that doesn't promote efficient and effective care (Khan, 2010). The rising cost of health care has certainly become a hardship for many Americans, especially in light of the economic state of the country right now.

The social structure of the American health system has also changed, with the emergence of programs like Medicare and Medicaid. These programs gave the federal and state governments access to the health care system. They became active providers and managers of insurance programs, thereby making them available to elderly and the poorest of the nations people. However, social structure is still considered an issue of which social class an individual comes from. Many Americans still feel that social class is a definitive factor in health care. Class is a potent force in health and longevity in the United States. The more education and income people have, the less likely they are to have and die of heart disease, strokes, diabetes and many types of cancer (Scott, 2005). These three elemental factors have truly impacted how health care is perceived in the United States. Stages of Medical Technology Medical technology can be compartmentalized into three phases; development, diffusion and wide-spread utilization. The first phase of development involves the birth of a scientific concept; this is where a product is brainstormed into an actual idea. This process involves a huge amount of scientific research and can become very tedious because the research is so extensive. Often time it takes years to fully research a product because the process could last years. Diffusion, the second phase of medical technology development includes the process of turning the idea into a product and distributing it. In this phase, the role of basic science research becomes somewhat less important than that of applied science and refinement of the original idea. (Torrens & Williams 2009) The last phase of technology development is, utilization, in this phase the product is made generally acceptable and available for use by patients and physicians. This part of the process

incorporates the use of private companies and for the most part private capital. A host of elaborate clinical trials are carried out to test the effectiveness of the product and readiness for marketing and distribution to patients. Major Trends in Population Demographics The United States is the third-largest population globally, and is responsible for at least 4.6% of the worlds population. Over the last half century the U. S. has experienced a major growth spurt, and is continually growing. Several factors can be attributed for this major range in growth a few trends responsible are; declining mortality rates, and fertility levels. Americans are getting older and living longer, this trend is a result of low fertility and a rise of elders who are healthier and more active than previous generations. The baby boom generation will have accelerated population aging, but aging will continue to be one of the most important defining characteristics of the population, even after the youngest of the baby boom population has passed away (Shrestha, 2006). Fertility is another key determinant of population; this trend influences the total population size. Although it differs by age group, studies show that birth rates for older women are higher for younger women. Additionally, the number of live births to unmarried women and first time mothers since the 1990s this type of data is useful to provide insight into population behaviors and how it affects health care. Important Trends in Mortality There are many indicators used to gauge mortality, this gives an overall synopsis on the health of the country. Mortality data which is composed at the time of death is the usually a matter handled by the local government. State agencies maintain vital statistic bureaus to

measure these trends and provide accurate data concerning mortality. Some of the major trends in mortality are specific causes of death, HIVand infectious diseases, cancer, lifestyle patterns and disease, and infant and maternal mortality. All of these trends combined help to understand the dynamics of the American population. In conclusion, there are many factors which affect health behavior, economics, and social structure are topics which just brush the surface of determinates that have impacts on health care and its functions. With America steadily growing and living longer, it is safe to predict that the United States health care system will most likely continue to grow along with it.


Khan, H. (2010, March 9). Why Health Care Cost Keep Rising: What You Need To Know. Retrieved from Torrens, P., & Williams, S. (2009). Introduction to Health Services. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning. Scott, J. (2005, May 16). Life at the Top in America Isn't Just Better, It's Longer. The New York Times. Retrieved from 8B63 Shrestha, L. (2006). The changing demographic profile of the united states. CRS Report for Congress, 1-28. doi: RL32701