Sample Letters to the Editor
Your Sept. 12 news article reports that Americans' life expectancy
is increasing. Should we be elated? It all depends on what the yardstick
is. Do we give the Olympic gold medal to the first-place finisher,
or to the one who did better than last year?
While life expectancy in the United States has indeed increased,
it has done so for the entire century. Japan, however, has led
the pack since 1977 and does so while spending only about 6.5%
of its gross national product on health care. The United States,
near the bottom of all the rich countries in life expectancy,
spends about 15% of its gross national product on health care.
The major cause of our dismal showing is the widening income
distribution between the rich and poor (Front page, Sept. 14).
No other factor has been shown to infuence a nation's health more
than measures of income distribution: a country with a more unequal
income distribution than another country will have a lower life
Stephen Bezruchka, Seattle
(Published in the Editorial Page of the New York Times September
Japan's refusal to accept our idea that it shold have a crisis
(front page, April 21) speaks well for a different measure of
health than economic growth. If a society is measured by life expectancy,
Japan has been on top since 1976. The United States ranked 26th
How does Japan achieve such health? Not by following the usual
advice given in the United States. The proportion of Japese
males who smoke is twice that in the United States, yet their death
smoking are far less. Japan does not need incrased competition
in medicine, as your article suggests. It spends less than half of
what we do per
capita on health care and achieves far more.
The notions of "giri-ninjo" (duty and empathy) account
for Japan's health. Social cohesion, not medical care, is the
magic potion. It is measured by income distribution, which is
more closely associated with life expectancy than any other measure.
Stephen Bezruchka, M.D., Seattle
(Published in the Editorial Page of the New York Times April 24,