RICHMOND, Va., Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Although a health scorecard of 17 nations found the United States at or near the bottom, an expert says improvement could begin immediately.
A report by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council noted in the 1950s the United States was ranked on top for life expectancy and disease.
However, since the 1980s, U.S. health declined and today U.S. men rank last in life expectancy among the 17 countries in the study, and U.S. women rank second to last, the report said.
Dr. Steven Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Richmond said society and government could improve a lot, but individuals could too.
"The conditions that are responsible for this U.S. health disadvantage -- every single one of them -- are things that individuals can help prevent or reduce their risk," Woolf said in a statement.
The report found it was Americans age 50 and under dying prematurely due, in part, to gun violence, drug overdose, smoking, alcohol abuse, vehicle accidents, obesity, riding motorcycles without helmets, poor prenatal care and sexually transmitted diseases that pulled the U.S. ranking to the bottom.
The oldest Americans, age 75 and older, were at the top of the ranking, the report said.