We know what makes for an unhealthy country, but this month Foreign Policy takes a look at five examples of countries that have a healthy populace. A lot of the key strengths come from policy initiatives: government-sponsored pre-work workouts in Japan; extensive, government-funded prenatal and natal care in Iceland as well as three months of paid professional leave for both parents; holistic social care in Sweden, which includes comprehensive health care and safer streets for evening strolls; and a high number of doctors per-capita in Cuba. The biggest threat to the health of three of the five they list: the importation of the American diet.
The addition of fitness programs, family leave, and safe streets is important. Sure, we can have all the health care in the world here, but our entire way of life is set up to make us unhealthy. Our work hours are longer than most of other developed countries. Paid maternity leave isn't guaranteed, and paternity leave is virtually non-existent. Walking and biking are not only not supported, but they're actively undermined as feasible activities in most areas. And even where you can walk or bike, it's often unsafe or unpleasant. We subsidize cheap, unhealthy food. So even with a shiny, new, comprehensive, universal health care plan in place sometime soon, it's going to take a lot more to make Americans healthy.