Last week was a good demonstration of how a culture can significantly influence its nation’s health outcome. The Japanese, by being Japanese, have enhanced their mortality rate making them the best nation in the world for health outcomes. (Bezruchka, 2011) Not all cultures are so egalitarian however and require more programs or impetus to effect change in their health status. As we look at Europe, two countries which stood out to me were Sweden, a relatively wealthy country, and Slovenia; much poorer and agrarian relative to other European nations.
In comparing the U.S. to Sweden, it has become very obvious that Sweden has taken its population health much more seriously. Sweden has put in place laws and programs which affect the prenatal and neonatal development of its children. (Bezruchka, 2011) Sweden has realized that good health outcomes begin early, and has in place social programs giving new mothers a mandatory year of paid leave. (Bezruchka, 2011) This paid leave allows the parents, especially the mother, time to be present during the most critical time of development. (Laureate, 2011) Sweden also has state funded day care centers for when the mother does return to work. By investing in the early stages of child development, Sweden is curbing the expenses of later health care costs. The U.S., in comparison, does not have any programs for maternity, paid leave or child day care. There are a few corporations such as Facebook, Google, and Cisco which are at the forefront of providing for their employees. (Alsever, 2013) These represent corporations investing in their employees, and not a government concerned about the health of its people. The programs are not free to the employees. (Alsever, 2013)
Another European country which differs both from Sweden and from the U.S., is the smaller and substantially poorer country of Slovenia. The Public Health Department in a rural area called Murska Sobota, have discovered the importance of intervention programs focusing on the social qualities of life. (Laureate, 2011) Dr. Branislava Belovic noticed that technology does not always bring with it a healthier way of life, and began the “Let’s Live Healthily” program. (2011) Participants have begun taking walks together, growing gardens, and enjoying social events. This is an effort to thwart the rise of stress, obesity and heart disease prevalent in the region (2011) In contrast; the U.S. ignores the social determinants and focuses on health care. The U.S. population faces the same healthcare issues as Slovenia, but rather than focus on the root causes we continue to invest in better treatments of the symptoms.
The Efforts in Sweden and Slovenia
Sweden has focused some of its public health resources where studies have shown it will give the biggest benefit; the early developmental years of its population. (Laureate, 2011) The two programs it has instituted focus on the first years of life which have been shown to be crucial for upstream...