County-by-county life expectancy rates add up to health ‘report card’ for U.S.

    A new roundup of county-by-county life expectancy information is like a report card for health officials across the country, researchers say.

    The latest information is for 2009. It shows, for instance, a baby girl born in Philadelphia that year has a life expectancy of nearly 79 while her twin brother could expect to live about 71 years.

    A boy born in Bucks County would, on average, live to 78.

    Women live longer than men in the United States, but researchers say in recent years women’s life expectancy gains have slowed in the U.S.

    Ali Mokdad, the leader of the research team, worries about women’s health. He also worries about the political wrangling over women’s health.

    “The debate, when it comes to the health of women, is about contraception and about abortion,” Mokdad said. “I would love for the debate to be about life expectancy, and the health of our women, and are we giving them the preventive services they deserve?

    “And the answer is ‘no.’ And this will affect all the women in the U.S.,” he said. “Abortion and contraception affect a small segment of our population.”

    Mokdad points to treatment of chronic disease as an area in need of improvement. “Diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol — [women] are less likely to control these conditions than men,” Mokdad said.

    In New Jersey, Essex County is somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to life expectancy, but it showed impressive gains in the 20 years between 1989 and 2009

    Life expectancy for women increased by five years; men added an extra eight years.

    The new data are from a health research group at the University of Washington in Seattle.

    The new study also offers a progress report for the United States compared with other countries.

    Mokdad says the United States is falling behind countries such as Australia, a good comparison because, like the United States, it’s a relatively new country, with a native population and many immigrants in recent years.

    From 1989 to 2009, average life expectancy for men in the United States rose by nearly five years. For women, the increase was about three years.

    “In our global work, this is nothing in terms of change,” Mokdad said.

    Men and women, combined in Australia improved life expectancy by 12 years over the same 20 years, he said.

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