• Description

From 2019 to 2020, life expectancy in the United States declined by 1.5 years, reaching its lowest level since 2003. It fell yet again in 2021. In fact, the health of Americans has been declining for decades, compared with citizens in other high-income countries:  In 2020, life expectancy in the United States was nearly five years lower than it was in other industrialized countries, and it has only declined further as the country has faced the world's largest total death toll from COVID-19. Unlike the United States, in 2021, many of its peer countries have started to see rebounds in life expectancy with the help of the COVID-19 vaccination.

As health declines, it adversely affects not only quality of life but also the economy and national security, including workforce productivity, health care costs, and the fitness of military recruits. Yet these adverse health impacts are not felt equally across U.S. society. For example, the decline in life expectancy has been greater among Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black populations than among the non-Hispanic white population. To eliminate these disparities and those that exist in economic and social systems, an intentional focus on redressing structural and institutional racism is critical. Improving the health of the most vulnerable populations will not only boost overall health outcomes and social well-being, but also strengthen the economy and help to build a strong, equitable future.

Policies to strengthen the nation's health must therefore ensure that individuals and all communities are healthy and thriving and that no one is left behind. This can be done through long-term, sustained investments to prevent disease, promote health, and prepare for and respond to continuous and urgent threats to health. Namely, by addressing social determinants of health—such as income, education, housing, employment, transportation, environmental conditions, and neighborhood conditions—policymakers can improve health, reduce racial disparities, and contribute to economic mobility.

This report outlines 10 priorities for improving the nation's health.

Top 10 Ways To Improve Health and Health Equity