Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

Life Expectancy in the US Dropping

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

In 2009, a baby born in America could expect to live an average of 78 years, according to estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  But this is now changing: A study in the Journal of Health Metrics shows the United States now ranks behind 10 other developed countries when it comes to life expectancy, even though Americans spend more on health care than people in most other countries.

Another study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, found that between 2000 and 2007, more than 80% of counties in the US fell in standing against the average of the 10 nations with the best life expectancies in the world. Five counties in Mississippi have the lowest life expectancies for women, all below 74.5 years, putting them behind Honduras, El Salvador, and Peru. Four of those counties, along with Humphreys County, MS, have the lowest life expectancies for men, all below 67 years, meaning they are behind Brazil, Latvia, and the Philippines.

Nationwide, women fare more poorly than men. The researchers found that women in 1,373 counties – about 40% of US counties – fell more than five years behind the nations with the best life expectancies. Journal of Health Metrics editor, Dr. Chris Murray says “It’s a real surprise to us in the study that women are faring so much worse than men. American women still live longer than men by five to eight years. But they have picked up some bad habits: Women are now smoking more.  The obesity epidemic in women is greater than in men. Progress in tackling blood pressure is much worse in women,” Murray added.

So, what we need right now is more Blue Zones in the US.  The phrase was coined by in 2004 by author, Dan Buettner, who teamed up with National Geographic and hired the world’s best longevity researchers to identify pockets around the world where people reach age 100 at rates 10 times greater than in the United States – the blue zones. Some of them are:

  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Loma Linda, California
  • Nicoya, Costa Rica
  • Ikaria, Greece

So, where are our Blue Zones? Women live the longest in Collier, FL, at 86 years on average, better than France, Switzerland, and Spain. Men live the longest in Fairfax County, VA, at 81.1 years, which is higher than life expectancies in Japan and Australia. Women are also living long lives in Teton, Wyoming; San Mateo and Marin, California; and Montgomery, Maryland. For men, long life spans also can be found in Marin, California; Montgomery, Maryland; Santa Clara, California; and Douglas, Colorado.

Creating Quake-Proof Hospitals

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

New technologies may help California to build quake-resistant hospitals.California hospitals are just 21 years away from a requirement that they must be able to operate without interruption, even after a significant earthquake.

In response to the January, 1994, Northridge earthquake, the California Legislature passed — in November of that same year — SB 1953, the Hospital Facilities Seismic Safety Act to assure that hospitals meet seismic requirements. After the Northridge earthquake, 23 hospitals were forced to suspend some or all of their services.  Hospitals sustained more than $3 billion in quake-related damages.

SB 1953 required hospitals to meet three deadlines.  By 2002, they had to brace major non-structural systems such as backup generators, exit lighting and other features.  By 2008, all general acute-care inpatient buildings at risk of collapsing during a strong earthquake must have been rebuilt, retrofitted or closed.  By 2030, all hospital buildings must be operational following a major earthquake.

In the years since the legislation was passed, there has been an explosion in the use of quake-resistant technologies in Japan following a massive 1995 earthquake – technology that could be employed by California hospitals to meet the 2030 deadline.  The first quake-resistant system, known as “rubber bearing,” was created in New Zealand in 1977.

Nagahide Kani, of the Japan Society of Seismic Isolation, says the technology has already been implemented in a New Zealand office building and a U.S. courthouse.  Rubber bearings are comprised of layered thin rubber and thin steel plates, and their installation under a structure lets the building move flexibly in a horizontal direction and is highly resistant to quakes.  Additionally, Kani says the steel plates prevent the bearings from buckling even under a heavy structure.

Rubber bearing technology has been installed in office blocks, housing, and the administrative buildings of Japan’s central government.  Technologies introduced after rubber bearings are less costly and suitable for lighter buildings, according to Kani.

About 10 years after the rubber bearings’ introduction came the development of a “sliding isolation system” or slider.  This is made up of a bearing pad atop a curved surface.  During a quake, the pad slides on the curved surface to absorb tremors and support the structure.  Another base isolation system employs ball bearings that slide on parallel rails.  According to Kani, the current emphasis is the application of such quake-resistant solutions to existing buildings, including aged edifices.  He notes that development of quake-related technologies will be a never-ending process.

Sadly, California’s law is an unfunded mandate, so no state or federal funds were allocated to help hospitals pay for the improvements.  Hospitals that cannot afford to comply with SB 1953 by the deadlines will be forced to close or reduce patient services.

The W.H.O. Considering a Swine Flu Pandemic Alert

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) is on the verge of declaring swine flu a global pandemic.  That’s Level 6, the highest possible.swine-flu_682_801667a

With the disease now in 64 nations worldwide, dozens and even hundreds of cases have occurred in countries such as Great Britain, Spain, Japan, Chile and Australia.  Right now, Southern Hemisphere countries are under the W.H.O.’s microscope because it’s the start of their winter and another strain of the H1N1 virus was widespread there last year and is resistant to Tamiflu, Roche AG’s flu pill, as are most common strains of flu.

Before raising the alert to Level 6, the W.H.O. will have to present evidence of extensive “community transmission”.  This means that the flu is being diagnosed on two continents and in cases other than travelers, schools and immediate contacts.  If swine flu is eventually declared a Level 6 pandemic, the W.H.O. may add a qualification that the disease is not especially deadly.  Only 117 swine flu deaths have been reported worldwide.  The flu has been diagnosed in all 50 of the United States.