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Gallup Poll: Cost Is Top Health Problem in U.S.

Obesity ranks first among ailments (November 21)

According to a new Gallup survey, nearly one-quarter of Americans (23%) say cost is the most urgent health problem facing the U.S. today, a 4% increase since last year that has allowed cost to surpass access as the most pressing issue. Americans named access as the top problem from 2007 to 2012.

Among actual health ailments, obesity ranks first, with 13% naming it. This figure is in line with last year, when an unprecedented 16% saw obesity as the main culprit bedeviling the nation’s health. Simultaneously, cancer, the second-leading cause of death in America, has fallen to fourth place on the list. Two percent of respondents mention heart disease, the nation’s leading cause of death.

Other health threats that have attracted considerable mention in the past, such as the flu and bioterrorism, failed to register at all in 2013. Although the percentage mentioning mental illness is small at 2%, it is higher than in previous years, when no more than 1% named it as the top problem. The increase could be related to the media attention the condition has received after it was mentioned as a possible factor in several U.S. mass shootings, Gallup says.

This is the first Gallup poll conducted since major portions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) were rolled out. Two of the main issues the law is designed to address — health care access and cost — remain the most vexing to Americans. In particular, the percentage citing cost as the central problem is the highest since 2008.

Although disapproval of the PPACA has increased recently, the new Gallup data indicate that many Americans appear to agree with two of the rationales for the law, namely that health care is too expensive and that many struggle with obtaining access to these vital services.

Results for the Gallup poll were based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 7–10, 2013, with a random sample of 1,039 adults (aged 18 years and older) living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Source: Gallup; November 21, 2013.

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