MD, PhD, MAE, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

An epidemiological study from the US just published in the BMJ concluded that “the mortality gap in Republican voting counties compared with Democratic voting counties has grown over time, especially for white populations, and that gap began to widen after 2008.”

In a BMJ editorial, Steven Woolf comments on the study and provides further evidence on how politics influence health in the US. Here are his concluding two paragraphs:

Political influence on US mortality rates became overt during the covid-19 pandemic, when public health policies, controlled by states, were heavily influenced by party affiliation. Republican politicians, often seeking to appeal to President Trump and his supporters, challenged scientific evidence and opposed enforcement of vaccinations and safety measures such as masking. A macabre natural experiment occurred in 2021, a year marked by the convergence of vaccine availability and contagious variants that threatened unvaccinated populations: states led by governors who promoted vaccination and mandated pandemic control measures experienced much lower death rates than the “control” group, consisting of conservative states with lax policies and large unvaccinated populations. This behavior could explain why US mortality rates associated with covid-19 were so catastrophic, vastly exceeding losses in other high income countries.

Observers of health trends in the US should keep their eye on state governments, where tectonic shifts in policy are occurring. While gridlock in Washington, DC incapacitates the federal government, Republican leaders in dozens of state capitols are passing laws to undermine health and safety regulations, ban abortion, limit LGBT+ rights, and implement more conservative policies on voting, school curriculums, and climate policy. To understand the implications for population health, researchers must break with custom; although scientific literature has traditionally avoided discussing politics, the growing influence of partisan affiliation on policies affecting health makes this covariate an increasingly important subject of study.

_____________________

What has this to do with so-called alternative medicine (SCAM)?

Not a lot.

Except, of course, that Trump has been quite sympathetic to both quackery and quacks (see, for instance, here and here). Moreover, the embarrassing Dr. Oz, America’s charlatan-in-chief, is now a Republican candidate for the US senate. And the creation of the NHI office for alternative medicine, currently called NCCIH, was the idea of the Republican senator, Tom Harkin.

I think we get the drift: on the US political level, SCAM seems to be a right-wing thing.

Am I claiming that SCAM is the cause of the higher mortality in Republican counties?

No.

Do I feel that both are related to irresponsible attitudes towards healthcare issues?

Yes.

22 Responses to Politics and mortality in the United States

  • One of biggest democratic money donors made Dr. Oz and endorsed his quackery, ironic. Oprah and Trump apparently on same team. I am pro-choice on abortion except after first trimester.
    You should be happy mortality rates on republicans, since you post against them all time.

    • all the time???

      I post against ANYONE who promotes nonsense in healthcare!

    • @Jim

      Aren’t you happy that Dr. Oz chose to switch sides? I for one am ecstatic that he did and won his primary and is playing for our side. I am confident that our boy Ozzy will win in November.

      Just look at Trumpty Dumpty, he used to be a Democrat: https://www.thoughtco.com/was-donald-trump-a-democrat-3367571 and even donated to Democrats: https://ballotpedia.org/History_of_Donald_Trump%27s_political_donations until he switched sides and all is history. He has been winning ever since and is not tired of it yet. That twice impeached grifter is the most successful president in the modern history of US. If only he had been successful at overthrowing the government after he lost in 2020. But don’t you worry Jimmy, he will try again in 2024 and this time we can all go back to the Capitol with more people and snatch Democracy from the jaws of election winner and appoint our one and only true King Emperor Trump, to rule us for the rest of eternity.

      • At Honest Ape,

        Yes, I know Trump was a lifelong Democrat and donated much money to Clintons. I read once why he changed forgot though. President Reagan switched parties as well.
        Personally, I do not like Trump, I voted for him though, twice.
        I do not know Dr. Oz’ s political leanings, I do not like him because he is a charlatan. He does not fall in my state so out of my political arena.

        • I do not like Trump, I voted for him though, twice.

          Whether you like the fella or not doesn’t seem to influence how you vote. I call that hallmark of a good Republican. Towing the party line, no matter how far the party goes is what we do, because we know the alternative is far worse. amirite? Jimmy Boy!

  • President Trump stopped bureaucratic polices to find a vaccine in record time, he stated numerous times to get vaccinated for covid. Where do you get your info on American politics?

    • show me where my post is factually incorrect, please.

      • The study is a complicated one, with many variables, and even more potential variables.
        I found that it fell short in one specific metric, and perhaps one that matters most when studying mortality…. age.

        Even though the age of Democrat party voters has risen, it still holds a lower percentage of voters over the age of fifty.
        https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/10/26/what-the-2020-electorate-looks-like-by-party-race-and-ethnicity-age-education-and-religion/

        Age and Generation
        “The U.S. electorate is aging: 52% of registered voters are ages 50 and older, up from 41% in 1996. This shift has occurred in both partisan coalitions. More than half of Republican and GOP-leaning voters (56%) are ages 50 and older, up from 39% in 1996. And among Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, half are 50 and older, up from 41% in 1996.”

        One other factor I found interesting to consider….. the role of Independent voters. In the link above, it says that “Around a third of registered voters in the U.S. (34%) identify as independents, while 33% identify as Democrats and 29% identify as Republicans, according to a Center analysis of Americans’ partisan identification based on surveys of more than 12,000 registered voters in 2018 and 2019.”
        So more voters would like to identify as Independent voters than either D or R. According to this Pew study, this block of voters makes up about 33% of all voters. This is never the case in US elections, the vast majority of votes go R or D. However, if it is true, then this would certainly be a sufficient variable to skew the results of the study.

        • may I ask: what are your qualifications to judge the scientific validity of the study?

        • I am sorry to tell you that the last comment you submitted (and I did not post) disqualified you from ever posting on my blog again.
          so, go yonder and multiply!

        • @James Joromat

          James Joromat says:

          I found that it fell short in one specific metric, and perhaps one that matters most when studying mortality…. age.

          However, you obviously failed to read even the abstract of the said study you are critiquing:

          Objective To assess recent trends in age adjusted mortality rates (AAMRs) in the United States based on county level presidential voting patterns.

          (emphasis mine)

          James Joromat says:

          One other factor I found interesting to consider….. the role of Independent voters…..
          ….
          So more voters would like to identify as Independent voters than either D or R. According to this Pew study, this block of voters makes up about 33% of all voters. This is never the case in US elections, the vast majority of votes go R or D. However, if it is true, then this would certainly be a sufficient variable to skew the results of the study.

          You again failed to understand a basic fact that for the purpose of this study voters were classified into D or R based on how they voted and not how they registered. Here is the relevant text from the study:

          Counties were classified as either Democratic voting or Republican voting for the four years that followed a presidential election, based on the results in November of a given election year.

          You said it yourself, vast majority vote either R or D so that is why the researchers chose to classify based on how people voted and not how they chose to register (R, D or I). So, when it comes to the conclusions of this study, fact that there are a large percentage of registered Independents is irrelevant.

    • @Jim

      President Trump stopped bureaucratic polices to find a vaccine in record time, he stated numerous times to get vaccinated for covid.

      Except when Trump chose to promote HCQ and Ivermectin causing Republicans to go bonkers for those two drugs: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2789363

      https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/ivermectin-demand-drives-trump-telemedicine-website-rcna1791

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/03/31/ivermectin-is-signature-example-politics-trumping-health/

    • Trump has claimed for months, against his better judgment, that Corona poses little danger.
      He said in early 2020 that the virus would be gone in a few weeks.
      He has actively obstructed protective measures.
      He has insulted, belittled and threatened Fauci and other scientists.
      He appointed two advisors (Atlas and Birx) for the corona policy, who had no idea about the matter and only talked after his mouth.
      He has promoted Ivermectin and Hydroychloroquine as effective drugs to fight COVD-19, despite research data to the contrary.
      He has pressured Pfizer and Moderna to seek approval for the vaccines with insufficient data and pressured the FDA to approve the vaccines before the 2021 election.
      Trump is responsible for many millions of Corona illnesses and thousands of deaths due to all of the above.

      Yet you’re still kissing this guy’s feet. What a pathetic individual you are. How low are you going to go?

  • Killing babies after first trimester is nonsense, didn’t you take an oath to save lives unless emergent to host? It becomes grotesque a Dr would kill a baby after 1st trimester, certain circumstances would omit that of course, incest, rape or health of host.

  • I don’t recall me saying factually incorrect on conservatives, I pointed out hypocrisy of post.

  • Do I have to ask again to not censor my rebuttals? I am being discreet.

  • @Edzard
    I must point out one error: former senator Tom Harkin is a Democrat, not a Republican. I’m also not sure if Republicans are generally more supportive of SCAM than Democrats.
    I do however think that they are detrimental to public health in the US (and increasingly so), because they let their political motives prevail over the safety, health and well-being of the citizens they pretend to represent:
    – They block laws to make healthcare more accessible, more efficient and much cheaper – as these laws would infringe on the personal freedom for people to choose not to get healthcare insurance. As a result, US healthcare is the worst, the most inhumane AND by far the most expensive in the western world. Commercial health insurance companies spend a significant amount of the premiums they receive on efforts aimed at preventing payment, people get sued and bankrupted by hospitals because they can’t pay the bills even if they have health insurance, and people are even being refused admittance to hospital until they can prove that they can pay the bills.
    As a result, millions of people suffer and die needlessly, all because Republicans adhere to a sick concept of ‘personal freedom’. And oh, in an almost cynical display of hypocrisy, they just took away the personal freedom of pregnant women.
    – They block laws for protecting the environment and curbing pollution, because commercial interests and ‘small government’ are more important than public health – see e.g. the Flint water crisis.
    – They block laws limiting firearms sales and use, and even force states with stricter firearm laws to adopt more ‘gun-friendly’ regulations. This insane ‘freedom’ for every citizen to carry lethal firepower costs the lives of > 40,000 Americans every year, a quarter of which as a result of homicide. No other western country in the world has this level of gun deaths.
    – For political reasons, they generally block anything that Democrats come up with, even things that are arguably beneficial to everyone.

    And no doubt, there are lots of other examples showing that Republicans don’t care about people. They only care about promulgating their own twisted ideas of ‘freedom’. Even if this leads to millions of people losing their freedom (to end a pregnancy, to visit a doctor, or to simply walk the streets in safety, without the fear that at any moment, someone may pull a gun out and start shooting).

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