By Faculty members Mary Anne Mercer and Stephen Bezruchka
The United States has been competing in the modern Olympic Games since they began in 1896, and doing well. We win the most gold medals in the summer games, and we usually stand second in winter contests. The Olympic Games rankings are important measures of status for competing countries, rallying citizens to support their athletes to excel, beat previous world records, make their countrymen and women proud. Books about the intense challenges of competing and winning in the Olympics are best-sellers.
Being an Olympic sport requires an international sanctioning body. What would it take to have a new event, paralleling the sports Olympics, that ranks countries according to their accomplishments in producing healthy citizens?
The World Health Organization would be an appropriate sanctioning body. Given today’s collection of annual births and deaths, a whole range of comparisons could be developed: the longest-lived overall; longevity for subgroups; death rates in young children; deaths to women from pregnancy-related causes. Let’s call these the Mortality Games, or the Health Olympics.