Although Christopher Columbus was not the first European to step foot in the Americas, he was the explorer who paved the way for the permanent settlement of the New World by Europeans, which ultimately led to the founding of the United States.

In our daily routine of work and home, it’s easy to forget to celebrate the greatness of our country. Columbus Day is a perfect time to reflect on some of the amazing things the United States has accomplished in the past 239 years, especially in the field of healthcare:

  • Over 90% of children in the United States are vaccinated against dangerous diseases, such as polio and smallpox. During the early 20th century, these infectious diseases took a huge toll on the population but today they have almost been eradicated.
  • The United States has seen a sharp decline in deaths from heart disease and strokes. Leading causes of the decline are the decrease in adult smoking, changes in diet, improved medical care and a decrease in mean blood pressure levels in the population.
  • Prevention of disease through nutrition was once a radical concept, but is now routine. As the United States population ages, increased attention is being paid to the dietary changes necessary for senior citizens and assuring food safety, especially for vulnerable populations like the elderly.
  • Advances in family planning have allowed for improved women’s health, including lower rates of pelvic inflammatory disease, cancers of the ovary and endometrium, recurrent ovarian cysts, benign breast cysts and fibroadenomas and discomfort from menstrual cramps. Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go in raising public awareness and preventing unintended pregnancy: 49% of pregnancies are unintended and 54% of these end in abortion.
  • An important accomplishment of the second half of the 20th century has been the reduction of smoking amongst American adults. Smoking is a cause of lung and laryngeal cancer in men, a probable cause of lung cancer in women and the most important cause of chronic bronchitis in both genders. Of course, there are still way too many smokers in the U.S. About 48 million American adults smoke cigarettes; half of those who continue to smoke will die from a smoking-related disease.

The United States invests $2.7 trillion in healthcare. This astronomical sum is responsible for all the advancements mentioned above, as well as significant leaps in research, prevention and treatment of all the diseases currently known to man. When Columbus landed on almost deserted island in the Bahamas, he little dreamed of the great nation which would emerge on the newly discovered continent.