The United States spends twice as much on health care than any other high-income nation — racking up close to $10,000 a year per capita — but despite the spending, health outcomes like life expectancy and infant mortality are well below average. To improve America’s health, the dean of Boston University School of Public Health, Sandro Galea, argues for a new framing of our public discourse in his book, “Well: What we talk about when we talk about Health.”

“It wasn't always like that,” said Galea, remarking on the U.S.’s poor health outcomes. “We have entered an era of extreme individualism, and we have lost sight of the fact that health is a public good.”

Personal choice does not happen in a vacuum, but is constrained by the systems we build as a society, said Galea on Greater Boston Monday.

“You're not going to exercise more if there are no parks and no places for you to exercise,” he said. “We need to invest in the structures around us to make us healthy.”

Although, Galea says, health care is vital to health, he argues that the two are not interchangeable and medical care alone will not make us healthier. Instead of focusing on medicine, he’s pushing for preventative measures rooted in living conditions like adequate housing and education.

Why is it important to care about the living conditions of others?

Galea says it’s because our health is “interlinked” through the systems around us. He says he sees the next step in improving America’s well-being as changing the conversation, and he is optimistic.

“We're actually heading in this direction,” he said.