Report Highlights Increase in Premature Deaths in the United States

Laura Joszt

An analysis of behaviors, community environment, policy, clinical care, and outcomes data has found a disturbing trend in mortality in the United States with premature deaths, drug deaths, and cardiovascular deaths all increasing.

The America’s Health Rankings Annual Report from United Health Foundation found that even the healthiest states in the nation experienced increases in key measures of mortality. For example, Massachusetts, which ranked as the healthiest states, reported a 69% increase in the drug death rate from 2012 to 2017. Utah, the fourth healthiest state, had a 10% increase in cardiovascular death rates—one of the largest increases in the country.

The report also found significant disparities, with the rate of cardiovascular deaths higher among African Americans that among whites, Hispanics, Asians, and American Indians/Alaskan Natives. Meanwhile, drug deaths were particularly high among whites, the report found.

United Health Foundation also found a wide variation in the concentration of healthcare providers throughout the country, which may contribute to differences in overall health. Massachusetts had the highest concentration of mental health providers, with 547.3 per 100,000 population, which is 6 times the number of mental health care providers in Alabama, which has just 85 per 100,000 population.

Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island had more than 200 primary care physicians per 100,000 population compared with Utah and Idaho, which had fewer than 100 primary care physicians per 100,000.

The report also ranked the states from healthiest to least healthy. The healthiest states were: Massachusetts (1), Hawaii (2), Vermont (3), Utah (4), and Connecticut (5). The least healthy state was Mississippi (50), followed by Louisiana (49), Arkansas (48), Alabama (47), and West Virginia (46).

In the span of 1 year, Florida and Utah made the largest changes in ranking, each jumping 4 spots in the list, while North Dakota made the largest negative change in its ranking, falling 7 spots from 2016.

Some of the health successes noted in the report included a decline in the percentage of adults who reported smoking at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime from 17.5% to 17.1%, with the prevalence of smoking dropping from 21.2% in 2012. Air pollution has also decreased, and the percentage of children younger than age 18 who were living in households at or below the poverty level decreased for the second year in a row.

Challenges facing the country include the increase in drug deaths, obesity, violent crime, diabetes, cancer deaths, cardiovascular deaths, infant mortality, and premature death.

“This report serves as an important tool for healthcare professionals, policy makers, and communities in their collaborative efforts to address these challenges, and help build healthier communities across the nation,” Rhonda Randall, DO, senior adviser to United Health Foundation, and chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare Retiree Solutions, said in a statement. “This is a call to action for each of us to make changes in our own lifestyles that can help improve our overall health and well-being.”
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