What We’re Reading: Public Health Emergency in Puerto Rico; Depression Rates and Anxiety Screening; Cancer Death Rates Decrease

HHS declared a public health emergency in Puerto Rico due to Hurricane Fiona; nearly 1 in 10 Americans suffered from depression in 2020, and a task force recommended doctors screen all adults aged younger than 65 for anxiety; advances in cancer research have led to reduced cancer death rates.

Public Health Emergency Declared in Puerto Rico

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra declared yesterday a public health emergency for Puerto Rico due to the flooding impact of Hurricane Fiona. This declaration grants CMS beneficiaries, providers, and suppliers more flexibility to meet emergency health needs. HHS has sent a 15-person health and medical task force and a 10-person incident management team, both of which are working with health authorities and emergency response officials in Puerto Rico. According to the HHS news release, additional staff from the National Disaster Medical System, the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and the CDC are ready to provide medical care and public health support in Puerto Rico.

Increased Depression Rates; USPSTF Recommends Anxiety Screening

Nearly 1 in 10 Americans 12 years and older experienced a major depressive episode in 2020, The Hill reported. According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, more than 9% of Americans in a nationally representative sample of 278,176 individuals suffered from depression in 2020, and rates of depression were higher among Americans younger than 25. More than 17% of young adults and 16.9% of adolescents experienced a major depressive episode in 2020, increasing from 10.3% and 12.7%, respectively, in 2015. While the COVID-19 pandemic played a role in these increases, the researchers said depression rates were worsening long before the pandemic. In other mental health news, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) announced Tuesday its recommendation that doctors screen all adults younger than 65 years for anxiety. The USPSTF made a similar recommendation for Americans under 18 earlier this year, and said this new guidance aims to help prevent mental health disorders from going undetected and untreated for years. The task force will finalize the guidance after reviewing public comments.

US Cancer Death Rates Decrease

Advances in cancer research, treatments, and screening have led to a drop in cancer death rates, according to a report published today by the American Association for Cancer ResearchThe 2022 Cancer Progress Report announced that, as of January 2022, there are more than 18 million cancer survivors in the United States—up from 3 million survivors in 1971. The report also noted an accelerated decline in cancer mortality rates, with a 2.3% decrease in cancer deaths every year between 2016 and 2019. This is likely a result of 8 new anticancer therapeutics being granted FDA approval and 10 anticancer therapeutics and 2 new diagnostic imaging agents being granted FDA expanded use.