FDA/CDC

U.S. deaths from preventable causes occur more often in rural areas


 

The most rural counties in the United States had higher percentages of potentially preventable deaths from the five leading causes of mortality, compared with the most urban counties during 2010-2017, according to study published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

These leading causes of death comprised heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke and accounted for approximately 1.7 million deaths or 61% of all deaths in 2017.

The study presents estimates, percentages, and annual percent changes for potentially excess deaths by urban-rural classification from heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke. Urban-rural categories were identified using the National Center for Health Statistics 2013 urban-rural classification scheme for counties.

The report’s main findings include the following statistics:

  • In 2010, 28.7% of deaths from cancer in the most rural counties were potentially preventable, compared with 17.9% in the most urban counties. By 2017, 21.7% of cancer deaths in the most rural counties were potentially preventable, compared with 3.2% in the most urban counties.
  • In 2010, 45.1% of deaths from heart disease in the most rural counties were potentially preventable, compared with 33.5% in the most urban counties. By 2017, 44.9% of deaths from heart disease in the most rural counties were potentially preventable, compared with 28.0% in the most urban counties.
  • In 2010, 60.9% of deaths from unintentional injury in the most rural counties were potentially preventable, compared with 25.4% in the most urban counties. By 2017, 64.1% of deaths from unintentional injury in the most rural counties were potentially preventable, compared with 47.8% in the most urban counties.
  • In 2010, 54.3% of deaths from chronic lower respiratory disease (such as COPD) in the most rural counties were potentially preventable, compared with 23.4% in the most urban counties. By 2017, 57.1% of deaths from chronic lower respiratory disease in the most rural counties were potentially preventable, compared with 13% in the most urban counties.
  • In 2010, 41.6% of deaths from stroke in the most rural counties were potentially preventable, compared with 31.7% in most urban areas. By 2017, 37.8% of deaths from stroke in the most rural counties were potentially preventable, compared with 27.4% most urban counties.

“This report demonstrates the value of analyzing potentially excess deaths according to the six 2013 [National Center for Health Statistics] urban-rural county classifications. Reporting trends in potentially excess deaths over an 8-year period highlights differences over time, independent of traditional underlying structural, environmental, and genetic factors,” wrote Macarena C. Garcia, DrPH, and coauthors.

“Because of increasing percentages of potentially excess deaths in recent years for certain causes of death and certain demographic groups, these data can be used, with traditional rate comparisons, by public health practitioners who are involved in planning interventions. Comparing the findings in this report with data from tools such as the CDC Interactive Atlas of Heart Disease and Stroke might help identify the social determinants, health care infrastructures, and public policies that could increase or decrease numbers of deaths in specific nonmetropolitan areas,” they added.

The study authors did not disclose any potential conflicts of interest.

klennon@mdedge.com

SOURCE: Garcia MC et al. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2019 Nov 8: 68(10);1-11.

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