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The Big Four Causes of Death in the U.S.

Posted by Joe Antle on May 1, 2017 7:20 AM EDT
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On March 17th, the National Center for Health Statistics released its latest findings of the leading causes of death.  Of the top ten causes of death, fully 77% of the deaths came from the top four causes....

...which are:  heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease and accidents (unintentional injuries).  A shocking bit of data, in the sense that if somehow we could find the most common circumstances across these conditions and develop effective ways to contain those circumstances, assuming they are containable, then we could put a major dent in reversing the recent trend of a decline in life expectancy.

And assuming yet further, that there are correlations between these leading causes of death and the costs of healthcare, interventions, surgeries and you name it then we can dramatically reduce the cost of healthcare itself, then there could be specific areas of focus that could provide a lift in improving overall population health across these four key causes of death.

In looking at other data, and using the common sense of an everyday person to build a hypothesis, several key elements come to mind.  While there may not be any one key thing that drives all four causes of death, there may be several.  I have discussed this with a number of my colleagues and some experts in the healthcare industry and others who have spent some time analyzing the CDC data.  Here's the short list of key drivers that if improved in a meaningful and sustained way could have huge impact on costs across the healthcare system as well as in these four areas that cause more than 77% of all deaths:

1.  Obesity (improve nutrition and physical activity)

2.  Substance Abuse (reduce dependence on alcohol and drug usage)

3.  Mental Health (increase impact of social and community wellbeing)

4.  Early Detection (improve access for all citizens to basic health check-ups)

So, there you have it.  Not scientific, per se, but based somewhat on science's findings.  The good news is this:  through healthcare and substance abuse education, programs to motivate and encourage lifestyle changes in eating, physical activity and emotional wellbeing, better models of care delivery and support and increased access to basic health check-ups there could be vast improvements over time in critical factors that drive both short term and longer term death causes.

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