Overall U.S. death rate declines after seeing rare rise in 2015

CDC imageThe overall U.S. mortality rate declined in the first quarter of this year, according to preliminary data from the National Center for Health Statistics, an arm of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The news came as a relief to researchers who had been taken aback by a rise in the nation’s death rate in 2015, an event that has happened only a few times in the past 25 years. Researchers believed the increase was due in part by a rise in fatal drug overdoses, which have been on the upswing since the 1990s.

“This is good news, given that there was an increase in mortality in 2015,” Andrew Fenelon, assistant professor of health administration at the University of Maryland, said in a New York Times article. “Maybe the 2015 increase was a quick blip, and the trend of decline will continue.”

The mortality rate — a measure of deaths per 100,000 people — is a key indicator of the health of the nation. It almost always declines, driven by improvements in medical care and healthier living through diet and exercise.

The data showed decreases for a number of illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, and others. The data is based on all death records received by the center as of June 19 and could still change.

Northern Kentucky leads the way in number of residents who know someone with a heroin problem

foundation for a healthy KYResidents of Northern Kentucky are more than twice as likely as other Kentuckians to know someone who has a heroin problem, according to the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll.

Kentucky ranks second in the nation (tied with New Mexico) for the most drug overdose deaths per capita, trailing only West Virginia. In fact, the report says that drug overdose deaths in Kentucky more than quadrupled from 241 in 2000 to 1,077 in 2014.

The most recent poll – produced by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky as part of its “commitment to producing timely health information for policymakers, health officials and local decision makers,” according to the Foundation’s website – shows that nearly 35 percent of Northern Kentucky residents answered “yes” to the question “Have any of your family members or friends experienced problems as a result of using heroin?”, nearly three times the statewide average of 13 percent (up from 9 percent in 2013 and 11 percent in 2014).

Numbers from around the state were 17 percent for greater Louisville, 14 percent for greater Lexington, 10 percent for the Appalachian region, and 8 percent for Western Kentucky.

“This information can help Kentucky policymakers as they devise strategies to curb our state’s drug problems,” said Susan Zepeda, President/CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, which co-sponsors the poll with Interact for Health, formerly the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati.

For more information about the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and the Kentucky Health Issues Poll, please click here.


Drug overdose deaths hit record numbers in 2014

CDC image U.S. deaths from drug overdoses hit a record high in 2014, propelled by abuse of prescription painkillers and heroin, according to new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The total number of drug overdoses increased 6.5 percent in 2014 from a year earlier, killing more than 47,000 people. The highest rates of death from overdose were seen in West Virginia (35.5 deaths per 100,000), New Mexico (27.3), New Hampshire (26.2), Kentucky (24.7), and Ohio (24.6).

Opioid overdose deaths, including both opioid pain relievers and heroin, accounted for 61 percent of overdose deaths and increased 14 percent in just one year, the CDC said.

“The increasing number of deaths from opioid overdose is alarming,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden. “The opioid epidemic is devastating American families and communities. To curb these trends and save lives, we must help prevent addiction and provide support and treatment to those who suffer from opioid use disorders.”

Since 2000, overall deaths from drug overdoses have increased 137 percent, while those from opioids have jumped 200 percent, the CDC said. More than half a million people in the United States have died from drug overdoses since 2000, according to the CDC.

To read the full CDC “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report,” please click here.