Rural Americans at Higher Risk of Death from Five Leading Causes

On January 12, 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the results of a study that demonstrates rates of the five leading causes of death are higher among rural Americans:

  • heart disease,
  • cancer,
  • unintentional injuries,
  • chronic lower respiratory disease, and
  • stroke
“We have seen increasing rural-urban disparities in life expectancy and mortality emerge in the past few years. CDC’s focus on these critical rural health issues comes at an important time,”  said Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Acting Administrator, Jim Macrae, in a press release.

According to the CDC, gaps in mortality can be addressed by the following:

  • Screen patients for high blood pressure and make control a quality improvement goal. High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
  • Increase cancer prevention and early detection. Rural healthcare providers should participate in the state-level comprehensive control coalitions. Comprehensive cancer control programs focus on cancer prevention, education, screening, access to care, support for cancer survivors, and overall good health.
  • Encourage physical activity and healthy eating to reduce obesity. Obesity has been linked to a variety of serious chronic illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.
  • Promote smoking cessation. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States and is the most significant risk factor for chronic lower respiratory disease.
  • Promote motor vehicle safety. Rural healthcare providers should encourage patients to always wear a seat belt and counsel parents and child care providers to use age- and size-appropriate car seats, booster seats, and seat belts on every trip.
  • Engage in safer prescribing of opioids for pain. Healthcare providers should follow the CDC guideline when prescribing opioids for chronic pain and educate patients on the risks and benefits of opioids and using nonpharmacologic therapies to provide greater benefit.

View the CDC News Release for more information.

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