Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Dr. Ma: This study is an analysis of long-term trends in mortality for all causes combined and for 6 leading causes of death, including heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), unintentional injuries, and diabetes, in the United States from 1969 through 2013. We found that death rates for all causes and for five of these 6 leading causes (except COPD) decreased during this time period, although the rate of decrease appears to have slowed for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. COPD death rates doubled during this time period, although the rate began to decrease in men since 1999.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Ma: The US continued to make progress in mortality reduction. This achievement is a combined result of the improvements in disease prevention, early detection and screening, and treatment. Clinicians and patients should continue to follow the guidelines for disease prevention and treatment. To cut the risk of death, patients should quit smoking, eat healthy, stay active, maintain a healthy body weight and get recommended preventive services.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Ma: Reasons for the slowdown of declines in death rates for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes need to be further investigated. In addition, future studies may consider using other measures to assess the progress in health care in the US, such as quality of life.
Jiemin Ma, PhD, MHS (2015). US Continues To Make Progress in Mortality Reduction