CDC: 10 best public health achievements of this century

A chickenpox vaccine, heart disease prevention, workplace best practices, a rapid swine flu response... these and others helped drop the nation's death rate to record lows. See what made the list.
Written by Janet Fang, Contributor on

With Americans living longer and healthier lives, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified the top 10 domestic advancements of the first 10 years of the 21st century.

The death rate in the US has reached a record low, continuing the steady downward trend that began in the last century. Seven of these 10 achievements targeted one or more of the 15 leading causes of death.

The list also shows how the US has saved billions of dollars in healthcare costs as a result of these successes, and continued investments will save more.

It’s a little number heavy, but here are the highlights, in random order:

1. Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

The number of diseases targeted by US immunization policy is now 17. New vaccines included diarrhea-causing rotavirus, quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate for meningitis, shingles’s herpes zoster, chickenpox’s varicella, and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines.

About 13,000 deaths were prevented over 8 years with the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. Vaccination of each US birth cohort with the current childhood immunization schedule prevents 42,000 deaths and 20 million cases of disease, with net savings of nearly $14 billion in direct costs.

2. Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases

Improvements in state and local public health infrastructure, targeted prevention efforts, better screening, and advances in lab techniques have led to a 30% reduction of tuberculosis cases, earlier access for persons diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, implementation of West Nile virus screening of new blood donors, and the elimination of rabies.

3. Tobacco Control

By 2009, 20.6% of adults and 19.5% of youths were current smokers, compared with 23.5% of adults and 34.8% of youths a decade earlier.

In 2009, the largest federal cigarette excise tax increase went into effect, bringing the combined federal and average state excise tax for cigarettes to $2.21 per pack, an increase from $0.76 in 2000. By 2010, 16 states have enacted comprehensive smoke-free laws.

4. Maternal and Infant Health

Improvements in technology and endorsement of a standard newborn-screening panel of diseases have led to earlier life-saving treatment and intervention for at least 3,400 newborns each year with genetic and endocrine disorders. By April 2011, all states reported screening for at least 26 disorders.

Fortifying foods with folic acid to reduce neural tube defects (NTDs) in children resulted in a 36% reduction in NTDs and a savings of over $4.6 billion over a decade.

5. Motor Vehicle Safety

From 2000 to 2009, while the number of vehicle miles traveled on the nation's roads increased by 8.5%, the related injury rate declined from 1,130 to 722. Among children, the number of pedestrian deaths declined by 49%, and the number of bicyclist deaths declined by 58%.

Preventing motor vehicle crashes could save $99 billion in medical and lost work costs annually.

6. Cardiovascular Disease Prevention

Heart disease and stroke have been the first and third leading causes of death in the US since 1921 and 1938, respectively. Stroke is now the fourth leading cause.

During the past decade, coronary heart disease and stroke death rates declined from 195 to 126 per 100,000 population.

7. Occupational Safety

For healthcare workers in nursing care and residential facilities, the use of mechanical patient-lifting equipment demonstrated reductions of 66% in the rates of workers' compensation injury claims and lost workdays due to low back injuries.

The National Children's Center for Rural Agricultural Health and Safety of guidelines allows parents to match chores with their child's development and physical capabilities. It lead to a 56% decline in youth farm injury rates from 1998 to 2009.

8. Cancer Prevention

With better screening, colorectal cancer death rates decreased from 2.8% per year for men and 2.7% per year for women, from 1998 to 2007. During this time, smaller declines were noted for breast and cervical cancer death rates (2.2% and 2.4% per year, respectively)

9. Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention

By 2010, 23 states had comprehensive lead poisoning prevention laws. Surveys from 1976--1980 to 2003-2008 reveal a steep decline (from 88.2% to 0.9%) in the percentage of children ages 1-5 with elevated blood lead levels.

The economic benefit of lowering these levels is estimated at $213 billion per year.

10. Public Health Preparedness and Response

From 2006 to 2010, the percentage of Laboratory Response Network labs that passed proficiency testing for bioterrorism threat agents increased from 87% to 95%.

During the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, improvements in the ability to develop and implement a coordinated public health response in an emergency facilitated the rapid detection/characterization of the outbreak, deployment of laboratory tests, distribution of personal protective equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile, development of a candidate vaccine virus, and widespread administration of the resulting vaccine. These public health interventions prevented an estimated 5-10 million cases, 30,000 hospitalizations, and 1,500 deaths

The list was published last week in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Image: CDC′s Communications Center in Atlanta / James Gathany

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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