Americans Show Improvements on Some Health Indicators, Declines on Others, Study Finds
Americans are showing improvements in some areas of health, including cancer screenings and adult vaccinations, but declines in others, such as alcohol consumption and smoking, according to a study appearing in today's Journal of the American Medical Association. The findings are a "mix of good and bad news," Dr. David Nelson of the National Cancer Institute, who helped conduct the research for the CDC, said. The AP/Albany Times Union reports that researchers conducted monthly telephone surveys of adults ages 18 and over from 1991 to 2000, with the number of respondents growing from 87,846 at the beginning of the decade to 182,444 in 2000 (Tanner, AP/Albany Times Union, 5/22). Positive findings from the study, which evaluated 11 health factors, include the following:
- Adult vaccinations improved in most states, as nearly every state "met the federal goal for vaccinating 60% of the elderly against the flu."
- Rates of screening for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer, as well as cholesterol screening, all improved over the decade.
- Rates of seat-belt use increased in most states (Uhlman, Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/22).
The following are some of the survey's negative findings:
- Obesity increased in all of the 47 states surveyed on the topic (AP/Albany Times Union, 5/22). The rate of physical inactivity -- defined as not participating in any leisure-time physical activity in the past month -- rose or remained unchanged in 37 states.
- Nearly one-third of states saw a "notable increase" in adult smokers, with only Utah "able to meet the government's goal of reducing tobacco use to fewer than 15% of adults" and only Minnesota reporting a statistically significant drop in adult smoking.
- Only three states saw a statistically significant drop in binge drinking -- defined as five or more drinks on at least one occasion in the previous 30 days -- while such drinking increased in 19 states.
The study illustrates that "it is easier to deliver services than to change behavior," Dr. J. Michael McGinnis, senior vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, wrote in a JAMA editorial accompanying the study (Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/22). Noting that the study did not explain the reasons for many of the improvements and declines, Nelson called the report a "jumping-off point for people to answer the 'why' questions" (AP/Albany Times Union, 5/22).
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