CDC: Gap between rural and urban deaths increasing in US

The gap between preventable deaths rates in rural and urban areas widened for many health conditions between 2010 and 2017, according to the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report published Nov. 8.

The analysis builds off a 2017 CDC report, which found a higher percentage of preventable deaths in rural areas compared to urban areas. The CDC enhanced geographic classification and reviewed 2010-17 mortality data from the National Vital Statistics System to calculate the five leading causes of preventable death among people under age 80.    

In both rural and urban regions, the five leading causes of death during 2010-17 were heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease and stroke. Together, these deaths accounted for about 61 percent of all deaths in 2017. 

Rural areas had higher percentages of preventable deaths from the five leading causes than urban areas for every year between 2010 and 2017. Though preventable death rates increased in urban areas, the gap between the most rural and most urban counties for preventable deaths increased for cancer, heart disease and CLRD. The gap decreased for unintentional injury and remained stable for stroke.  

About 20 percent of the U.S. population lives in rural areas. The CDC recommends routine tracking of preventable deaths to help health departments and leaders monitor public health problems and focus interventions on reducing preventable deaths.

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