Overdoses, falls fuel rise of preventable deaths by unintentional injury, CDC says

While preventable deaths related to heart disease, cancer and stroke have declined in recent years, preventable deaths caused by unintentional injuries have been on the rise, according to the CDC.

The CDC released a report Thursday documenting potentially preventable deaths among the five leading causes of death in the U.S.: heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke and unintentional injuries. Together, these five causes of death represented 63 percent of all deaths in the U.S. in 2014.

However, unlike heart disease, cancer and stroke, the unintentional injuries category saw its number of potentially preventable deaths increase from 2010 to 2014, CDC analysis found.

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To determine the number of potentially preventable deaths in each category, CDC analysts used National Vital Statistics mortality data from 2014. They compared the number of expected deaths (based on cause-specific average death rate of the three states with the lowest average death rate by group) with the number of observed deaths.

When comparing potentially preventable death rates in 2010 to those in 2014, the CDC found potentially preventable deaths changed as follows:

  • Cancer — decreased 25 percent (from 84,443 to 63,209)
  • Stroke — decreased 11 percent (from 16,973 to 15,175)
  • Heart disease — decreased 4 percent (from 91,757 to 87,950)
  • Chronic lower respiratory disease — increased 1 percent (from 28,831 to 29,232)
  • Unintentional injury — increased 23 percent (from 36,836 to 45,331)

Overall, the CDC believes 43 percent of the unintentional injury deaths in 2014 were potentially preventable.

The increase in potentially preventable deaths by unintentional injury "is mostly attributed to the increase in drug poisoning (overdose from prescription and illicit drugs) and falls," according to the report.

States can help reduce the number of overdose deaths by developing or enhancing their prescription drug monitoring programs, implementing clinical prescribing guidelines and increasing access to naloxone, the anti-opioid overdose drug, the CDC report reads.

To reduce falls, the CDC provides tools for clinicians to use in assessing fall risk and educating patients.

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