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US Health Statistics Reveal Cancer Mortality Decreased, While New STD Cases Skyrocketed

The new report highlights current national health trends in STDs, cancer, heart disease, health insurance coverage, and more.

On January 19, the National Center for Health Statistics released the 44th edition of the Health, United States, 2020–2021: Annual Perspective — an yearly report on health trends in the United States.

This report is a congressionally mandated annual analysis of health statistics submitted on behalf of the HHS Secretary to the President and Congress in compliance with Section 308 of the Public Health Service Act.

This year’s edition focuses on health disparities by race and ethnicity, sex, and socioeconomic status. It pulls from data sources collected through the end of 2019 — before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report's key findings

Although the data showed positive trends in cancer mortality and tobacco use, it also revealed concerning statistics on heart disease risk factors, substance use, and sexually transmitted disease prevalence.

  1. Adults without a high school diploma or GED are more than four times as likely to smoke cigarettes as those with a bachelor’s degree or higher. However, in general, cigarette smoking has decreased from 20.6% in 2009 to 14.2% in 2019.
  2. In adolescents, the use of alcohol, cigarettes, nicotine vapes, and marijuana was higher among 12th graders compared with 8th and 10th graders. The report also states that in 2019, nicotine vapes were the most used tobacco product in the past 30 days by 8th, 10th, and 12th graders. In addition, the use of marijuana doubled from 2009 to 2019 in adults aged 26 and older.
  3. Non-Hispanic Black people have a similar prevalence but higher heart disease death rates than people of other racial and ethnic groups. In addition, saturated fat consumption has increased over the last 20 years in adults aged 20 and older.
  4. From 2009 to 2019, cancer mortality rates decreased across all racial and ethnic groups. However, Non-Hispanic Black people have similar cancer incidence but lower survival than White people.
  5. Despite health insurance coverage increasing over time, Hispanic adults are the most likely to lack health insurance and have unmet medical care needs. Still, the report found that people with Medicaid continue to be more likely than individuals with private or no insurance to visit the emergency room or have a hospital stay in the past year.
  6. Although the number of dentists in the US has increased, adults living below 200% of the federal poverty level are the least likely to have recently visited a dentist.
  7. While the data shows that the overall all-cause mortality rate has decreased from 2009 to 2019, death rates in males were higher than in females. According to the report, males use healthcare services less and have higher substance use than females. They are also three to four times more likely to die from suicide and four times more likely to die from homicide.
  8. New HIV diagnoses have increased among non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native people. In contrast, the data shows that the rates of new HIV diagnoses in all other race and Hispanic-origin groups have decreased.
  9. Meanwhile, STD rates have reached an all-time high. For example, new cases of chlamydia were 16% higher in 2019 than in 2015. In the same timeframe, new cases of gonorrhea increased by 53%, and new cases of syphilis rose by 71%.

According to the report, this data is critical for identifying where health disparities exist so that agencies and policymakers can direct efforts and resources to address them. It also offers a way to measure progress toward establishing equity and accountability in healthcare.

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