Patrick-Murray Administration Releases Report Showing All-Time High in Life Expectancy; All-Time Low in HIV/AIDS Deaths in Massachusetts
Impact of health care reform in Massachusetts yields 98 percent of residents covered, more people seeking care and maintaining good health
BOSTON — Massachusetts residents are living longer than ever before, and deaths from cancer, heart disease, and stroke have continued to drop, according to the first decade-long, retrospective study on deaths in Massachusetts issued today by the Patrick-Murray Administration’s Department of Public Health (DPH).
"We successfully implemented health care reform in Massachusetts because of our belief that health is a public good, and we know it is working because people are healthier," said Governor Deval Patrick. "As health care reform is implemented nationally, I look forward to seeing these trends continue here in the Commonwealth, and across the country."
The report, “Trends in Mortality in Massachusetts, 2000-2009,” shows that in 2009, life expectancy in Massachusetts reached an all-time high of 80.7 years, a gain of 2.2 years in a decade. Life expectancy in Massachusetts was also 2.2 years higher than the average national life expectancy of 78.5 years in 2009, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report also found over the past decade Massachusetts has seen declines in many of the leading causes of death, including heart disease (3.7% annual decline), stroke (5%), influenza and pneumonia (5%), all cancers (1.8%), and chronic lower respiratory disease (2.5%).
“This upward trend in life expectancy reflects that Massachusetts residents have access to health care, are receiving preventative care and are living longer, healthier lives,” said Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby, MD. “Through the efforts of Governor Patrick and our partners in the Legislature, we have made great strides in increasing public health and life expectancy in Massachusetts.”
“These results show that our efforts in public health and prevention are beginning to show a positive, real-world impact on Massachusetts residents,” said DPH Commissioner John Auerbach. “We’re committed to ensuring that these trends continue to improve for generations to come.”
Higher Life Expectancy; Declines in Leading Causes of Death
Prevention efforts, increased early detection, and the availability of better treatment options have all contributed to the continued decrease in deaths from these chronic conditions.
DPH has implemented several successful programs to address chronic disease in the state. For example, the Department’s Primary Stroke Service licensure designates hospitals that are equipped to provide acute stroke care; seventy of the 72 acute care hospitals have received this designation. In addition, reduced deaths due to cardiovascular disease can be partially attributed to a series of public health interventions related to use of tobacco, including the passage of the statewide Smokefree Workplace Law in 2004; passage of the MassHealth smoking cessation benefit in 2006; and a series of ongoing initiatives to prevent youth access to tobacco and implement campaigns to encourage smokers to make a quit attempt.
Also, Massachusetts has for years been in the top tier of states ensuring high levels of coverage of adults with vaccines that prevent influenza, its life-threatening complications, and other causes of pneumonia. In the most recent season, 2010-2011, Massachusetts ranked third in the nation for its influenza vaccination rate of people over 6 months of age. For adults age 65 and older, the Massachusetts rate was 73%; and similarly, the rate of pneumococcal vaccine for adults 65 and older was 72%.
Deaths from HIV/AIDS Declining
In 2009, there were 124 deaths from HIV/AIDS, which was the lowest number since the peak of the epidemic in 1994. Of those deaths, 75% were in people age 45 and older, which suggests that people with HIV/AIDS are living longer than ever before.
Massachusetts has led the country in reducing new HIV infections, having seen a greater than 50% reduction in the past ten years. One reason for a reduced death rate is a smaller number of new infections. The other is the excellent record of connecting HIV+ persons to care by assisting them to utilize care by supporting medical transportation, medically necessary nutrition services, case management and medical care coordination, and medication adherence support.
In addition, Massachusetts, through its health care reform initiatives and supplementary programs such as the HIV Drug Assistance Program, can virtually guarantee access to HIV treatments that sustain life and improve health.
Opioid Overdose Deaths Level Off
The Mortality Report found that poisonings, predominantly due to opioid overdose, were the leading cause of injury death in Massachusetts. However, rates of opioid overdose deaths have leveled off in recent years, after several previous years of increases.
DPH has a three-pronged strategy to fight opiate abuse and addiction: prevention, intervention, and expanding resources for treatment. Initiatives undertaken by the Department include building community coalitions to educate parents, providers and other stakeholders on the problem; developing education campaigns on safe storage and disposal of pain medication to prevent misuse; and spreading the word on drug takeback programs to remove these medications from further circulation. DPH has also worked to expand the availability of opiate addiction treatment options in primary care office environments, improving access to treatment while reducing the stigma associated with seeking help for addiction. In addition, the Prescription Drug Monitoring program aims to prevent “doctor-shopping” for prescriptions and expands prescriber education for providers. Finally, the life-saving Narcan opioid overdose reversal pilot program has resulted in the reversal of more than 1,500 overdoses since its inception in 2007.
Addressing the Obesity Epidemic
DPH has long been working to address the obesity epidemic in Massachusetts, most notably with the launch of the Mass in Motion campaign in January 2009. The purpose of this multifaceted campaign is to promote the importance of healthy eating and active living at home, at work, and in communities throughout the Commonwealth. Specifically, the goals of Mass in Motion are to decrease the number and percentage of both adults and children who are overweight and obese and decrease the prevalence of chronic disease associated with unhealthy eating and lack of physical activity. To accomplish these goals, the Administration has made the promotion of wellness and prevention of overweight and obesity a top public health priority and strives to create conditions that encourage, nurture, and promote wellness.
The Patrick-Murray Administration has successfully implemented the 2006 health care reform law, and now people in the Commonwealth have access to quality care, more businesses offer coverage and people are healthier. More than 90 percent of residents have a primary care physician and four out of five have seen their doctor in the last 12 months. Preventative care has also increased, with more people receiving cancer screenings and more women receiving pre-natal care, while visits to emergency rooms have decreased. 150,000 people stopped smoking after Massachusetts expanded coverage for smoking cessation. A recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research documented improvements in physical health, mental health, functional limitations and joint disorders as a result of the law. That study found the biggest health improvements in women, minorities and low-income residents. Massachusetts health care reform has also proven to be cost effective. An independent analysis by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation estimated the law was responsible for about a one percent increase in net spending. Spending on the uncompensated care pool is down since the law passed and growth in health insurance premiums throughout the market has slowed from an average of about 16 percent two years ago to less than two percent today.
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