A new report on recent mortality trends released on Dec. 18 by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health indicates death rates in Los Angeles County appear to be on the rise in some groups in recent years. Deaths from Alzheimer’s disease and drug overdoses have dramatically increased.
The overall mortality throughout the county decreased by 6.2% from 2008 to 2017, however, the decrease only occurred between 2008 and 2012. From 2012 to 2017, overall mortality showed little change. Also, between 2008 and 2017, deaths from Alzheimer’s Disease increased 71%, and deaths from drug overdose increased 28%.
“Mortality is one of the most important barometers of the health of our residents,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “These findings indicate clear areas of concern which require a collective response to the complex social conditions that contribute to the many health challenges we face as a county, especially for those residents experiencing the worst health outcomes.”
The report also identified a lack of progress in reducing the large health disparities in different populations. For example, mortality among blacks remained 30% higher than the county average throughout the 10-year period. Mortality among Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders was 41% higher than the county average, and among Native Americans, mortality was 27% higher than the county average.
On a positive note, significant declines in mortality were found for many leading causes of death. Although coronary heart disease was the leading cause of death, accounting for 18% of all deaths in the county in 2017, mortality associated with it decreased by 29% from 2008 to 2017. Mortality from lung cancer and chronic obstructive lung disease, both associated with smoking, decreased by 27% and 15%, respectively, during the 10-year period.
The report also included statistics on the leading causes of premature death, defined as deaths occurring before age 75, which is a standard ending age used in public health analyses. Overall, the leading cause of premature death in the county population was coronary heart disease, followed by drug overdose, suicide, motor vehicle crashes and homicide.
“These premature deaths are particularly tragic, as they are almost always preventable,” said Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “Not only do we need to take action to enhance integrated health care, mental health and drug treatment services, but we must all work to create safer environments and more equitable institutional supports to ensure that all people have the opportunities and resources they need to be healthy, irrespective of race or income.”
For information and to read the report, visit publichealth.lacounty.gov.
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