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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Decade's Top 10 Public Health Achievements

CDC Says U.S. Is Making Strides in the Fight Against AIDS and Other Diseases

Maternal and Child Health

In the past decade, there has been a significant reduction in babies born with birth defects such as spina bifida, due largely to folic acid fortification of cereal grain products. Fortifying foods with folic acid has resulted in a savings of more than $4.6 billion in the past decade.

Traffic Deaths and Injuries

Safer vehicles, safer roadways, and safer road use that came about due to protective messaging and policies, such as laws requiring seat belt and child safety harnesses, have had a major role in reducing motor vehicle crashes, injuries, and deaths, the CDC says.

From 2000 to 2009, while the number of vehicle miles traveled on U.S. roads increased by 8.5%, the death rate declined from 14.9 per 100,000 people to 11, and the injury rate went down from 1,130 to 722 per 100,000 people.

But motor vehicle crashes still are among the top 10 causes of death for U.S. residents of all ages, and the leading cause for people between ages 5 and 34.

Heart Disease

Heart disease and stroke have long been among the leading causes of death, but preliminary data for 2009 indicate that stroke, which was the third leading cause of death previously, is now the fourth leading cause of death.

In the past decade, the age-adjusted heart disease and stroke death rates declined significantly. Factors for improvements include medications to reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure and successful battles against cigarette smoking.

Cancer Prevention

Better cancer prevention measures have led to earlier diagnoses and fewer deaths, especially from colorectal, breast, and cervical cancers. From 1998 to 2007, colorectal cancer death rates decreased from 25.6 to 20 per 100,000 people. Smaller declines were reported for breast and cervical cancer rates in the same time period.

Lead Poisoning Prevention

Another improvement has been better efforts and measures to prevent childhood lead poisoning.

In 2000, childhood lead poisoning was a major environmental public health problem in the U.S. Many states have enacted laws designed to prevent lead poisoning, and there has been a steep decline in cases.

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