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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

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.

Public Health Preparedness

The CDC says a major improvement has been the establishment of public health preparedness and response programs since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Efforts have been made in many states to battle bioterrorist threats. Many state public health laboratories have improved procedures to better identify bacteria such as E. coli O157:H7.

Also, public health interventions during the H1N1 flu pandemic have prevented up to 10 million flu cases and 1,500 deaths, according to the CDC.

Overall, advances in public health have contributed to a steady downward trend in the death rate. From 1999 to 2009, the death rate in the U.S. declined from 881.9 per 100,000 pop to 741, a record low.

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