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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
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Doctor holding med chart

May 19, 2011 -- Controlling infectious diseases like AIDS and tuberculosis, doing a better job of fighting tobacco use, improving motor vehicle safety, and reducing heart disease and death have been named by the CDC as being among the 10 top public health achievements of the first decade of the 21st century.

Others include improvements in vaccine-preventable diseases, better maternal and infant health, better cancer prevention, improved occupational safety, and aggressive steps that have led to fewer childhood lead poisonings, the CDC says.

Also, major strides have been made in public safety preparedness since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the agency says in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for May 20.

"Americans are living longer, healthier and more productive lives than ever before thanks in part to extraordinary achievements in public health over the past decade," CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, says in a news release.

But he says much more can and should be done to protect and promote public health. "Continued investments in prevention will help us and our children live even longer, healthier and more productive lives while bringing down health care costs," Frieden says.

Infectious Disease Prevention

The CDC says the first decade of this century saw a 30% reduction in reported tuberculosis cases in the U.S. and a 58% drop in central line-associated bloodstream infections.

It explains in a news release that a central line is a tube that a doctor usually places in a large vein of a patient's neck or chest to give medical treatment. Occasionally infections related to placement of a central line occur and sometimes cause serious and sometimes deadly bloodstream infections.

Tobacco Control

Since the first Surgeon General's Report on tobacco in 1964, evidence-based policies and stop-smoking programs have had significant success, the CDC says.

By 2009, the CDC says 20.6% of adults and 19.5% of youths were current smokers, compared with 23.5% of adults and 34.8% of youths a decade earlier.

Also, no state had a comprehensive smoke-free law in 2000 prohibiting smoking in restaurants, bars, and work sites, but now 25 states do, and so does Washington, D.C.

Despite the progress, smoking still results in an economic burden of about $193 billion annually, including medical costs and lost productivity.

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.

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