Preventable Deaths, Including Maternal, Increase Sharply

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June 22, 2023 -- Health figures released Thursday show a sharp increase in preventable deaths in all 50 states in 2021, the most recent year available.

Premature deaths in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and New Mexico climbed over 35% from 2019 to 2021 and those in Arizona over 45%, according to the Commonwealth Fund’s 2023 Scorecard on State Health System Performance.

Premature deaths occur before age 75 from something that could have been prevented.

COVID-19 was responsible for much of the 2021 increase, the report says.

The annual scorecard ranks all 50 states and the District of Columbia on 58 measures of health outcomes, equity, and affordability. For the first time, it also included information on reproductive care and women’s health. 

The three states that scored the best on health system performance are Massachusetts, Hawaii, and New Hampshire. Those scoring the worst are Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Mississippi.

Preventable deaths rose in every state, the report says. In many locations, Black and American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) people had the highest mortality rates. 

CNN reported that “The US maternal mortality rate nearly doubled between 2018 and 2021, with Covid-19 as a ‘contributing factor’ in more than 30% of maternal deaths, the report found. During the pandemic, maternal mortality increased the most for Black and AIAN women.”

Researchers also said that mental health needs are a challenge for many people. They also noted that many people have trouble paying their medical bills, especially those who live in the South.

“Comparing states on how well their health care systems support people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and income levels is critical to our understanding of what is and isn’t working in American health care,” Sarah R. Collins, a vice president of the fund, said in a statement. “People in every state desperately need better access to high-quality, affordable health care — especially women of reproductive age.”