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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 12, 2002
HHS Issues Report Showing
Dramatic Improvements in Americans' Health Over Past 50 Years
HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today issued a new report showing how Americans' health has changed dramatically for the better over the past 50 years, with men and women both living longer, fewer babies dying in infancy and the gap between white and black life expectancy narrowing in the past decade.
"When you take the long view, you see clearly how far we've come in combating diseases, making workplaces safer and avoiding risks such as smoking," Secretary Thompson said. "As we take better care of ourselves and medical treatments continue to improve, the illnesses and behaviors that once cost us the lives of our grandparents will become even less threatening to the lives of our grandchildren."
By 2000, infant mortality had dropped to a record low and life expectancy hit a record high, according to Health, United States, 2002, the 26th annual statistical report on the nation's health prepared by HHS' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
This 430-page report takes an extended look at trends in fighting illness, chronic diseases and mortality going back to 1950. The report presents the latest findings from health surveys and other sources in 147 tables and 28 graphs and charts. The publication examines where Americans get their health care and how much it costs. It also describes disparities in health care access and outcomes, by race, ethnicity and income.
The country has gained significant ground in fighting heart disease, stroke and injuries. AIDS emerged as a major killer in the 1980s, but deaths dropped after 1995 due to powerful new anti-viral drugs. However, new AIDS cases are still being reported -- about 40,000 cases in 2000.
Among the key findings of the report:
"Effective public health efforts, greater knowledge among Americans about healthier lifestyles and improved health care all have contributed to these steady gains in the nation's health," CDC Director Julie L. Gerberding, M.D., said.
Deaths among children and young adults from unintentional injuries, cancer and heart disease are down sharply. Among working-age adults, fewer are dying from unintentional injuries, heart disease and stroke. For older Americans, the increase in life expectancy is largely due to the drop in deaths from heart disease and stroke.
This report also noted that three in five adults ages 20-74 are overweight. One in four Americans is considered obese. Almost 40 percent engaged in no physical activity during leisure time, and women were more sedentary than men. One in 10 Americans age 45-54, one in five of those 55-64, one in four of those 65-74, and one in three of those 75 and older reported being in fair or poor health.
The report also noted that Americans spent $1.3 trillion on health care in 2000, or 13.2 percent of the gross domestic product, far more than any other nation. A third of the health care dollar was spent on hospital care, about one-fifth on physicians, and almost one-tenth on prescription drugs. The cost of prescription drugs increased 15 percent a year from 1995-2000 -- faster than any other category of spending.
Hospital stays keep getting shorter: just 4.9 days on average in 2000. Twenty years ago patients spent more than seven days in the hospital. Sixty-three percent of all surgeries now are performed as outpatient procedures, with patients being sent home after a short stay in a recovery room. A decade earlier, half of all surgeries were on outpatients. In 1980, only 16 percent were done on outpatients.
Federal and state government programs -- principally Medicare and Medicaid -- paid 43 percent of all medical bills. Private insurance covered 35 percent, and other private sources paid 5 percent. Consumers paid 17 percent out of their own pockets.
"The power of Health, United States, 2002 is that it shows what we're doing right, and where we still need to make improvements," said Dr. Edward J. Sondik, director of CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), which prepared the report.
More information, including an electronic version of the report that may be downloaded, is available on CDC Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs.
Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at www.hhs.gov/news.
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This page last updated September 12, 2002
States Department of Health and Human Services