The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has just released a progress report on its efforts to beat some of the leading causes of injury, illness, disability, and death in the U.S.
“Many of these result in needless suffering because, in fact, we have the knowledge and tools that could make a difference,” CDC director Tom Frieden said.
How are these battles going? Here's news from seven fronts, as well as predictions on whether the CDC's goals will be met by 2015.
Lowering Tobacco Use
Efforts in the U.S. are aimed at lowering the percentage of adults who currently smoke down to 17 percent, and of children who smoke down to 17.6 percent. The CDC also wants to increase the number of people who are covered by smoke-free laws to nearly 59 percent. While these goals are seeing some traction, they still need work.
The CDC’s “Tips From Former Smokers” campaign helped an estimated 1.6 million people. The stark reality of the campaign was evident when Terrie Hall, a woman featured in the ads, died of cancer a week after appearing at a press conference for the campaign.
Increasing Nutrition and Exercise to Lower Obesity
Obesity has been at the forefront of discussions on health in recent years, and the CDC wants to lower the rate of obesity in children from 16.8 percent to 15.4 percent. They also want to increase the percentage of infants who are breastfed until they are at least six months old from 43.5 percent to 48.8 percent, a goal that’s likely to be met by 2015. Research has shown that breastfeeding leads to a reduced risk of adulthood obesity.
Overall, the number of Americans that meet exercise guidelines has risen in recent years (from 43.5 percent in 2008 to 48.8 in 2011), but that's still fewer than the number of adults who are not getting the recommended amount of exercise. Still only 31.5 percent of children attend schools that offer daily physical education.
Improving Food Safety
Responding to food-borne illness is another major concern that the CDC believes is preventable. Food-borne diseases affect 1 out of every 6 Americans each year.
Two infections being targeted specifically are salmonella and E. coli, two of the most common sources of food poisoning in the U.S. From 2006 to 2008, there were an average of 15.2 cases of salmonella poisoning and 1.2 cases of E. coli per 100,000 people per year. The goal is to get those numbers down to 13 and 0.85, respectively.
So far, neither goal looks likely to be achieved by 2015, even with increased efforts to reduce contamination of meat and poultry, major sources for food-related deaths.
Reducing Healthcare-Acquired Infections
Of all its 2015 goals, the CDC is seeing the most tangible results in its efforts to reduce the rates of infections acquired at hospitals. This includes lowering the rates of MRSA and other potentially lethal infections.
More hospitals are reporting their infection rates every year, allowing for better tracking of infection rates.
Improving Motor Vehicle Safety
In 2007, there were nearly 14 deaths per 100,000 people due to automobile accidents. The CDC wants that number to come down to 9.5 or lower by 2015, and it’s looking to be on track to do so. As of 2011, the rate was just over 10 deaths per 100,000 people.
Nineteen states have mandatory ignition locks for convicted drunk drivers, and 33 states now have laws allowing police to pull over motorists for not wearing a seat belt.
The CDC has also launched several campaigns to help educate young drivers, who are more likely to die in a car accident than any other group.
Reducing Teen Pregnancies
While teen pregnancies make for successful reality television, the reality is that fewer teens are having babies than ever before. The CDC wanted fewer than 30.3 births per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19, and the rate dropped below that last year.
Researchers attribute this to the increase in evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs in schools and community centers.
Reducing HIV Infection Rates
The goal of reducing the number of new HIV infections by 25 percent, to 36,450 new cases each year, isn’t looking good. As of 2010, the rate of new infections was closer to 48,000.
However, an increased testing facilities is helping more people with HIV learn of their condition. In 2006, only about 81 percent of people with HIV knew of their condition. That number is rising gradually, and the CDC hopes to get it to 90% by 2015.