Poor diet and physical inactivity may soon overtake tobacco as leading cause of death in U.S.

March 09, 2004

NOTE:The embargo for the following JAMA news release, "Poor Diet and Physical Inactivity May Soon Overtake Tobacco As Leading Cause of Death In U.S.", has been changed to 2 p.m. (ET), Tuesday, March 9, 2004, to coincide with a news conference being held by HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding, one of the authors of the JAMA study. The news conference will release the findings of the JAMA study and launch a new campaign on healthy living. The JAMA news release follows.

About half of all deaths in the U.S. can be attributed to largely preventable behaviors and exposures, with tobacco use and poor diet/physical inactivity accounting for the majority of preventable deaths, according to a study in the March 10 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

According to background information in the article, quantifying modifiable behavioral risk factors, which are the leading causes of death in the United States, will provide insight into the effects of recent trends and indicate missed prevention opportunities.

Ali H. Mokdad, Ph.D., and colleagues from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, conducted a study to identify and quantify the leading causes of death in the United States. The study included a comprehensive MEDLINE search of English-language articles that identified epidemiological, clinical, and laboratory studies linking risk behaviors and mortality (death). Prevalence and relative risk were identified during the literature search. The researchers used 2000 mortality data reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify the causes and number of deaths. The estimates of actual cause of death were computed by multiplying estimates of the cause-attributable fraction of preventable deaths with the total mortality data.

The researchers found that the leading causes of death in 2000 were tobacco (435,000 deaths; 18.1 percent of total U.S. deaths), poor diet and physical inactivity (400,000 deaths; 16.6 percent), and alcohol consumption (85,000 deaths; 3.5 percent).

Other actual causes of death were microbial agents (i.e., influenza and pneumonia, 75,000), toxic agents (exposure to pollutants, asbestos, etc., 55,000), motor vehicle crashes (43,000), incidents involving firearms (29,000), sexual behaviors (20,000), and illicit use of drugs (17,000).

"The rapid increase in the prevalence of overweight means that this proportion is likely to increase substantially in the next few years. The burden of chronic diseases is compounded by the aging effects of the baby boomer generation and the concomitant increased cost of illness at a time when health care spending continues to outstrip growth in the gross domestic product of the United States," the authors write. "Our findings indicate that interventions to prevent and increase cessation of smoking, improve diet, and increase physical activity must become much higher priorities in the public health and health care systems."

(JAMA. 2004;291:1238-1245. Available post-embargo at JAMA.com.)

EDITORIAL: THE IMMEDIATE VS. THE IMPORTANT

In an accompanying editorial, J. Michael McGinnis, M.D., M.P.P., of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton, N.J., and William H. Foege, M.D., M.P.H., of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle, write that continued progress on reducing preventable causes of death depends on a strong and vibrant public health capacity and working with the solid support and involvement of medical practitioners.

"Several priorities seem clear at this point. Because a substantial proportion of early deaths among the U.S. population is preventable through lifestyle change, the social commitment to making those changes possible must be enhanced considerably. Decisions about whether to smoke, how much to drink, how much and what kinds of food to consume, and activities in which to engage are the result of strong cultural and commercial signals. Unless strategies are specifically designed to address and improve the clarity and utility of these messages, U.S. society will fall far short of the possible," they write.

"Refining insights into the root causes of illness and injury, presenting those insights in a fashion that can motivate and guide effective action, and marshaling the effort to monitor the results of these actions will require steady improvement in the knowledge base. National leadership and commitment at the policy level, such as suggested by Mokdad and colleagues, is an important ingredient for progress. If the nation can heed the insights they share, acceleration of the attention and action necessary for progress ought to be anticipated. After all, 'Wisdom is knowing what to do next. Virtue is doing it'", they conclude.
-end-
(JAMA. 2004;291:1263-1264. Available post-embargo at JAMA.com.)

The JAMA Network Journals

Related Public Health Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19 and the decolonization of Indigenous public health
Indigenous self-determination, leadership and knowledge have helped protect Indigenous communities in Canada during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and these principles should be incorporated into public health in future, argue the authors of a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.200852.

Public health consequences of policing homelessness
In a new study examining homelessness, researchers find that policy such a lifestyle has massive public health implications, making sleeping on the street even MORE unhealthy.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic likely to cause long-term health problems, Yale School of Public Health finds
The coronavirus pandemic's life-altering effects are likely to result in lasting physical and mental health consequences for many people--particularly those from vulnerable populations--a new study led by the Yale School of Public Health finds.

The Lancet Public Health: US modelling study estimates impact of school closures for COVID-19 on US health-care workforce and associated mortality
US policymakers considering physical distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 face a difficult trade-off between closing schools to reduce transmission and new cases, and potential health-care worker absenteeism due to additional childcare needs that could ultimately increase mortality from COVID-19, according to new modelling research published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Access to identification documents reflecting gender identity may improve trans mental health
Results from a survey of over 20,000 American trans adults suggest that having access to identification documents which reflect their identified gender helps to improve their mental health and may reduce suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Study estimates mental health impact of welfare reform, Universal Credit, in Great Britain
The 2013 Universal Credit welfare reform appears to have led to an increase in the prevalence of psychological distress among unemployed recipients, according to a nationally representative study following more than 52,000 working-age individuals from England, Wales, and Scotland over nine years between 2009-2018, published as part of an issue of The Lancet Public Health journal on income and health.

BU researchers: Pornography is not a 'public health crisis'
Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have written an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health special February issue arguing against the claim that pornography is a public health crisis, and explaining why such a claim actually endangers the health of the public.

The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.

Read More: Public Health News and Public Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.