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Potentially excess deaths from the five leading causes of death in metropolitan and nonmetropolitan counties — United States, 2010–2017
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  • DOI:
    10.15585/mmwr.ss6810a1
  • Description:
    Problem/Condition: A 2017 report quantified the higher percentage of potentially excess (or preventable) deaths in nonmetropolitan areas (often referred to as rural areas) compared with metropolitan areas. In that report, CDC compared national, regional, and state estimates of potentially excess deaths among the five leading causes of death in nonmetropolitan and metropolitan counties for 2010 and 2014. This report enhances the geographic detail by using the six levels of the 2013 National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) urban-rural classification scheme for counties and extending estimates of potentially excess deaths by annual percent change (APC) and for additional years (2010–2017). Trends were tested both with linear and quadratic terms.

    Period Covered: 2010–2017.

    Description of System: Mortality data for U.S. residents from the National Vital Statistics System were used to calculate potentially excess deaths from the five leading causes of death among persons aged <80 years. CDC’s NCHS urban-rural classification scheme for counties was used to categorize the deaths according to the urban-rural county classification level of the decedent’s county of residence (1: large central metropolitan [most urban], 2: large fringe metropolitan, 3: medium metropolitan, 4: small metropolitan, 5: micropolitan, and 6: noncore [most rural]). Potentially excess deaths were defined as deaths among persons aged <80 years that exceeded the number expected if the death rates for each cause in all states were equivalent to those in the benchmark states (i.e., the three states with the lowest rates). Potentially excess deaths were calculated separately for the six urban-rural county categories nationally, the 10 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services public health regions, and the 50 states and District of Columbia.

    Results: The number of potentially excess deaths among persons aged <80 years in the United States increased during 2010–2017 for unintentional injuries (APC: 11.2%), decreased for cancer (APC: −9.1%), and remained stable for heart disease (APC: 1.1%), chronic lower respiratory disease (CLRD) (APC: 1.7%), and stroke (APC: 0.3). Across the United States, percentages of potentially excess deaths from the five leading causes were higher in nonmetropolitan counties in all years during 2010–2017. When assessed by the six urban-rural county classifications, percentages of potentially excess deaths in the most rural counties (noncore) were consistently higher than in the most urban counties (large central metropolitan) for the study period. Potentially excess deaths from heart disease increased most in micropolitan counties (APC: 2.5%) and decreased most in large fringe metropolitan counties (APC: −1.1%). Potentially excess deaths from cancer decreased in all county categories, with the largest decreases in large central metropolitan (APC: −16.1%) and large fringe metropolitan (APC: −15.1%) counties. In all county categories, potentially excess deaths from the five leading causes increased, with the largest increases occurring in large central metropolitan (APC: 18.3%), large fringe metropolitan (APC: 17.1%), and medium metropolitan (APC: 11.1%) counties. Potentially excess deaths from CLRD decreased most in large central metropolitan counties (APC: −5.6%) and increased most in micropolitan (APC: 3.7%) and noncore (APC: 3.6%) counties. In all county categories, potentially excess deaths from stroke exhibited a quadratic trend (i.e., decreased then increased), except in micropolitan counties, where no change occurred. Percentages of potentially excess deaths also differed among and within public health regions and across states by urban-rural county classification during 2010–2017.

    Interpretation: Nonmetropolitan counties had higher percentages of potentially excess deaths from the five leading causes than metropolitan counties during 2010–2017 nationwide, across public health regions, and in the majority of states. The gap between the most rural and most urban counties for potentially excess deaths increased during 2010–2017 for three causes of death (cancer, heart disease, and CLRD), decreased for unintentional injury, and remained relatively stable for stroke. Urban and suburban counties (large central metropolitan and large fringe metropolitan, medium metropolitan, and small metropolitan) experienced increases in potentially excess deaths from unintentional injury during 2010–2017, leading to a narrower gap between the already high (approximately 55%) percentage of excess deaths in noncore and micropolitan counties.

    Public Health Action: Routine tracking of potentially excess deaths by urban-rural county classification might help public health departments and decision-makers identify and monitor public health problems and focus interventions to reduce potentially excess deaths in these areas.

    ss6810a1-H.pdf

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