The missing Americans: early death in the United States 1933-2021

Figure. Excess deaths in the U.S. relative to other wealthy nations, 1933-2021. Source: Human Mortality Database. Note: Figure shows the difference between the number of deaths that occurred in the U.S. each year and the number of deaths that would have occurred if the U.S. had age-specific mortality rates equal to the average of other wealthy nations. The comparison set includes Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The average of other wealthy nations excludes Portugal prior to 1940, Austria and Japan prior to 1947, Germany prior to 1956, and Luxembourg prior to 1960. From 1960, all countries are represented (solid dots).

COVID-19 led to a large increase in U.S. deaths. However, even before the pandemic, the U.S. had higher death rates than other wealthy nations. How many deaths could be avoided if the U.S. had the same mortality rates as its peers?

In a new study, we quantify the annual number of U.S. deaths that would have been averted over nearly a century if the U.S. had age-specific mortality rates equal to the average of 18 similarly wealthy nations. We refer to these excess U.S. deaths as “missing Americans.”

The annual number of “missing Americans” increased steadily beginning in the late 1970s, reaching 626,353 in 2019 (Figure). Excess U.S. deaths jumped sharply to 991,868 in 2020 and 1,092,293 in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2021, nearly 1 out of every 3 U.S. deaths would have been averted if U.S. mortality rates had equaled those of its peer nations. Half of these excess deaths were among U.S. residents under 65 years. We estimate that the 1.1M excess deaths in 2021 were associated with 25M years of life lost, accounting for the number of years the deceased would otherwise be expected to live.

We also compared mortality rates of U.S. racial and ethnic groups with the international benchmark. Black and Native Americans accounted for a disproportionate share of the “missing Americans.” However, the majority of “missing Americans” were White non-Hispanic persons.

Our findings are consistent with recent reports that the life expectancy gap between the U.S. and peer nations widened during the pandemic, with U.S. life expectancy falling from 78.9 to 76.6 years. Life expectancy is widely reported, but it is a complex measure and may be misinterpreted as reflecting small differences in mortality at advanced ages.

In fact, the greatest relative differences in mortality between the U.S. and peer countries occur before age 65. In 2021, half of all deaths to U.S. residents under 65 years – and 90% of the increase in under-65 mortality since 2019 – would have been avoided if the U.S. had the mortality rates of other wealthy nations. In addition to the loss of life, these early deaths often leave behind child (and elder) dependents without key social and economic support.

Our calculations were based on recently released mortality data, obtained from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention WONDER Database and the Human Mortality Database. The international comparison group included all available countries with relatively complete mortality data starting in 1960 or earlier, after excluding former communist countries. Our paper builds on prior analyses of excess deaths by our study team and by others.

We find a very large increase in excess U.S. deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this spike occurred on top of a growing trend that reached 600,000 excess deaths in 2019. Future COVID-19 deaths could be reduced with broader vaccine uptake, worker protections, and masking during surges. Even if COVID-19 mortality were eliminated, however, the U.S. would likely suffer hundreds of thousands of excess deaths each year, with many linked to firearms, opioids, and obesity.

Addressing excess deaths in the U.S. will require public health and social policies that target the root causes of U.S. health malaise, including fading economic opportunities and rising financial insecurity, structural racism, and failures of institutions at all levels of government to invest adequately in population health.

Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue

Gun violence is a public health problem, but we don’t approach it like one. The debate often gets framed as “guns or no guns” when it isn’t that black and white. In this episode we break down how and why to approach gun violence as a public health problem, what the current research has to say, and what we need to move forward.

American Medical Association (AMA) takes strong stand on social issues

https://mailchi.mp/8e26a23da845/the-weekly-gist-june-17th-2022?e=d1e747d2d8

At its annual meeting this week, the AMA’s policymaking arm voted to adopt resolutions opposing state efforts that criminalize abortion or limit access to reproductive healthcare. This comes ahead of the much-anticipated Supreme Court decision, which is expected to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The nation’s largest physician organization joined the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in calling on the Food and Drug Administration to make birth control pills available over-the-counter and without age restrictions. The AMA also declared climate change a public health crisis, as physicians are already seeing negative health effects from heat-related injuries.   

The Gist: As a new generation of physicians has entered the workforce, the policy priorities of physician lobbying organizations have evolved. We are seeing a growing interest in addressing hot-button social issues head-on. The AMA has declared both gun violence and racism to be public health issues, and supports health insurance coverage expansion, positions that would have been unimaginable a few decades ago. 

Though progressive on social issues, however, the AMA is still advocating against state efforts to expand mid-level providers’ scope of practice—maintaining its traditional role as a protector of the physician guild.  

Speaking up about the unspeakable

The right to bear arms has existed since we became a nation. So, too, has the risk of violence that extensive gun ownership creates in our society. 

Unfortunately, recent mass shooting incidents, fueled by hatred or mental illness, have sparked a great deal of fear and confusion among Americans.  

As healthcare leaders, our concern centers on the treatment of those who are victims of senseless gun violence. And not just those who are shot, but the other victims as well.

Healthcare providers must care for all victims — the ones who are traumatized because a loved one has been hurt or lost, the ones who were at the chaotic scene of the violence, or who are haunted by the endless media stories they cannot seem to tune out. The emotional toll of this violence is incomprehensible.

Healthcare facilities attempt to provide refuge from violence and seek to provide healing and hope to all victims of violence. 

And yet, sadly, we are not immune to being another venue for violence

Unstable individuals with guns and other weapons of harm find their way into our buildings and hallways as well. Earlier this month, a man who blamed his physician for ongoing pain after a recent back surgery shot and killed his surgeon and three other people before fatally shooting himself in a Tulsa, Okla., medical facility. Also this month, a hospital security officer was shot and killed by a prison inmate who was receiving care in a Dayton, Ohio, emergency room.

These incidents are the latest horrifying tragedies in a wave of deadly gun violence occurring across our country, including two heart-breaking mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas. We mention these tragedies not to make a political statement, but to raise awareness of the consequences of this violence on healthcare providers and the public health. 

As healthcare workers, healers, and caregivers, we work to fix what is broken and put people back together. We bring solutions. We engage with our hearts to stand together in the fear and vulnerabilities of those who need us so that we can help them through difficult challenges. We look to bring light to dark situations. We seek to be beacons of hope. 

The escalation of recent shootings, suicides and other violent behaviors underscores the urgency for a national conversation on what has become a serious public health crisis. We believe health systems have a credible voice and can play a critical role beyond being places to physically and emotionally care for the victims of violence.

It’s easy to allow ourselves to become numb to the frequency of these unconscionable, violent acts. But we owe it to present and future generations not to let that happen. We recognize there are no easy answers to this national problem. After all, we are dealing with abnormal behavior — the decision to seriously harm or kill other people. That this behavior is increasing calls for something to be done to effect positive change.

People across our country and the communities we serve are hurting and vulnerable. Many people are weary from the pandemic that has impacted our hearts and our health. Violence and death, and particularly mass shootings, hit adults hard. Now consider what the prevalence and threat of school shootings have done to an entire generation of children, who are growing up with the fear of being shot and killed in a place they should feel safe.

We all can play a role. Recently, our two organizations decided to do something to reduce gun violence by sponsoring a law enforcement gun buyback program to help get guns off the street. This effort was part of the largest single-day gun buyback in New Jersey state history. It successfully removed over 2,800 guns statewide. Private organizations, companies, and individuals must think of additional creative ways beyond criticizing politicians, to bring about the change we need. 

We encourage organizations and communities to come together, to pool their minds and their resources to address gun violence in society as the urgent public health crisis that it is. We must create meaningful public health campaigns around the safe storage and handling of firearms, and sensible and innovative ways to prevent gun violence in schools, healthcare settings and public places. Individuals should educate themselves on the issues surrounding gun violence so they may contribute to the effort to bring about necessary and meaningful change.  

And yes, we need to accelerate efforts around our nation’s mental health crisis. We know from the data and what we are all experiencing that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated what was already a growing nationwide mental health crisis. 

Violence against any person in any venue is unspeakable. Yet just because it is unspeakable does not mean we should not speak up about it. Let us put our anger, shock and heartbreak into positive change. With the same unstoppable resolution that we seek to cure cancer or slow heart disease, let us advocate, educate and take meaningful action to end gun violence and all senseless violence that is taking such a tragic toll on our nation and our wellbeing.  

Mr. Pullin is president and CEO of Virtua Health. Mr. O’Dowd is co-president and CEO of Cooper University Health Care.

About Virtua Health
Virtua Health is an academic health system committed to helping the people of South Jersey be well, get well, and stay well by providing the complete spectrum of advanced, accessible, and trusted healthcare services. Virtua’s 14,000 colleagues provide tertiary care, including renowned cardiology and transplant programs, complemented by a community-based care portfolio. In addition to five hospitals, two satellite emergency departments, 30 ambulatory surgery centers, and more than 300 other locations, Virtua brings health services directly into communities through Hospital at Home, physical therapy and rehabilitation, mobile screenings, and its paramedic program. Virtua has 2,850 affiliated doctors and other clinicians, and its specialties include orthopedics, advanced surgery, and maternity. Virtua is academically affiliated with Rowan University, leading research, innovation, and immersive education at the Virtua Health College of Medicine & Health Sciences of Rowan University. Virtua is also affiliated with Penn Medicine for cancer and neuroscience, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for pediatrics. As a not-for-profit, Virtua is committed to the well-being of the community and provides innovative outreach programs that address social challenges affecting health, most notably the “Eat Well” food access initiative, which includes the unparalleled Eat Well Mobile Grocery Store. A Magnet-recognized health system ranked by U.S. News and World Report, Virtua has received many awards for quality, safety, and its outstanding work environment. For more information, visit Virtua.org. To help Virtua make a difference, visit GiveToVirtua.org.

About Cooper University Health Care
Cooper University Health Care is a leading academic health system with more 8,500 employees and more than 800 employed physicians. Cooper University Hospital is the only Level 1 Trauma Center in South Jersey and the busiest in the region.  Annually, nearly two million patients are served at Cooper’s 635-bed flagship hospital, outpatient surgery center, three urgent care centers, and more than 105 ambulatory offices throughout the community. The Cooper Health Sciences campus is home to Cooper University Hospital, MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper, Children’s Regional Hospital at Cooper, and Cooper Medical School of Rowan University. Visit CooperHealth.org to learn more.

Former patient kills his surgeon and three others at a Tulsa hospital

https://mailchi.mp/31b9e4f5100d/the-weekly-gist-june-03-2022?e=d1e747d2d8

On Wednesday afternoon, an aggrieved patient shot and killed four people, including his orthopedic surgeon and another doctor, at a Saint Francis Hospital outpatient clinic, before killing himself. The gunman, who blamed his surgeon for ongoing pain after a recent back surgery, reportedly purchased his AR-15-style rifle only hours before the mass shooting, which also injured 10 others. The same day as this horrific attack, an inmate receiving care at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, OH shot and killed a security guard, and then himself.

The Gist: On the heels of the horrendous mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, we find ourselves grappling with yet more senseless gun violence. Last week, we called on health system leaders to play a greater role in calling for gun law reforms. This week’s events show they must also ensure that their providers, team members, and patients are safe. 

Of course, that’s a tall order, as hospital campuses are open for public access, and strive to be convenient and welcoming to patients. Most health systems already staff armed security guards or police officers, have a limited number of unlocked entrances, and provide active shooter training for staff.

This week’s events remind us that our healthcare workers are not just on the front lines of dealing with the horrific outcomes of gun violence, but may find themselves in the crosshairs—adding to already rising levels of workplace violence sparked by the pandemic.

Something must change.

Gun violence, the leading cause of death among US children, claims more victims

https://mailchi.mp/d73a73774303/the-weekly-gist-may-27-2022?e=d1e747d2d8

Only 10 days after a racially motivated mass shooting that killed 10 in a Buffalo, NY grocery store, 19 children and two teachers were murdered on Tuesday at an elementary school in Uvalde, TX. The Uvalde shooting was the 27th school shooting, and one of over 212 mass shootings, that have occurred this year alone.

Firearms recently overtook car accidents as the leading cause of childhood deaths in the US, and more than 45,000 Americans die from gun violence each year. 

The Gist: Gun violence is, and has long been, a serious public health crisis in this country. It is both important to remember, yet difficult for some to accept, that many mass shootings are preventable. 

Health systems, as stewards of health in their communities, can play a central role in preventing gun violence at its source, both by bolstering mental health services and advocating for the needed legislative actions—supported by a strong majority of American voters—to stem this public health crisis. 

As Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling said this week, “Our job is to save lives and prevent people from illness and death. Gun violence is not an issue on the outside—it’s a central public health issue for us. Every single hospital leader in the United States should be standing up and screaming about what an abomination this is. If you were hesitant about getting involved the day before…May 24 should have changed your perspective. It’s time.”

Cartoon – Masks are for the Weak!!!

Gun Control and Gun Rights Cartoons | US News

The Presidential Campaign, Policy Issues and the Public

https://news.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/269717/presidential-campaign-policy-issues-public.aspx

The Presidential Campaign, Policy Issues and the Public

The U.S. presidential campaign is ultimately a connection between candidates and the people of the country, but the development of the candidates’ policies and positions is largely asymmetric. Candidates develop and announce “plans” and policy positions that reflect their (the candidates’) philosophical underpinnings and (presumably) deep thinking. The people then get to react and make their views known through polling and, ultimately, through voting.

Candidates by definition assume they have unique wisdom and are unusually qualified to determine what the government should do if they are elected (otherwise, they wouldn’t be running). That may be so, but the people of the country also have collective wisdom and on-the-ground qualifications to figure out what government should be doing. That makes it useful to focus on what the people are telling us, rather than focusing exclusively on the candidates’ pronouncements. I’m biased, because I spend most of my time studying the public’s opinions rather than what the candidates are saying. But hopefully most of us would agree that it is worthwhile to get the public’s views of what they want from their government squarely into the mix of our election-year discourse.

So here are four areas where my review of public opinion indicates the American public has clear direction for its elected officials.

1. Fixing Government Itself.

I’ve written about this more than any other topic this year. The data are clear that the American people are in general disgusted (even more than usual) with the way their government is working and perceive that government and elected leaders constitute the most important problem facing the nation today.

The people themselves may be faulted here because they are the ones who give cable news channels high ratings for hyperpartisan programming, keep ideological radio talk shows alive, click on emotionally charged partisan blogs, and vote in primaries for hyperpartisan candidates. But regardless of the people’s own complicity in the problem, there isn’t much doubt that the government’s legitimacy in the eyes of the people is now at a critically negative stage.

“Fixing government” is a big, complex proposition, of course, but we do have some direction from the people. While Americans may agree that debate and differences are part of our political system, there has historically been widespread agreement on the need for elected representatives to do more compromising. Additionally, Americans favor term limitsrestricting the amount of money candidates can spend in campaigns and shifting to a 100% federally funded campaign system. (Pew Research polling shows that most Americans say big donors have inordinate influence based on their contributions, and a January Gallup poll found that only 20% of Americans were satisfied with the nation’s campaign finance laws.) Americans say a third major party is needed to help remedy the inadequate job that the two major parties are doing of representing the people of the country. Available polling shows that Americans favor the Supreme Court’s putting limits on partisan gerrymandering.

Additionally, a majority of Americans favor abolishing the Electoral College by amending the Constitution to dictate that the candidate who gets the most popular votes be declared the winner of the presidential election (even though Americans who identify as Republicans have become less interested in this proposition in recent years because the Republican candidate has lost the popular vote but has won in the Electoral College in two of the past five elections).

 

2. Fix the Backbone of the Nation by Initiating a Massive Government Infrastructure Program.

I have written about this at some length. The public wants its government to initiate massive programs to fix the nation’s infrastructure. Leaders of both parties agree, but nothing gets done. The failure of the Congress and the president to agree on infrastructure legislation is a major indictment of the efficacy of our current system of representative government.

 

3. Pass More Legislation Relating Directly to Jobs.

Jobs are the key to economic wellbeing for most pre-retirement-age Americans. Unemployment is now at or near record lows, to be sure, but there are changes afoot. Most Americans say artificial intelligence will eliminate more jobs than it creates. The sustainability of jobs with reasonably high pay in an era when unionized jobs are declining and contract “gig” jobs are increasing is problematic. Our Gallup data over the years show clear majority approval for a number of ideas focused on jobs: providing tax incentives for companies to teach workers to acquire new skills; initiating new federal programs to increase U.S. manufacturing jobs; creating new tax incentives for small businesses and entrepreneurs who start new businesses; providing $5.5 billion in federal monies for job training programs that would create 1 million jobs for disadvantaged young Americans; and providing tax credits and incentives for companies that hire the long-term unemployed.

My read of the data is that the public generally will support almost any government effort to increase the availability of high-paying, permanent jobs.

 

4. Pass Legislation Dealing With All Aspects of Immigration.

Americans rate immigration as one of the top problems facing the nation today. The majority of Americans favor their elected representatives taking action that deals with all aspects of the situation — the regulation of who gets to come into the country in the first place and the issue of dealing with individuals who are already in the country illegally. As I summarized in a review of the data earlier this year: “Americans overwhelmingly favor protecting the border, although with skepticism about the need for new border walls. Americans also overwhelmingly favor approaches for allowing undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S. to stay here.”

Recent surveys by Pew Research also reinforce the view that Americans have multiple goals for their elected representatives when it comes to immigration: border security, dealing with immigrants already in the country, and taking in refugees affected by war and violence.

 

More Direction From the People

What else do the people want their elected representatives to do? The answer can be extremely involved (and complex), but there are several additional areas I can highlight where the data show clear majority support for government policy actions.

 

Americans See Healthcare and Education as Important but Don’t Have a Clear Mandate

There are two areas of life to which the public attaches high importance, but about which there is no clear agreement on what the government should be doing. One is healthcare, an issue that consistently appears near the top of the list of most important problems facing the nation, and obviously an issue of great concern to presidential candidates. But, as I recently summarized, “Healthcare is clearly a complex and often mysterious part of most Americans’ lives, and public opinion on the issue reflects this underlying messiness and complexity. Americans have mixed views about almost all aspects of the healthcare system and clearly have not yet come to a firm collective judgment on suggested reforms.”

Education is another high priority for Americans, but one where the federal government’s role in the eyes of the public isn’t totally clear. Both the American people and school superintendents agree on the critical importance of teachers, so I presume the public would welcome efforts by the federal government to make the teaching profession more attractive and more rewarding. Americans also most likely recognize that education is a key to the future of the job market in a time of growing transition from manual labor to knowledge work. But the failure of the federal government’s massive effort to get involved in education with the No Child Left Behind legislation underscores the complexities of exactly what the federal government should or should not be doing in education, historically a locally controlled part of our American society.

 

 

 

California will be first state to train doctors in how their counsel can prevent gun deaths

https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article236257503.html

Image result for California will be first state to train doctors in how their counsel can prevent gun deaths

The state of California will pay $3.85 million to researchers at the University of California, Davis, to develop the nation’s first program to train health care professionals to help their patients reduce firearm-related injury and death, university officials announced Tuesday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom approved the funding on Friday when he signed Assembly Bill 521 . Money will go toward educating a variety of California providers, including practicing physicians, mental health care professionals, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, health professions students and other specialists.

Dr. Amy Barnhorst, a UC Davis Health psychiatrist, will oversee the training. She has spent a good deal of her career studying gun violence, suicide and public mental health.

“Medical and mental health providers are uniquely positioned to respond to and prevent firearm-related harm,” Barnhorst said. “Many have asked for more information on when and how to discuss firearms with patients and what to do when patients have access to guns and are at high risk for harming themselves or others.”

Barnhorst and other UC Davis researchers look into how to prevent violence, what causes it, and the consequences of it at the Violence Prevention Research Program. This research program is home to the UC Firearm Violence Research Center.

Around the nation, physicians have called for meaningful policy changes to address the public health risk of gun violence in the wake of mass shootings like those at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in July and the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks last November. California reported 3,184 gun-related deaths in 2017, including 1,610 suicides and 1,435 homicides, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers from UCD’s Violence Prevention Research Program, Stanford University and other institutions teamed up to publish guidelines in the Annals of Internal Medicine on how the nation’s physicians could begin to have conversations with patients at risk of harm.

Dr. Garen Wintemute, the program’s director, said the new law allows Barnhorst and other team members to build upon this work.

Physicians can, for instance, counsel patients on safe storage practices or how to initiate gun violence restraining orders or how to intervene on behalf of individuals with mental health issues. To emphasize the importance of these conversations, researchers cited data in the Annals of Internal Medicine that show that as many as 30 percent of firearms owners keep at least one gun loaded but not locked up.

“California health professionals are committed to making firearm violence prevention part of their practices, and we are very excited by the opportunity to equip them with the knowledge and skills they need,” Wintemute said.

In addition to training physicians, Wintemute said, UC Davis will continue its rigorous search for specific gaps in knowledge and structural barriers that prevent society from being able to reduce the threat of gun violence.

Assemblyman Marc Berman, D-Palo Alto, co-authored AB 521 with Assembly members Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters; David Chiu, D-San Francisco; Jesse Gabriel, D-San Fernando Valley; Todd Gloria, D-San Diego; Marc Levine, D-Marin County; and Mark Stone, D-Monterey Bay; as well as state Sens. Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, and Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco.