Senior man suffering from a heart attack, pain, at home
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Across the nation, a rise in preventable deaths and lack of access to healthcare will be among the most formidable health challenges facing states in the years ahead, according to a new report by the Commonwealth Fund.

In its 2023 Scorecard on State Health System Performance, released Thursday, the organization found states grappling with what it called a “stunning” rise in preventable deaths from multiple causes” that have lowered Americans’ average life expectancy, especially among people of color.

Population health risks have risen and mortality has spiked since 2020, in large part due to the COVID-19 virus, pandemic-related substance use and barriers to timely care, the authors reported. Between 2019 and 2021, all states have seen the increase in early, preventable deaths from treatable health issues. And some states fared worse than others. Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas experienced more of these deaths compared to other states, with an over 35% increase in avoidable mortality rates.

During the same time period, Black, American Indian/Alaska Native and Hispanic Americans had the largest relative drops in life expectancy.

Drug overdose and alcohol-related deaths have also jumped, with many Americans experiencing exacerbated mental and behavioral health issues during the pandemic. In 2021, 50,000 more deaths from these causes combined with suicide occurred than during pre-pandemic 2019. 

Yet, for many, behavioral health services are not readily accessible. Among adults who did not receive the care they needed, 42% said that cost was the main barrier, the investigators noted.

The full report can be found on the Commonwealth Fund’s website.

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