A NEW report on recent mortality trends recently released by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) indicates death rates in LA County appear to be on the rise in some groups in recent years, while deaths from Alzheimer’s disease and drug overdose have dramatically increased in LA County.
The overall mortality across the county decreased by 6.2% from 2008 to 2017, however, the decrease only occurred between 2008 and 2012. From 2012 to 2017, overall mortality showed little change. In addition, between 2008 and 2017, deaths from Alzheimer’s disease increased 71%, and deaths from drug overdose increased 28%.
“Mortality is one of the most important barometers of the health of our residents,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director, of Public Health. “These findings indicate clear areas of concern which require a collective response to the complex social conditions that contribute to the many health challenges we face as a county, especially for those residents experiencing the worst health outcomes.”
The report also found a lack of progress in reducing the large health disparities seen across different populations. For example:
• Mortality among African-Americans remained 30% higher than the county average throughout the 10-year period.
• Mortality among Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders was 41% higher than the county average, and among Native Americans, mortality was 27% higher than the county average.
• Mortality among residents of the Antelope Valley was 28% higher than the county average.
• The Antelope Valley region was the only one of the county’s eight service planning areas that had an increase in mortality from 2008 to 2017.
• Mortality among residents of South LA was 20% higher than the county average.
On a positive note, significant declines in mortality were seen for several of the leading causes of death:
• Although coronary heart disease was the leading cause of death, accounting for 18% of all deaths in the county in 2017, mortality associated with this cause decreased by 29% from 2008 to 2017.
• Mortality from lung cancer and chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD), both associated with smoking, decreased by 27% and 15%, respectively, during the 10- year period.
The report also included statistics on the leading causes of premature death, defined as deaths occurring before age 75, a standard cut-off used in public health analyses. Overall, the leading cause of premature death in the county population was coronary heart disease, followed by drug overdose, suicide, motor vehicle crashes, and homicide.
“These premature deaths are particularly tragic, as they are almost always preventable,” said Paul Simon, MD, MPH, Chief Science Officer for Public Health. “Not only do we need to take action to enhance integrated health care, mental health, and drug treatment services, but we must all work to create safer environments and more equitable institutional supports to ensure that all people have the opportunities and resources they need to be healthy, irrespective of race or income.”