U.S. mortality rate not falling as quickly as other countries, partly because of obesity

 (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, file)

(AP Photo/Toby Talbot, file)

As the health and science fields continue to make cutting-edge breakthroughs, we might expect fewer people to die every year as a result.

That’s certainly true in many cases, but when it comes to lowering the mortality rate, the U.S. is behind other developed countries like Canada, Norway, the U.K., and Australia. 

Samuel Preston, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, says we often hear about deaths due to drug overdoses and prescription opioids, but we shouldn’t lose sight of something else that steadily contributes to the mortality rate in the U.S.

“The increase in obesity is relatively slow from year to year and I don’t think it has received the amount of attention that it deserves as a public health threat,” Preston said. “The thing about obesity is that it’s a steady, relentless increase from year to year.”

Preston is one of the authors of a new analysis that found an additional 186,000 people died in 2011 in the country, partly because of obesity.

Philadelphia’s health commissioner Thomas Farley said “that means that all of the dire predictions that public health experts have said in recent years are coming true.”

Back in 2005, researchers anticipated life expectancy in the U.S. would drop because of obesity.

In Philadelphia, the adult obesity rate has been steadily rising, with about a third of all adults being obese, according to the latest statistics from the city’s Department of Public Health. Obesity rates are on the rise nationwide, as well.

The obesity rates in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey are 30.3 percent, 30.7 percent, and 27.4 percent respectively, according to 2017 data from the nonprofit Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Farley points to the city’s soda tax as one way to address the issue, and that sales of sugary drinks have gone down since the tax was put in place. He added that city officials hope to continue to make the city better for bikers and pedestrians, improve parks and recreation centers, and discourage people from unhealthy eating.

He says at this point, even getting the city’s obesity rate to level off would be considered a success.

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