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Explore groundbreaking research on U.S. Life Expectancy with AJPH’s September issue

Date: Aug 09 2023


Contact: APHA Media Relations

In the wake of alarming reports detailing surges in child mortality, unprecedented levels of maternal deaths and a rapid decline in life expectancy, all within 2021, there has been a pressing demand for comprehensive scrutiny of the nation's healthcare landscape. Responding to this urgent need, APHA’s American Journal of Public Health, renowned for its commitment to advancing public health discourse, has produced its September issue, U.S. Life Expectancy Falling Behind.

“Since the 1950s, more than 50 countries on six continents have achieved higher life expectancy than the United States, due primarily to conditions in the U. S. Midwest and South-Central regions. This article, and its editorials, cast an illuminating spotlight on the widening gap in life expectancy between the United States and its global counterparts,” said Journal Editor-in-Chief, Alfredo Morabia MD, PhD. “Moreover, it delves into the pivotal role research plays in mending U.S. mortality rates in the future. Without this work, we would not see the geographic differences in overdose deaths. With it, we can dissect these trends and find solutions that will save lives.”

The pioneering research unveiled in AJPH not only enriches the discourse on critical public health challenges but also serves as a potent testament to the transformational power wielded by research in the quest for societal well-being.

Distinguished research featured in this issue reveals:

There is a need for the establishment of a mortality surveillance system.

o A collaboration between the Denver Health and Hospital Authority and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment uncovered that before matching their data, there were 11,972 deceased patients in Denver medical records, and after matching with the public health departments mortality data, an additional 72,875 deceased patients were identified. 

Community-based vaccine clinics played a pivotal role in increasing rates of timely vaccination completion, specifically within the Latino community.

Targeted and region-specific interventions are needed to address the stimulant-involved overdose crisis and to inform public health efforts for naloxone distribution. 

o Death rates involving cocaine and opioids sharply increase around 2015, particularly in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, while death rates involving psychostimulants without opioids steadily increased just before 2010, particularly in the West and South. Deaths involving psychostimulants with opioids increased around 2015, with the largest increases concentrated in Appalachian states.

There is an elevated risk of hospitalization associated with even moderate heat exposure in people experiencing homelessness. 

o From 2011 to 2019, between 14.5% and 18.9% of hospital admissions of people experiencing homelessness were attributable to temperatures above the minimum morbidity temperature in London.


This issue of AJPH touches on a diverse array of topics, including maternal mortality among non-Hispanic Black pregnant or postpartum individuals grappling with substance use, the potential of hospital-based community gardens to address community health needs, diversity in the public health workforce, the barriers faced by sexual and gender minority individuals in accessing care and the historic impacts of pandemics on children as a result of the lack of child health infrastructure in the United States. It provides a toolkit for the nuanced understanding of the intricate factors steering life expectancy trends within the nation and offers research and invaluable insights that collectively broaden our comprehension of the critical junctures in public health.

Through this work, we can see examples of impactful policies and innovative solutions to implement elsewhere and foster marked improvements in public health outcomes across all communities.


The American Journal of Public Health is produced by the American Public Health Association. APHA champions the health of all people and all communities. We are the only organization that combines a 150-year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence policy to improve the public's health. Visit us at https://ajph.aphapublications.org/