“Potentially preventable” cancer deaths plunged in Connecticut over the last decade, according to a federal study, with two rural counties, Litchfield and Windham, experiencing a nearly 49 percent decrease, the best in the nation. Though cancer deaths fell overall in the United States, the trend in rural areas was not universal. In neighboring Massachusetts, for example, preventable cancer deaths rose in non-metropolitan areas. “The disparities were quite stark,” said Dr. Macarena Garcia, a senior health scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and lead author of the study. In general, cancer patients in rural areas, where residents tend to be older, sicker and poorer, die sooner than urban dwellers, Garcia noted.
Connecticut has seen significant reductions in deaths from breast and colon cancer in the last three decades, but the state exceeds the national mortality rate for uterine cancer and three other cancers, as well as for mental health and substance use disorders. An analysis of data compiled by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, published in JAMA, also shows wide disparities between Connecticut counties in death rates from certain cancers and other illnesses. Windham County had the highest mortality rates for seven of 10 cancers identified in the study as having the highest disease burden or responsiveness to screening and treatment, including pancreatic, uterine and lung cancer. Tolland County, meanwhile, had the lowest death rates for five cancers, including breast cancer, while Fairfield County was lowest for four. Similarly, deaths from chronic respiratory diseases in Windham County were nearly double the rate in Fairfield County – 63.13 per 100,000, compared to 34.15.
Connecticut saw a decline in drunk-driving fatalities in 2014, but the state still ranks among the highest in the country in the percentage of traffic deaths involving alcohol-impaired drivers, new federal data show. Ninety-seven of the 248 traffic fatalities in Connecticut, or 39 percent, involved drivers with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher, considered alcohol-impaired, according to statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). That rate is higher than the U.S. average of 31 percent, and is the fifth highest nationally — behind Texas, North Dakota and Massachusetts, with rates of 41 percent, and Delaware, at 40 percent. Vermont had the lowest rate, at 20 percent. Total motor vehicle deaths in Connecticut declined from 276 in 2013 to 248, in line with a national trend.
Rates of heavy drinking in Connecticut spiked 21.3 percent between 2005 and 2012, while binge-drinking rates rose nearly 14 percent, with the largest increases among women drinkers, a new report shows. The increases put Connecticut’s drinking rates above the national average, with survey data from some counties showing that more than one in five adults are binge drinkers — defined as consuming more than four drinks a day for women and five for men on at least one occasion in the past 30 days. Heavy drinking and binge drinking rates were highest in Litchfield and Middlesex counties and lowest in New Haven and Hartford counties. All of the state’s counties exceeded the national rate for any alcohol consumption – 65.3 percent of adults statewide, compared to the national rate of 56 percent. While Connecticut had higher-than-average rates in 2012, so did a number of other states in the Northwest, Midwest, and New England.
Although smoking rates in Connecticut decreased between 1996 and 2012, striking disparities persist among counties, according to new research from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. The widest gap existed between Windham County, a rural area with the state’s highest overall smoking rate (15.6 percent), and Fairfield County, one of the wealthiest regions in the country, which had the state’s lowest smoking rate (9.5 percent). About twelve percent of the state’s population smoked cigarettes in 2012. “You’ll find lots of variations among counties even within small states like Connecticut that have successfully lowered smoking rates compared to other states in the nation,” said Ali Mokdad, professor of global health at IHME and one of the study’s authors. The IHME study looked at smoking prevalence – the percentage of the population that smokes – between 1996 and 2012.
Hypertension rates among women in all eight Connecticut counties increased from 2001 to 2009, with disparities widening for African American women compared to whites and Hispanics, according to a C-HIT analysis of data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. In fact, nearly one out of every two African American women living in Connecticut suffers from hypertension, a life-threatening condition that can lead to heart attack, stroke and kidney disease, research shows. The rising trend in hypertension coincides with increasing adult obesity rates in Connecticut and the nation, as stepped up efforts focusing on wellness — from Michelle Obama’s national physical activity campaign “Let’s Move!” to serving healthier meals at local public schools — look to stem the tide in future generations. The state findings on hypertension mirror national statistics showing black women with the highest rates. In Connecticut, health experts pointed to a mix of genetic, socioeconomic, and cultural factors as contributing to hypertension among black women.