Drops in life expectancy raise alarm among physicians – Northwestern Now

'Root causes are the deep fissures in our health care system, poor levels of health'
Kristin Samuelson
CHICAGO — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday announcedthe U.S. life expectancy fell to its lowest in decades, dropping to 76.1 years in 2021—the lowest it has been since 1996—from 77 years in 2020. It is the biggest two-year decline in a century.
Dr. Clyde Yancy, chief of cardiology in the department of medicine and vice dean for diversity and inclusion at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a Northwestern Medicine physician, broke down the steep declines by race, explained the root causes and offered solutions going forward. 
Dr. Yancy is available for interviews with the media. Contact Kristin Samuelson at ksamuelson@northwestern.edu to schedule time to speak with him. 
“Short version, the drop in life expectancy noted in 2020 was not an aberration,” Yancy said. “Life expectancy in the United States is now lower than every country in the Americas except for HaitiThe drop in life expectancy is the largest such drop since 1923For Native Americans and Alaska Natives, life expectancy is at levels not seen since 1944. For Black Americans, life expectancy is at levels last seen in 1996.
“Across the board, these statistics are driven not only by chronic disease burden but also increased injuries, accidental deaths, persistent health disparities and pernicious challenges in health care access.
“Certain groups are disproportionately affected, but all groups are at risk. Both sexes and all cohorts by race and ethnicity—white & non-white—face drops in life expectancy. The root causes are the exposure of fractures in our healthcare system—deep fissures in fact—and poor levels of health driven by a preponderance of risk factors (e.g. obesity, hypertension and diabetes) associated with vulnerability to chronic diseases. 
“Solutions are manifold: New public health initiatives; positive changes in risk factors; redoubled emphasis on healthy lifestyles and improved access to care. That these reductions in life expectancy have occurred over two consecutive years raises the alarm to initiate fundamental changes in lifestyle and healthcare over the short term, and to seek better public health over the longer term.” 
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