Is Not Having Health Insurance a Leading Cause of Preventable Death?

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brent braveman's blog

Thoughts about occupational therapy, interdisciplinary management and living live to its fullest!

Is Not Having Health Insurance a Leading Cause of Preventable Death?

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One strategy that I hold near and dear to help me stay on top of what is happening in health and health care in the U.S. is scanning the environment for new information and for new ways of thinking about emerging trends that impact our health care system.

This is a quick blog to share an interesting article published by Tom Liu of the Advisory Board Company daily brief  (

Signing up to receive these daily Email briefs is an easy strategy to help with scanning the environment.

Liu links two reports out this week. The first is in the Annals of Internal Medicine examining changes in mortality in Massachusetts after implementation of the state's health care reform law and the second is a report by the CDC on the top five causes of preventable deaths He then cites a third data source  which is a 2012 Urban Institute report that  "estimated that 15.1 million uninsured adults could gain coverage if every state expanded Medicaid. Using the 830 figure from the Massachusetts study, and acknowledging that the state's coverage wasn't exactly equivalent to Medicaid, that would translate to 18,193 deaths prevented per year."

Liu commented that "For a sense of comparison—that would make the Medicaid coverage gap the number five leading cause of preventable death in the United States." Using his data sources he ranked the preventable causes of death in this order:

1. Heart disease (91,757)

2. Cancer (84,443)

3. Unintentional injuries (36,836)

4. Chronic lower respiratory disease (28,831)

5. Medicaid coverage gap (18,193)

6. Cerebrovascular diseases (16,973)

Interesting numbers that gave me something to to ponder (till I get the brief tomorrow!).

I would love to hear about other sources people use to scan the environment?

  • Dr. Braveman:

    These are great resources, thank you for sharing!

    I know that it is not a primary source, but since they so often link to primary sources, I frequently scan the New York Times, and then following up with a review of their source material for the more interesting articles. For instance, this one is fairly simple, but is accompanied by a nice info-graphic comparing health measures in the U.S. to those in other countries:

    I'm sure many in the U.S. would be surprised as to how poorly the this country fares in many basic health measures (for instance, infant mortality rates) when compared with other countries, both developed and developing. It'll be interesting to see if there are any significant changes in those statistics over the coming years.

    I've also found that Upstream Public Health is a great source for information on current research, fact sheets, and other information related to a variety of public health issues. (The policy pages are focused on Oregon, but much of the research is not state-specific.)

    I'm particularly interested in good "scanning" sources that are specific to mental health, which I've had difficulty finding. As I'll soon be starting a position in forensic mental health, I'd be interested in any user-friendly reports that focus on mental health treatment, incarceration, recidivism rates, etc. If anybody happens to know of or comes across any, I would love to hear about it!

  • I will keep my eye out for mental health sources but hope someone else will share. There is so, so, so much information on all fronts it is very difficult to keep on top of things. It is important to check primary sources and confirm before using the information for something important.......but getting the Emails "pushed" to your box is a great way to scan.

    I don't have any experience in forensic mental health, but hope you can share resources as you find them!