U.S. Life Expectancy Has Decreased — How Do We Counteract This Trend?

May 19, 2021

Health provider consulting with patient

A recent report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that during the first half of 2020, life expectancy in the United States decreased by one full year. Even greater declines were seen among Black and Hispanic Americans.

As the country begins to come out of the pandemic, there are steps that organizations can take to reverse their population’s negative trend in life expectancy. Here are three examples:

  1. Encourage members to get vaccinated.

According to CDC data from early May, approximately one-third of Americans have been vaccinated. Experts have suggested, however, that the United States won’t achieve herd immunity. Even so, vaccinating the most vulnerable populations is essential to reduce the number of severe cases of COVID-19. Some believe that more personal messages about the value of vaccination could change the minds of vaccine-hesitant individuals. One approach is for primary care physicians to record video messages that they share with patients. Information from a trusted source about the safety and efficacy of vaccines may be just what some people need. Incentives may be effective for others.

  1. Double down on population health analytics.

It’s critically important for healthcare organizations to identify individuals with chronic conditions that have gone unmanaged during the pandemic. The long-term effects of neglecting care can be serious. In response, organizations need to determine who is at greatest risk of health problems and direct those individuals to care management. This is important for the well-being of members and patients, as well as the financial health of healthcare organizations and government agencies in value-based care agreements.

  1. Identify members who may be at risk of mental health issues or substance abuse problems that could lead to negative outcomes.

The stress of COVID-19 has led to mental health issues among both adults and children. These problems tend to be more severe among Black, Latino and Indigenous people, since their communities have been hard-hit both economically and physically by the novel coronavirus. Data also suggests that deaths from drug overdoses spiked during the pandemic. The good news is that telehealth has been recognized as a valuable medium for delivering care during the pandemic and beyond. It’s particularly useful for behavioral health. Healthcare organizations and government agencies should engage members to determine who could benefit from mental health services — either via face-to-face appointments or telehealth services.

The effects of COVID-19 will most likely be with us for some time to come, as people become more comfortable resuming preventive care, management of chronic conditions, and treatment of health problems that emerged during the pandemic. Leading healthcare organizations and government agencies have recognized that they must take a proactive stance to ensure that patients and members remain as healthy as possible moving forward and have the opportunity to live their best lives.

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