One Year of Vital Signs

Jul 5, 2011, 6:10 PM, Posted by

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., says a conversation with colleagues on the lawn of the White House about creating a health indicator survey similar to the economic indicator report was the genesis behind Vital Signs, which turned one-year old today. The report, published monthly, provides public health practitioners with key data on leading public health topics including cancer prevention, obesity, tobacco use, alcohol use, HIV/AIDS, motor vehicle passenger safety, health care-associated infections, cardiovascular health, teen pregnancy, asthma and food safety. The report includes both recent data and recommendations.

The Vital Signs report released today looks at colorectal cancer screening, the number two cause of cancer death in the U.S. (lung cancer is number one). According to the new report, fewer adults are being diagnosed with and dying of colorectal cancer and the condition could lose its second place ranking if more people are screened.

The rate of new cases of colorectal cancer fell from 52.3 per 100,000 in 2003 to 45.4 per 100,000 in 2007, the last year for which data is available, representing nearly 66,000 fewer cancers. The colorectal cancer death rate fell from 19.0 per 100,000 in 2003 to 16.7 per 100,000 in 2007, representing nearly 32,000 fewer deaths. And the new Vital Signs report finds that colorectal cancer screening increased overall from 52 percent in 2002 to 65 percent in 2010. About 1 in 3 people between the ages of 50 and 75, however, are not up to date with recommended colorectal cancer screening.

Nationally, deaths from colorectal cancer decreased by 3 percent between 2003 and 2007, and rates dropped in 49 states and Washington, D.C. The largest decreases in deaths from colorectal cancer occurred in many states with the highest levels of screening. In 2007, Washington, D.C. reported the highest number of colorectal cancer deaths per 100,000 people (20%); Montana and Colorado reported the lowest (14 %).

Weigh In: How has your community made use of a Vital Signs report?

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.