3 Public Health Issues in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) releases the Prevention Status Reports (PSR) every year that highlights the status of public health policies designed to address important public health issues, which include:

Alcohol-related harms

Food safety

Healthcare-associated infections

Heart disease and stroke


Motor vehicle injury

Nutrition, physical activity, and obesity

Prescription drug overdose

Teen pregnancy

Tobacco use

American Public Health Association (APHA) The American Public Health Association, or APHA, champions the health of all people and communities by strengthening the public health profession and by speaking out for public health issues and policies backed by science.

In addition to the issues mentioned above that the CDC recognizes, the APHA also deals with:

Climate change

Environmental health

Gun violence

Health equity

Health reform


#1: Tobacco Use

Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of death and disease in the United States and kills more than 480,000 Americans ever year. This includes 41,000 deaths from exposure to secondhand smoke.

Smoking-related illnesses in the U.S. costs more than $300 billion a year when you combine direct medical care for adults ($170 billion) and lost productivity ($156 billion). Yet, in 2016 there were still an estimated 37.8 million, or 15.5% of U.S. adults who were current cigarette smokers.

Obesity as a Financial Issue

The obesity crisis costs the United States more than $150 billion in healthcare costs annually and billions more due to lost productivity.

What Is Considered Obese?

Obesity, currently one of the important public health issues, is defined as an amount of body fat that exceeds the level generally considered healthy for a particular height. Body mass index (BMI), an inexpensive and easy to calculate method, is typically used as a proxy.

For adults, the following weight classifications are associated with specific BMI levels:

Below 18.5 = Underweight

18.5 – 24.9 = Normal weight

25.0 – 29.9 = Overweight

30.0 – 39.9 = Obese

40.0+ = Class 3 obese (also referred to as severe obesity or morbid


Because children ages 2-19 are continuously growing, the chart uses BMI percentiles to determine obesity, which is as follows:

Below 5th percentile = Underweight

5th to 84.9th percentile = Normal weight

85th to 94.9th percentile = Overweight

95th percentile = Obese

How Many Americans Are Obese?

Using BMI, the CDC reported that in 2015-16 the obesity rates were:

39.8% in adults

18.5% in youth

According to the same study, the rates of obesity were higher among middle-aged adults (42.8%) than among younger adults (35.7%).


Source: https://www.gradschools.com/programs/public-health/current-issues-in-public-health

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