Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Downeast Trip - Reasons for the Trip

Earlier this year a study by public health scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health looked at variations of trends in life expectancy among counties in the United States between 1961 and 1999 (“The Reversal of Fortunate: Trends in County Mortality and Cross-Country Mortality Disparities in the United States”, http://medicine.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pmed.0050066&ct=1).

Although life expectancy increased in the United States during this time period (more than 7 years for men and 6 years for women between the periods 1961-1983 and 1983-1999), some counties saw reductions in life expectancy.

The authors note that the data from these counties indicate a widening of health disparities in populations that are defined by race, income, geography, social class, education, and community deprivation.

One of the counties identified with the most severe declines in life expectancy among women is Washington County, Maine. Nationally, such declines appear to be due to increases in death rates from lung cancer, COPD, and diabetes. As a result of this national study, several groups have convened here in Maine to further investigate the causes, and Maine CDC is putting together a health profile of the county to provide some insights. Thus far, the preliminary data for Washington County indicate a complex picture of factors.

By mid-July I found myself studying these data related to the county, and realized that except for a number of business trips to Calais and Machias, I had not spent much time in Washington County since I was a child. I decided it was time for me to take a trip there to explore and discover for myself the beauty of Washington County and whatever insights I could glean from a visit.

With my husband away on business during the most convenient time for the trip, I also needed to take my children. Hesitant at first, I then realized this could be a fun opportunity, and we could enjoy and learn from this trip together. I figured having them along would allow me to explore the area through their eyes, and perhaps help me to take the time to breathe a bit more deeply.

More about the trip later.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I too, love down east maine, even though I live in Miami, fl , I have a house in roque bluffs...I wonder, why the high cancer rate?...It's so beautiful and pristine here. I look at the obituaries and see so many young people dying of cancer up here...I've heard "its the Cutler towers", "the Jet stream dumps everything from the west to east and also A week gene pool from inter breeding, everybody has the same last names, such as Beal etc. What is it ?