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CDC Finds Big Geographic Variation in Hospitalization of Elderly Heart Disease Patients

By John Reichard, CQ HealthBeat Editor

March 1, 2010 - -The rate of hospitalization for heart disease varies sharply among Medicare patients depending on where they live, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Monday.

In what it called the first-ever such analysis based on county-level data, the public health agency said that the rates were highest in counties located primarily in Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta, Texas and Oklahoma.

CDC officials said the findings could be used to target policies and programs to prevent heart disease to communities with the highest hospitalization rates.

"With targeted public health efforts, such as prevention and early identification of risk factors, and increased access to appropriate medical care, the burden of heart disease can be reduced," said Darwin Labarthe, director of CDC's Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention.

The study found that in the states with the highest rates of hospitalization for Medicare heart disease patients, the rate was generally double that of the states with the lowest rates. For example, in Louisiana there were 95.2 hospitalizations for every 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries, compared with 44.8 in Hawaii.

The heart disease hospitalization rate was much higher among blacks than whites or Hispanics. Specifically, the rate was 85.3 hospitalizations per 1,000 beneficiaries for blacks, 74.4 per 1,000 for whites and 73.6 per 1,000 for Hispanics.

CDC said it's a national priority to reduce heart disease, the nation's leading cause of death. It estimated a cost this year of $316.4 billion in health care services, medications, and lost productivity.

Separately, a report released Monday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America's Health examined geographic variations in spending on public health programs.

The report found that CDC funding to states to prevent disease and improve health ranged from a per capita low of $13.33 in Virginia in fiscal 2009 to a high of $58.65 in Alaska. The report also found that states in the Midwest received the least federal funding for disease prevention while Northeastern states received the most.

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