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Community Efforts Saved Lives, Cut Costs in Maine

Better screening, control of high cholesterol and blood pressure cut deaths and hospitalizations

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 14, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Over four decades (1970 to 2010), a community-wide program in rural Franklin County, Maine, dramatically cut hospitalizations and deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke, researchers report in the Jan. 13 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Between 1970 and 1989, the death rate in the county was 60.4 per 100,000 people -- already the lowest in Maine. But between 1990 and 2010, that rate dropped even lower, to 41.6 per 100,000 people. According to the research team, the health benefits were largely due to getting citizens to control their blood pressure, lower their cholesterol, and quit smoking. "Improving access to health care, providing insurance, and concentrating on risk factors for heart disease and stroke made a substantial difference in the health of the overall population," coauthor Roderick Prior, M.D., from Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, Maine, told HealthDay.

Not only did the program reduce the death rate, but it saved the county money. From 1994 to 2006, hospitalizations were less than expected, which saved nearly $5.5 million in total in- and out-of-area hospital costs for county residents each year, the researchers said.

Prior believes that the Franklin County experience can be a model for other communities in the country. "If communities begin to take hold of their health problems, they can increase longevity and decrease the cost of health care," he said.

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