ASTHO Statement on U.S. Life Expectancy Increase

February 03, 2020

ARLINGTON, VA—Nathaniel Smith, MD, MPH, secretary of health at the Arkansas Department of Health and president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) issued the following statement today following new data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that show U.S. life expectancy rose in 2018 for the first time in four years, thanks to a drop in cancer-related deaths and decline in fatal overdoses.

“ASTHO is cautiously optimistic about the recent reduction in drug overdose deaths and the resulting improvement in overall life expectancy. Leadership within the administration, federal agencies, and Congress has helped state and territorial health departments in their work to prevent opioid overdose deaths, expand access to treatment, and get more Americans the recovery services and support they need.

“HHS and its respective public health agencies, including CDC and SAHMSA, have played a tremendous role in facilitating the success of the reported outcomes to combat the opioid crisis. Funding provided directly to state and territorial public health departments bolstered efforts to expand and improve prescription drug monitoring programs, make naloxone widely available, expand access to addiction treatment, promote opioid stewardship, and reduce the risk of addiction by addressing adverse childhood events and the profound role stigma plays as a barrier to treatment and recovery.

“Recent reductions in overall U.S. life expectancy have been very concerning to public health and this year’s data make us hopeful that we are moving in the right direction again. We are encouraged by the reductions in drug overdose deaths and glad to see that our nation saw a reduction in death rate from cancer, which remains a leading cause of death and disability.”


ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and freely associated states, and Washington, D.C., as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.