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Medical research blames 10 percent of deaths on smoking, professor says

Yiannis Kyriopoulos says the World Health Organization has recently begun focusing on the evaluation of health systems. One technique used in this evaluation is measuring mortality rates as a way to test how well a society’s health system is preventing disease, he said. Teams of scientists have selected 36 categories of disease which can cause death but can also be treated via existing medical practices or technology. «These techniques can show how healthy a population is, but they especially illuminate the progress of a healthcare system,» Kyriopoulos said. By examining how a culture cares for people through its healthcare system, medical scholars can evaluate items such as advances in technology and the education of doctors and other healthcare professionals. And this data could then be used to help improve people’s health, he said. The aforementioned study – done with doctors from ESDY, the Institute of Children’s Health, and the universities of Thrace, Thessaly and Crete – is the first of its kind to be conducted over a long period of time. Data will be sorted by geography, to get a sense of healthcare in the regions of Greece. At some stage, the data will be analyzed to determine each area’s number of doctors, the medical training or education of healthcare professionals, technology, new medicines and treatments in an effort to discover how to improve the population’s health and lower mortality rates for avoidable diseases. Kathimerini spoke to Kyriopoulos about the study and the issues it raises. Overall, are health indicators improving? The first conclusion is that total mortality rates regarding preventable diseases have dropped in this country in the last 25 years. Health indicators and the effectiveness of the healthcare system here have improved as a result of improvements in technology, doctors being better trained in specific treatment techniques (most doctors have, in addition to their specialization, furthered their studies outside Greece), better medicine and more effective treatment. Based on an analysis of 29 categories of diseases that are considered treatable, the portion of the healthcare system that deals with treatment is showing progress. It’s definitely improving. There is, however, another category – that of avoidable deaths – which is connected to preventative measures. This category includes lung cancer, traffic accidents and cirrhosis of the liver related to alcoholism. We are not doing so well with anything from this category, with the exception of cirrhosis of the liver. Rise in lung cancer Lung cancer leads the course. In comparing the data, it is clear that the country must place priority on a national healthcare policy that influences people to stop smoking. We saw a great increase in lung cancer in the 1980s and 1990s and this increase continues today, with only a slight decrease, but not enough to affect the general image of this period. If this trend continues, we will be in a much worse situation. Some 10 percent of deaths and 15 percent of hospitalizations are exclusively connected to smoking. In the last few years, a small but interesting decrease has been observed in the number of deaths related to traffic accidents, which continue to be a main cause in the increase of mortality among adolescents and young adults. Gynecological cancers Have you also confirmed an increase in the number of deaths from gynecological cancers? Actually, we have observed a significant decrease in the number of deaths from uterine cancer, but the picture for cervical cancer and breast cancer shows that prevention is not living up to its possibilities and is not producing the results it should. The data show a need to upgrade efforts and to distribute economic resources to services that offer PAP tests, mammograms or breast exams.