Giving Compass' Take:

• Lisa Rappaport reports that U.S. death rates have been declining, but vary from state to state. Studies show that the variation is explained by unhealthy behaviors that people can control such as smoking, drinking, drug use and exercise. 

• Can our healthcare professionals work harder to develop better preventative care measures for patients? Could doctors benefit from sensitivity training when it comes to providing preventative care for patients? 

• In terms of maternal health, the U.S. health professionals treat the mother's health secondary to the baby. 

Even as U.S. death rates decline, wide variation in life expectancy persists at the state level, a new study shows.  The state-by-state differences are due in large part to problems people can control, like how much they eat, drink, smoke, and exercise, researchers say.

Overall, death rates in the U.S. declined to 578 fatalities for every 100,000 people in 2016, from 745 per 100,000 in 1990, researchers report in JAMA. Much of this progress is happening because death rates are generally improving for children and teens as well as for Americans over age 55.

But among young and middle age adults - people from 20 to 55 - death rates have been going up for years in many states even as they fall in others.

Nationwide and in several states, risk factors like obesity, high blood sugar and drug use are getting worse. While smoking has been on the decline, improvements vary widely from one state to the next, with smoking rates dropping 61 percent in California but only 20 percent in Kentucky. Heart disease and lung cancer were the leading causes of years of life lost in both 1990 and 2016, the study found.

One study found opioids were the seventh leading cause of years lost to poor health, disability and premature death, up from 11th place in 1990.Still, it adds to a large and growing body of evidence highlighting a wide chasm between states with the healthiest residents and states with the highest rates of disease and disability.

“In the midst of so much suffering, prevention as a major health strategy remains overlooked and underappreciated,” Koh, author of an accompanying editorial, said by email. “Too many people are not reaching their full potential for health.”

Read the full article about U.S. death rates by Lisa Rappaport at Reuters.