PHILADELPHIA–The Health Department’s latest Health of the City report shows declines in smoking and sweetened beverage consumption, both of which are behaviors that can lead to heart disease, Philadelphia’s leading cause of death. However, chronic diseases, the opioid epidemic, and a rising rate of gun violence continue to negatively impact the overall health of the city.

Data in the report indicated that smoking and consumption of sweetened beverages fell to new lows in 2018. About 19% of the City’s adults surveyed were smokers, down from 23% the year before. Cigarette smoking among teens fell to 2%, also the lowest on record. Roughly 29% of adults and 14% of teenagers consumed sugary drinks daily, both down significantly from earlier years

Other key findings from this year’s report include:

  • Heart disease and cancer remain the leading causes of death among residents.

    • Many of the biological risk factors for both chronic conditions, such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension, remain high and continue to disproportionately impact racial/ethnic minorities. However, the declines in smoking and sugary beverage consumption should help reduce the burden of these diseases over the long term.

  • The opioid crisis continues to have a very negative impact on the City’s health.

    • Despite a slight decrease in 2018, fatal drug overdoses remain high and are the third leading cause of death among Philadelphians. Furthermore, the crisis continues to fuel rising rates of nonfatal overdoses, neonatal abstinence syndrome, and infectious illnesses like HIV among persons who inject drugs. Increased illicit drug activity is also contributing to the rising rate of gun violence across the city.

  • The health of teens continues to improve in many areas.

    • Rates of teen births, cigarette smoking and binge drinking have reached the lowest levels in the last decade. However, rapid increases in the number of teens using e-vapor products threatens progress in teen tobacco use.

    • Philadelphians’ access to medical care continues to improve.
      In large part due to the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, the number of Philadelphians without health insurance and the number of those forgoing care due to cost have reached all-time lows.

The Health Department produces the annual Health of the City report to help health care providers, City officials, people who make decisions for non-governmental organizations, and residents make more informed decisions on health and factors influencing health. The report includes summaries of data from a variety of sources to describe the demographics and health outcomes of the city’s residents as well as key factors that influence health in five broad categories: health outcomes, health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic determinants, and physical environment.

This year’s report includes enhanced local data from the Pennsylvania Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. With support from the Bloomberg Philanthropies Partnership for Health Cities, more Philadelphians are now being included in the telephone-based population survey resulting in more reliable data for tracking many key health indicators.

The Health of the City report and other Health Department reports can be downloaded from the City’s website.


About Bloomberg Philanthropies:

Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in 510 cities and 129 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2018, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $767 million.