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COVID is now among the leading causes of death in Maine, report finds

APTOPIX Virus Outbreak Maine
Robert F. Bukaty
A healthcare worker wears personal protective equipment as she speaks with a patient at a mobile testing location for COVID-19, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, in Auburn, Maine.

Cancer and heart disease continue to be the leading causes of death in Maine, according to a new state report on community health. But COVID-19 is now the third leading cause, edging above unintentional injuries and chronic lower respiratory disease.

The Maine Shared Community Health Needs Assessment, which is a collaboration between the state CDC and state's four major hospital systems, says there are concerns that the long-term effects from COVID could be the state's newest chronic disease.

As the Maine CDC and the state's largest health systems follow the secondary effects of the pandemic, they're also focused on several health priorities identified in the assessment through community events, forums, and surveys. Those include mental health, access to health care, substance and alcohol use, and social determinants of health, especially poverty and childhood trauma.

The report also examined health disparities among disadvantaged populations, including people of color, the LGBTQ community, and people with disabilities.

The findings in the Shared Community Health Needs Assessment will be used by hospitals to develop strategies to improve health. It will also be used by public health districts and the Maine CDC to create regional and state Health Improvement Plans.