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Fighting for Position in a Losing Game

December 06, 2011
12:53 pm

Vermont is number one.  Mississippi is number 50.  But, truth be told, every single state has reason for concern.

The United Health Foundation has issued its annual “America’s Health Rankings” report, showing a state-by-state ranking in overall population health.  The striking news this year was not that the New England states occupied six of the top 10 positions, but that the nation as a whole is not faring well.

The United report card showed zero overall improvement in America’s health status over the past year.  That’s the first time in two decades that our health has showed no upward mobility whatsoever.  In fact, over the past decade, the rate of improvement in the nation’s health status is 69 percent less than it was in the 1990s.

It doesn’t take much analyzing to find out the reason.  Obesity is up considerably and diabetes cases are escalating in number.  This concurs with what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been telling us about chronic disease trends.

As Reed Tuckson of the United Health Foundation board said, the United States is facing a “tsunami of preventable illness.”

The good news is that there are initiatives being developed throughout the country to keep communities and workforces in better health and prevent the onset of chronic disease.  The Healthcare Leadership Council has chronicled a number of these in its HLC Wellness Compendium.  We shared this document with key staff members on Capitol Hill at a briefing last week.

The better news will occur when we see policymakers taking these successful examples and finding ways to extrapolate them to help larger populations.

We can still hope that, in the future, when states are competing for placement on the United rankings, that the entire competition will be taking place on a higher plane of healthiness.

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