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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.

The Validity of Polls

August 24, 2010
6:45 pm

Consumer Reports made some small waves today by releasing its own survey concerning prescription medications and the influence the pharmaceutical industry has over physicians.  According to Consumer Reports, a whopping 69 percent of the American public believes “drugmakers have too much influence on doctors’ decisions about which drug to prescribe.”  (quoting from Consumer Reports health blog). 

This assertion raises a plethora of questions about the Consumer Reports poll itself and how this particular survey question was asked.  This isn’t really an “opinion” type of question along the lines of “which candidate do you think has better positions on the economy” or “which soft drink has better flavor?”  For the consumers being asked this question, either their physicians are being influenced by pharmaceutical companies or they’re not.

So we know what Consumer Reports said about the opinion of those they surveyed.  But here’s what we don’t know:

·         How the question was phrased.

·         Whether consumers were asked if they had any firsthand knowledge of their physician being influenced to prescribe a certain medication.

·         Whether consumers were asked if they ever discussed this issue with their physician.

·         Whether consumers are aware of the pharmaceutical industry’s and medical profession’s own ethical guidelines on the topic of gifts to physicians.

Organizations have carte blanche to report whatever they want when they discuss the results of their self-created surveys.  Let’s hope, though, that journalists, bloggers and others who report on polls like this one dig a little deeper to find out if there’s actual substantive meaning behind the numbers.