|America Seen Strong In Treating Disease; Fails Miserably In Disease Prevention
The inability to slow preventable diseases in the U.S.
population will significantly increase costs in an already unaffordable
medical care delivery system.
Of the $2.4 trillion of annual healthcare expenditures
in the U.S., $1.8 trillion is associated with the treatment of a
chronic disease, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Data
supporting this trend is contained in the 20th Anniversary Edition of
America’s Health Rankings.
"Unless there is urgent action across our society, our
already overburdened care system will be swamped by a tsunami of cost
and demands from preventable chronic disease," said Dr. Reed Tuckson,
United Health Foundation (UHF) board member and executive vice
president and chief of medical affairs for UnitedHealth Group.
"Together, as individuals, community leaders, health care
professionals, employers and elected officials, we must elevate disease
prevention and health promotion to the top of our agendas."
Tobacco consumption and obesity have emerged as the two
priorities threatening the health of Americans. Though tobacco usage
dropped to 18.3 percent of the population in 2009 from 19.8 percent in
2008, approximately 440,000 deaths annually are still attributable to
this preventable behavior.
Obesity has increased nearly 130 percent since the first
edition of America’s Health Rankings were issued 20 years ago.
Currently, Highmark is working with Take Care Health Systems to aid
operating the health centers. (See related article in this issue).
Some 27 percent of the population is obese. Obesity is
growing faster than any previous chronic health issue America has
faced, the Rankings report found.
A supplemental analysis to this year’s report was
conducted by Kenneth Thorpe, executive director,Partnership to Fight
Thorpe wrote in "Future Costs of Obesity," if obesity is
left unchecked, 43 percent of adults will be obese and obesity will add
nearly $344 billion in 2018 alone to the nation’s annual direct
healthcare costs, accounting for more than 21 percent of healthcare
Other findings from the rankings show that the nation
has seen significant declines in crime rates, infectious disease,
smoking and infant mortality rates. Challenges since 1990 include the
rising uninsured rate, lack of progress in increasing high school
graduation rates and the need to continue to improve access to adequate
prenatal care for pregnant women.
Some States Better, Some Worse, According To Health Rankings
When it comes to a state’s health Vermont
residents were the healthiest in 2009, according to America’s
Health Rankings. New York state was the most improved over the 20 years
that Health Rankings has ranked states.
This year, the Rankings not only provided an annual list
of the healthiest and least healthy states but also determined which
states had improved the most over the past 20 years in overall health
and how the states compared in their progress against smoking and
obesity since 1990.
Utah climbed from a ranking of fifth to second in 2009,
followed by Massachusetts third, Hawaii fourth and New Hampshire fifth.
For the second year in a row, Utah leads the nation as the state with
the lowest prevalence of smoking and Colorado ranks as the state with
the lowest prevalence of obesity.
At the other end of the scale Mississippi was ranked
50th last year, preceded by Oklahoma 49, Alabama 48, Louisiana 47 and
South Carolina 46.
"Our nation’s public health professionals cannot
win this battle alone … all people have to do their share," said
Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public
Health Association. "Unless we do, all of us will pay the price in
higher healthcare costs and diminished access to care."
New York state’s improvement was driven primarily
by a 60 percent reduction in violent crime and significant reductions
in infant mortality and smoking rates. Other states showing the
greatest improvement since 1990 include Vermont, Hawaii, New Hampshire,
New Jersey and Minnesota.
States with the greatest success reducing smoking over
the past 20 years are Rhode Island, Virginia, Maryland, Florida,
Delaware and Vermont. States with the greatest success against obesity
over the past 20 years are Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts,
Wyoming and Florida.
"We will never improve the health of our states until
prevention is at the forefront of what we do," said Robert J. Gould,
president and CEO of Partnership for Prevention.
Partnership for Prevention is a membership organization
of businesses, nonprofit organizations and government agencies
advancing policies and practices to prevent disease and improve the
health of all Americans.
America’s Health Rankings is an annual
comprehensive assessment of the nation’s health on a
state-by-state analysis. It is published jointly by UHF, the American
Public Health Association andPartnership for Prevention. The data in
the report comes from validated outside sources, such as the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention. The report is reviewed and overseen
by a Scientific Advisory Committee, with members from academic
institutions, government agencies and the private sector.
To review findings from America’s Health Rankings, visit www.americashealthrankings.org.