Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Utahns’ Health Holds Steady

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Utah’s low smoking, binge drinking, and cancer death rates helped it remain among the top 10 healthiest states in the nation. The state hangs onto 7th place in the UHF 2011 report.

The 22nd annual America’s Health Rankings™ rates states on a number of measures that  determine the overall health of a population, including immunization rates, diabetes, heart disease, and infant mortality.

“Our goal is to help Utahns become the healthiest people in the nation,” said Dr. David Patton, Utah Department of Health (UDOH) Executive Director. “To do that we must drastically cut our obesity rate, which threatens overall health through diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other conditions,” he added. “We must also get more of our residents covered by health insurance and attract more primary care physicians to the state, especially in rural areas.”

Dr. Robert Rolfs, UDOH Deputy Director and State Epidemiologist, also points to the state’s low childhood immunization rates.  “We fell from 30th last year to 47th this year in getting our children fully vaccinated,” he said. “The measles outbreak the state battled this spring is a reminder that we need parents to step up and take advantage of this simple, life-saving measure.”

Beginning with a case brought into the state by an unvaccinated Utah child who had traveled to Europe, local health departments from the top of Utah to the south sent children home from school and companies pulled workers off the job to stop the spread of the measles virus. 

On the plus side, said Patton, “The report shows a 10 percent drop in preventable re-hospitalizations among Medicare enrollees for conditions like asthma, pneumonia, congestive heart failure, and diabetes. That means our hospitals are sending people home with good self-care plans that the patients are following.”

Utah fares well in several other areas as well, landing in the top 3 in 8 of 22 measures:
Cancer deaths                                    1st
Prevalence of smoking                       1st
Binge drinking                                   2nd
Obesity                                              2nd
Preventable hospitalizations            2nd
Adult diabetes                                   3rd
Infant mortality                                 3rd
Cardiovascular deaths                      3rd

Vermont ranks first in the study. New Hampshire, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Massachusetts round out the top five. See the full report at http://www.americashealthrankings.org/.

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Tom Hudachko
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