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Gains made, challenges remain
2016 health report find rise in cardiovascular and drug deaths, obesity
new deh kansas health rankings info graphic

 With Kansas falling in the middle of the pack, the nation’s health is seeing  concerning upticks in key health indicators that threaten to offset years of public health successes, according to the key findings in United Health Foundation’s 27th America’s Health Rankings Annual Report covering 2016. 

Through an analysis of 34 measures of behaviors, community and environment, policies and clinical care data, America’s Health Rankings Annual Report provides a holistic view of the nation’s health.

“I think were going in the right direction,” said Barton County Health Director Shelly Schneider. “I think we are doing better, but it will just take time.”

It is a “generational concept” trying to overcome decades of less healthy lifestyles. “We have to continue to change mind sets.”

There is the Be Well Barton County effort to promote active transportation, efforts to improve access to healthful foods, and groups dedicated to reducing smoking, drug use and other negative habits. But, local immunization rates are up and there are other positive signs.

healthy foods

We have to take small wins when we can,” Schneider said. Her office works closely with offices in other counties to share ideas.

Although the survey doesn’t break the data down to the county level, it did note that Kansas fell to 27th, down one place from 2015. Other Kansas standings include:

• 17.7 percent or about one in six adults in Kansas smoke compared with 17.5 percent nationally.

• 34.2 percent or about one in three adults in Kansas are obese compared with 29.8 percent nationally.

• 9.7 percent or about one in 10 people in Kansas lack health insurance compared with 10.6 percent nationally.

• 11.7 drug deaths per 100,000 population in Kansas compared with 14.0 per 100,000 population nationally.

• 249.6 cardiovascular deaths per 100,000 population in Kansas compared with 251.7 per 100,000 population nationally.

• 7,180 years of life lost before age 75 per 100,000 population in Kansas compared with 7,054 per 100,000 population nationally.

“We have made important strides across the country against public health challenges; however, we are at a crossroads between a healthier future as a nation and a future in which troubling public health measurements become increasingly common,” said Reed Tuckson, M.D., external senior medical adviser to United Health Foundation. “Of particular concern is the first-time rise in cardiovascular deaths, despite all the medical advances in this area. This data provides a roadmap for states, local communities and the public health sector to work together to get ahead of the challenges coming.”


A mixed bag of results

The U.S. saw long-term improvements against public health challenges. The report finds that the United States has made notable long-term improvements across key health indicators, including:

• A reduction in the prevalence of smoking among adults. Since 1990, smoking among adults has decreased by 41 percent – including a 17 percent decrease in the last four years.  

• Preventable hospitalizations have declined by 35 percent over the past decade, and achieved a 13 percent decline in the past year alone.

• In the past five years, the rate of uninsured Americans declined by 35 percent – from 16.2 percent to 10.6 percent, which is the lowest point in the report’s 27-year history.

But, there are serious health challenges, the report notes.

While Americans have made substantial health gains in key areas, the report highlights serious challenges for the country that are eroding these hard-won gains, such as:

• For the first time in the 27-year history of the America’s Health Rankings’ Annual Report, the cardiovascular death rate has increased in the past year (from 250.8 to 251.7 deaths per 100,000).

• The rate of drug deaths has increased by 9 percent over the past five years, and increased by 4 percent in just the past year.

• The premature death rate has increased for the second consecutive year – suggesting a troubling trend.

• Since the first America’s Health Rankings’ Annual Report was released in 1990, the prevalence of obesity among adults has increased by an astounding 157 percent.

State Rankings in 2016 

• Hawaii ranks as the healthiest state in 2016 for the fifth straight year, followed by Massachusetts (second), Connecticut (third), Minnesota (fourth) and Vermont (fifth).

• Mississippi drops from 49th to 50th this year, replacing Louisiana, now 49th. Arkansas (48th), Alabama (47th) and Oklahoma (46th) round out the states at the bottom.

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