Health Report Card finds fittest state getting fatter

By Diane Carman

The Colorado Health Foundation, which pumped $86 million into programs to improve the health of Coloradans in 2012, issued its eighth annual Health Report Card on the state’s performance Wednesday and found considerable room for improvement.

It called for increased emphasis on physical education for school children; intensifying outreach to uninsured Coloradans, particularly those between 19 and 34, to get them enrolled in health insurance; and expanding access to integrated mental, behavioral and physical health care.No_1 Uninsured

“The report card illustrates the complexity and the enormity of this task,” said Michele Lueck, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Institute, which analyzes the data from 38 key indicators in 2012 for the report. “There’s lots of work to do, particularly around children.”

Colorado’s rankings compared to other states were lowest in the categories of “Healthy Beginnings” and “Healthy Children.” Its highest rankings were in the category of “Healthy Aging.”

Even though the state ranks fifth in childhood obesity at 10.9 percent, Colorado Health Foundation President and CEO Anne Warhover identified it as a serious concern.

“We are not making any progress in childhood obesity,” she said, citing data from 1970 when the obesity rate among Colorado children was 5 percent to reveal just how quickly the problem has grown. “More and more evidence shows this condition is not reversible” and portends serious lifelong health problems.

Furthermore, the state ranked 37th in terms of children having access to health insurance with 7.3 percent uninsured, and 35th in the percentage of children who have access to a medical home for continuous, comprehensive care.

The state also still performs poorly in the percentage of babies born with low birth weights, a common measure of the overall performance of the health care system. Colorado ranks 37th with 8.7 percent of babies born under 5 pounds, 9 ounces. Its infant mortality rate is also high at 6.2 per 1,000 live births, or 25th in the nation.

In the areas of mental health and substance abuse, 15.7 percent of adults reported experiencing poor mental health eight days or more in the past month. Among teens, 22.3 percent admitted to binge drinking in the past 30 days.

Colorado ranked first nationally in some health measures: adult obesity (20.7 percent), the percentage of adolescents who had sexual intercourse in the last three months and used a condom (70.8) and the percentage of older adults who participate in regular physical activity (76.4).

Lueck cautioned against being self-congratulatory, however, noting that the despite bragging rights to the “fittest state” claim, the obesity rate among Coloradans has doubled in the last 20 years.

“We’re losing the battle across the state,” she said.

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