Friday, December 9, 2011

Pennsylvania Gains One in America’s Health Rankings, But Shows Little to Cheer

Earlier this week, the United Health Foundation released the 22nd Edition of America’s Health Rankings®: A Call to Action for Individuals and Their Communities.

Pennsylvania moved up one spot to #26 from last year’s rankings, but this is certainly nothing to celebrate. While we saw an overall decrease in the number of smokers and improvement in high school graduation rates and other indicators, Pennsylvania, like the rest of the country, saw significant increases in the number of residents who have diabetes and/or are obese. But we do not have to continue this downward slide.

I would like to share with you the blog that Reed Tuckson, M.D., United Health Foundation board member and executive vice president and chief of medical affairs, UnitedHealth Group, posted earlier this week that not only illustrates the dire predicament we as Americans find ourselves in, but ways in which we can together address our stagnating health. I hope you find it as thought-provoking as I did.

Dr. Tuckson writes:

“Disappointingly, our nation’s health is stagnating. Today’s report finds that troubling increases in obesity, diabetes, and children in poverty are offsetting modest improvements in smoking cessation, preventable hospitalizations, and cardiovascular deaths. What this means is that the overall health of the nation did not improve at all between 2010 and 2011 – a decline from the 0.5 percent average annual rate of improvement between 2000 and 2010 and the 1.6 percent average annual rate of improvement seen in the 1990s. A compelling example of this stagnation is smoking and obesity: The Rankings found that, for every person who quit smoking in 2011, somebody became obese.

The result is millions more individuals with preventable illnesses, a veritable tsunami of chronic disease washing into an already overburdened health care system. With chronic disease affecting 130 million Americans and accounting for nearly 75 percent of these costs, we owe it to ourselves and future generations to act more urgently and creatively to confront these issues.

When it comes to challenges of this magnitude, it’s important to realize that 'we’re all in this together.' Government leadership is essential, but government cannot do it alone. The private sector, philanthropy and community-based organizations all need to join in a data-driven process to determine priorities and then recruit the broad range of assets necessary to address these priorities.

Individuals clearly play a role too. The subtitle of this report remains A Call to Action for Individuals and Their Communities. These are not just words but an urgent plea for comprehensive, innovative and sustained engagement. Whether it’s making a personal change like quitting smoking or exercising; supporting community initiatives that create safe and healthy environments in which to live and work; or creating health enhancing policies or programs, the point is that too much is at stake to leave these issues unaddressed. Now is the time!”

To find out more about the 2011 America’s Health Rankings, visit You can also find and follow America’s Health Rankings on Facebook at and Twitter at @AHR_Rankings. Dr. Tuckson encourages us all to exchange ideas, share information and learn from each other as we work to turn the tide on the health challenges facing the nation – and Pennsylvania.

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