Monday, November 05, 2007

Alaska Ranks 30th In The United States In the United Health Foundation's 2007 America's Health Rankings Survey

The results of the 18th annual America's Health Rankings survey, performed by the United Health Foundation in collaboration with the American Public Health Association (APHA) and Partnership for Prevention, has just been released, and Alaska finds itself just slightly below the middle of the pack, ranking 30th in the nation. No local Alaska media reports yet available on Alaska's findings, but a Google News Search of United Health Foundation produces a cornucopia of regional stories. A typical national report was posted by Allheadlinenews.com.

You can also view the Foundation's five-page press release in PDF format HERE.

In summary, the 2007 version of America's Health Rankings shows that the overall health of the nation has decreased slightly during the past year, despite progress made in several key health areas.

Geographically, Vermont tops the list as the nation's healthiest state, beating out Minnesota for the first time in four years. Minnesota dropped to the second spot, followed by Hawaii, New Hampshire and Connecticut to round out the top five.

Once again, Southern states found themselves at the bottom of the list, with Mississippi and Louisiana at No. 49 and 50, respectively, and Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee comprising the rest of the bottom five.

The 18th annual edition of America's Health Rankings found that despite making gains in reducing cancer and cardiovascular mortality rates, the nation's overall health declined due to an increasing number of Americans living with preventable chronic diseases in an "extremely expensive" health care system.

The study analyzed a number of factors and rated each state on 20 key measurements, including infant mortality, prenatal care, obesity and workplace deaths, cancer deaths and high school graduation, to determine the health rankings.

Methodology: The United Health Foundation first evaluates and calculates four different health determinants, to include Personal Behavior, Community Environment, Public & Health Policies, and Clinical Care. From these they calculate an overall Health Determinant score.

Then they evaluate health outcome parameters and calculate an overall Health Outcome score. The combination of these two scores produces an overall score for a state.

Data sources include the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Commerce, Education and Labor; American Medical Association; Dartmouth Atlas Project; and the National Association of State Budget Officers.

Click HERE to view a list of states and how they're ranked. To find out more specific data about YOUR state, click HERE, then click on the state of interest.

Here's the snapshot summary on Alaska. Click HERE to also see specific tabular data.

ALASKA
Ranking: Alaska is 30th this year; it was 31st in 2006.

Strengths: Strengths include a low rate of cardiovascular deaths at 253.6 deaths per 100,000 population, a low percentage of children in poverty at 11.6 percent of persons under age 18 and a low rate of preventable hospitalizations with 58.2 discharges per 1,000 Medicare enrollees.

Challenges: Challenges include low immunization coverage with 73.5 percent of children ages 19 to 35 months receiving complete immunizations, limited access to adequate prenatal care with 63.9 percent of pregnant women receiving adequate prenatal care, a high prevalence of smoking at 24.9 percent of the population and a high violent crime rate at 688 offenses per 100,000 population. Alaska ranks lower for health determinants than for health outcomes, indicating that overall healthiness may decline over time.

Significant Changes:

↑ In the past year, the incidence of infectious disease increased from 14.4 to 16.2 cases per 100,000 population.

↑ In the past year, the violent crime rate increased from 632 to 688 offenses per 100,000 population.

↓ In the past year, the prevalence of obesity decreased from 27.4 percent to 26.2 percent of the population.

↑ Since 1990, the prevalence of smoking declined from 34.3 percent to 24.0 percent of the population.

Health Disparities: In Alaska, Other Races experience 73 percent more premature death than whites and 56 percent more than blacks.


Prospective Legislative Responses: While this report is just as new to the Alaska State Legislature as it is to the rest of us, many of the issues themselves are being addressed in one form or another within the Alaska State Legislature. The Health, Education, and Social Services (HES) Committees of each chamber are the focal points for all health-related legislation.

Click HERE to view a list of all health bills currently in the House HES Committee.

Click HERE to view a list of all health bills currently in the Senate HES Committee.

Alaska's health problems are exacerbated by a combination of isolation and low population density. It is difficult to get a sufficient number of providers to relocate here in order to provide sufficient competition to act as a rrstraint on rising health care costs. Medicare is a particularly flagrant example; very few providers accept new Medicare patients, not only because it places unnatural income limitations on providers, but also because of excessive bureaucracy and delays in reimbursement. Government would not be justified in forcing more providers to accept subsidized patients.

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