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Building a healthier tomorrow for Minnesota, today

In an annual checkup of our nation’s health, Minnesota ranked 4th among all 50 states in 2015. As a state, we have a low percentage of uninsured population and have the lowest rate of cardiovascular deaths. Unfortunately, we have a high prevalence of excessive drinking. Those findings come from United Health Foundation’s “America’s Health Rankings® Annual Report,” which has been measuring national and state health for just over a quarter of a century.

Dr. Jack Weiss

As a medical doctor, I always look forward to this report because it offers an overview of where we stand in health both as a nation and relative to our peer states. It provides a reflection of Minnesota’s health that is at once formidable and encouraging. The 2015 report finds that Minnesota has a combination of strengths and opportunities for improvement. 

Minnesota strengths:

  • Low rate of cardiovascular deaths – Since 1990, cardiovascular deaths decreased 47 percent from 350.6 to 186.5 per 100,000 population.
  • Low percentage of uninsured population – Seven percent of Minnesotans do not have health insurance privately, through their employer, or through the government.
  • Few poor physical health days – Minnesota ranks the best in this category with the lowest number of days (2.9), in the previous 30 days, adults report their health is not good.

Room for improvement

Minnesota’s opportunities for improvement: 

  • Low per capita public health funding – Public health funding (dollars per person) is $44, earning Minnesota a ranking of 43rd. Public health program spending represents only a small fraction of all health-care spending, yet its impact can be substantial. Increased spending on public health programs is associated with a decrease in mortality from preventable causes of death.
  • High prevalence of excessive drinking – More than 21 percent of Minnesota adults who self-report either binge drinking (consuming 4 or more [women] or 5 or more [men] alcoholic beverages on a single occasion in the last month) or chronic drinking (consuming 8 or more [women] or 15 or more [men] alcoholic beverages per week).

Minnesota has drawn on insights from the report and its own statewide health assessment to identify strategic opportunities for advancing health equity in Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Health and the Healthy Minnesota Partnership joined together in 2012 to launch Healthy Minnesota 2020, a framework for creating and improving health throughout the state of Minnesota.

Measuring and monitoring our nation’s health has never been more important, and the results of the new “America’s Health Rankings Annual Report” show how far we’ve come in the last 26 years – and how far we still have to go as a country.

Smoking less, exercising more, but …

The 2015 data show that as a nation, Americans are smoking less and living less sedentary lifestyles; however, our country is facing complex health challenges that threaten Americans’ health and quality of life. Obesity and diabetes are at all-time highs, and rates of drug-related deaths (including illegal and prescription drug abuse), and children living in poverty are on the rise.

Understanding trends in health and wellness makes it clear where we need to focus our resources and attention. In 2016, America’s Health Rankings will publish new reports that will enable us to track challenges more closely – so that they can be addressed more effectively. These include new reports on the health of select populations such as mothers and children, and our nation’s veterans, as well as “spotlight” reports on key public health topics. The goal is to offer more information to help improve public health.

When it comes to the future of Minnesota’s health, and America’s health, we are all in it together. Let’s commit now to making the changes necessary to ensure that we build a healthier tomorrow, today.

Dr. Jack Weiss is the regional chief medical officer for the Central & West Regions, UnitedHealthcare.


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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 01/04/2016 - 10:13 am.

    Not Mentioned in Dr. Weiss’s Article

    Is the serious shortage of available mental health crisis beds,…

    and the dearth of psychiatric health professionals qualified to prescribe meds,…

    and properly evaluate their effects out here in rural Minnesota.

    Just in the past couple of weeks, a family I know had to transport their child from a facility on one side of the state,…

    to a facility on the other side of the state (about five hours one way),…

    because that was the ONLY place a bed was available in a facility capable of dealing with that child’s psychiatric crisis,…

    caused by the fading effectiveness of a medication.

    The group home where the child had been residing is 3 hours away from home for the family because that’s the closest effective facility with space available for their child.

    This is not an uncommon situation for those with more serious mental health issues,…

    but it is CERTAINLY not acceptable,…

    and represents a very serious deficit in Minnesota’s health care system.

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