When it comes to overall health, Nevada has some opportunities for improvement.
That’s according to the 22nd annual America’s Health Rankings from United Health Foundation. The report, the longest running of its kind in the country, placed Nevada No. 42 among all 50 states for overall heath, up five spots from last year.
Here’s a snapshot of how Nevada fared in this year’s report:
- Lower prevalence of obesity than other states
- Low incidence of infectious disease
- Low rate of preventable hospitalizations
- Low high school graduation rate
- High violent crime rate
- Low immunization coverage
Nevada residents are getting some things right. While we should take a moment to congratulate ourselves for these successes, we can’t take continued progress for granted. Significant challenges remain.
When United Health Foundation first began ranking American’s health in 1990, smoking represented one such challenge. Nearly two out five Nevadans, or 35.7 percent, smoked regularly. But education brought greater understanding of the risks associated with lighting up. We turned attitudes against it, and today, just 21.3 percent of Nevadans self-report as smokers. We demonstrated that change is indeed possible, in the process helping many people improve their health and well-being and saving millions of dollars in health care costs.
On the other hand, too many Nevada residents are overweight or obese – and the trend is getting worse. Approximately 23.1 percent of Nevada residents are above what is considered by health experts to be a normal weight, compared with 12.5 percent when the rankings began.
Looking at our neighbors in the west, we see a similar picture: progress tempered by further challenge. Some nearby states to Nevada include California (No. 24) and Arizona (No. 29).
As UnitedHealthcare’s medical director for Nevada, I have witnessed efforts statewide on behalf of the public and private sectors to improve certain health trends, such as the prevalence of binge drinking and immunization coverage, and to improve our overall health outcomes, such as reducing infant mortality and cancer deaths. In Nevada, for instance, we have the free Passport to Living HealthySM program to educate health plan members about chronic illnesses and preventive health care.
This program and others are helping to improve the overall health of our residents. Together, we can break down barriers to high-quality care. We can take on obesity as we took on smoking. And we can win. It will take work, certainly, and time, but our health is worth that effort.