By Cyril Tuohy
The five healthiest states for older adults are Minnesota, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Iowa, while the least healthy states for seniors are Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, West Virginia and Arkansas, according to a new report.
The listings are published in the inaugural edition of America’s Health Rankings Senior Edition: A Call to Action for Individual & Their Communities, by the United Health Foundation. State-by-state rankings of health for the rest of the U.S. population were published earlier this year.
“States with healthy seniors have a combination of positive personal behaviors and community support, which demonstrate that improving senior health will only come about by acting on individual, family, community and state levels,” Dr. Reed Tuckson, senior advisor to United Health Foundation, said in a news release.
States are ranked using key determinants relevant to senior citizens: annual dental visits, volunteerism, food insecurity, creditable drug coverage, hospitalization rates and the availability of home health workers.
Using data collected from 12 government agencies and research organizations, the report lists 34 measures comprising health determinants and health outcomes used to calculate final rankings.
Determinants include behaviors like smoking, chronic drinking, physical inactivity, poverty, nursing home availability, flu vaccines, and health screening and hospital readmissions.
Outcomes include the percentage of deaths in intensive care unit usage, falls, hip fractures, premature deaths, teeth extractions and mental health days.
Supplemental measures like education, multiple chronic conditions, cognition and depression are also taken into account.
“Chronic illness is unnecessarily high among seniors,” Rhonda Randall, senior advisor to United Health Foundation and chief medical officer, UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement, said in a statement. “The coordination of care for seniors, particularly the 50 percent of the population with multiple chronic illnesses, is complex and increases pressure on our country’s caregivers and our health care system.”
The report, which Tuckson called a “comprehensive portrait of senior health,” also measures core health metrics of obesity, physical inactivity, social support and health status, and segments the data by race, gender, geographic location and economic status.
The United Health Foundation is publishing the health data on seniors because as many as 79 million baby boomers will turn 65 or older in the next 20 years. One in eight Americans today is aged 65 or older, the report said.
The state-by-state breakdowns using three-dimensional graphics are viewable on the United Health Foundation website, http://statehealthstats.americashealthrankings.org.
The United Health Foundation was established by the health insurer UnitedHealth Group.
Cyril Tuohy is a writer based in Pennsylvania. He has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. He can be reached at [email protected].
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