Editorial: Health rankings raise a glimmer of hope

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

With the health care debate still raging, along comes the 20th anniversary of America’s Health Rankings survey.

It’s the longest running annual rating of the nation’s health on the basis of state-by-state comparisons.

Guess who came in 47th?

If you said The Bayou State, congratulations – for the correct answer.

If you live in Louisiana, however, you aren’t very lucky, at least in terms of overall health.

America’s Health Rankings bases its work on the supposition that, in addition to genetic and disease factors, overall health is the end product of four controllable factors:

- Behavior

- Community environmental factors in the areas where people live and work

- Public and health policies practiced by government and community leaders

- Clinical care received

Louisiana has always been at or near the bottom of the list because people here are obese (37 percent of the population), smoke a lot (35th in the nation), often drop out of high school (nation’s 49th highest rate), suffer many deaths by heart attack (46th highest), die often from cancer (49th highest) and rank 49th highest in premature death.

This year, Louisiana eked up a bit in the rankings, from 49th overall to 47th.

The move is not great, but we will gladly take it, as it signals a glimmer of hope for the improving health of state residents. If we can move up another two spots in each of the next two years, Louisiana will be 43rd in the nation in overall health.

Surveys like this one by America’s Health Rankings sometimes bring out ironies. For instance,  Louisiana, a largely pro-life state, has shamefully ranked 49th highest for the past two years in the rate of infant mortality.

Another anomaly, despite its overall poor heath, Louisiana ranks 23rd in the nation in the number of primary care physicians per 100,000 people, a very respectable rating. It would seem that if individuals in the state begin assuming more responsibility for their health, good access to medical care will help Louisiana improve its rankings.

We won’t ever all agree on the health care issue, but maybe next year we can sit back and  offer a toast to our improvement in good health.

Weekly Citizen (Gonzales, La.)