What Coloradans get right about their health

And what still needs to be done

In an annual check up of our nation’s health released in December, Colorado ranked the eighth healthiest among all 50 states in 2015.  As a state, we are fit and have a low prevalence of diabetes, but we need to improve our low birth weights and our disparity in health status. These findings come from United Health Foundation’s  America’s Health Rankings® Annual Report, which has been measuring national and state health for more than 25 years.

As a physician, I look forward to the America’s Health Rankings Annual Report because it offers an overview of where we stand in health both as a nation and relative to our peer states. The report provides a reflection of Colorado’s health that is at once sobering and encouraging.  Over the last 26 years, Colorado has remained fairly consistent in its report ranking. In 1990, the state ranked 10th healthiest in the country, two spots lower than this year’s #8 ranking. Colorado’s highest rankings came in 1997 and 1998, when it ranked fifth in the U.S.; Colorado saw its lowest ranking at #15 in 1991.

Colorado is doing many things right. The state has maintained its health position, ranking  eighth in the U.S. for three consecutive years. In the past two years, smoking decreased by 11 percent, and Colorado has the lowest rates in the country for obesity and physical inactivity.

While Colorado is winning in many health-related areas, it does face some challenges. Colorado has a high prevalence of low birth weight in babies, with nearly 9 percent of newborns weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces at birth, ranking the state 40th in the U.S. for this metric. In addition, over the past year, children in poverty increased 23 percent, putting Colorado at 21st in the country for kids in need.

Measuring and monitoring our nation’s health has never been more important, and the results of this year’s 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.

Analyzing trends in health and wellness through this report makes it clear where we need to focus our resources and attention. UnitedHealthcare (UHC) watches America’s Health Rankings closely to better understand the health of individuals and communities across the nation and in Colorado. As a result, UHC has several programs in place to address the nation’s health challenges at a state level, including local partnerships to help fight childhood obesity, smart phone apps to help consumers make informed decisions about their health care costs and needs, and an innovative incentive program called Baby Blocks for pregnant women to help them with prenatal and well-baby care.

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

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