A Healthier Tomorrow – Isn’t our motto “FORWARD?”
Imagine a Healthier Tomorrow
By Alison Page, CEO Western Wisconsin Health
Like most people in Wisconsin, I love our state. I love our motto, FORWARD, and apply it in my work and personal life daily. I have always been proud to live in a state that is constantly seeking a better tomorrow for its citizens. I want my grandchildren to grow up in an even better Wisconsin than the Wisconsin in which I was born in 1956, and my parents in 1925. And, I bet many of you feel the same way.
So, you can imagine how alarming the latest report from America’s Health Rankings is to me, and I am sure will be to you. For nearly three decades, America’s Health Rankings® Annual Report has analyzed a comprehensive set of behaviors, public and health policies, community and environmental conditions, and clinical care data to provide a holistic view of the health of the people in the nation. The report was built upon the World Health Organization definition of health:
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
The model reflects that determinants of health directly influence health outcomes, with determinants accounting for three-quarters and outcomes accounting for one-quarter of each state’s overall score and ranking. Four categories of determinants are included in the model of health: Behaviors, Community & Environment, Policy and Clinical Care. The report looks at all kinds of things from education, obesity, immunization rates, drinking behaviors, availability of clinical care, etc. The complete report can be found at www.americashealthrankings.org.
So, what is so alarming? In 1990, Wisconsin was ranked 7th in overall health amongst the fifty states. This year, we are ranked 23rd. So, what is going on?
Here are a few “not so fun” facts:
- Drinking is a significant problem in Wisconsin. We are the winner, meaning the worst, with the highest percentage (24%) of adults who reported either binge drinking (having four or more drinks on one occasion, for women, or five or more for men, in the past 30 days, or chronic drinking, defined as having eight or more drinks in one week for women, fifteen for men. Rates of excessive drinking are higher in rural areas. Men are twice as likely to engage in excessive drinking as are women. Interestingly, excessive drinking is more likely with higher income.
- Obesity is out of control in this state. With 32% of adults in Wisconsin weighing in with a body mass index over 30, based on height and weight.
- There are other disturbing facts – we rank 34th when it comes to the availability of mental health providers, 41st in disparity of health status (meaning there is variation in health depending on whether someone lives in an urban versus rural area, or is ethnically diverse versus white), 43rd in incidence of infectious disease and, very embarrassingly, 47th in funding for public health. On this last point, for example, Wisconsin spends about $52 per year on public health funding per person. By comparison, Minnesota spends $99, New York $145 and Alaska $281! (Note: Spending is defined as: State dollars dedicated to public health and federal dollars directed to states by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Health Resources & Services Administration per person).
What will 2019 bring for the state of our state and the future health of its people? That is up to us. I would like to propose a New Year’s resolution for our state: 2019 will be the year we turn this trajectory around. Next year, we won’t be 23rd. Maybe we won’t be in the top ten yet, but we will be headed in that direction. How will we do it? On a high level… we need to expand access to health services by making health services more affordable and more available where people can access them, in schools or on line for example; we need to find more and better ways to get people the behavioral health services they need; and, we need to increase funding for public health services.
But, there is also much that can be done immediately, using the resources we already have. We can approach the issues of obesity, excessive drinking and mental health one person and one family at a time.
Make 2019 the year you make changes in your own life or help someone you care about make changes in theirs.
A few starters:
- Move more, sit less: Set a target for daily and weekly activity.
- Eat well: My rule is simple: Eat good (real) food. Start eating when you are hungry and stop eating when you are not hungry any more, not when you are full.
- Drink less: If you drink at all, be aware of how much you are drinking and how much those around you are drinking. My new rule is: One and done.
- Lastly, talk about your problems and be a listening ear for others: Everyone deals better with their emotional issues if they have someone who cares and will listen to them. Make it a point in 2019 to be there, be present, for others.
At Western Wisconsin Health our mission is to build a healthier tomorrow, together. We are working with individuals, groups and our communities to develop and deliver programs and services aimed at helping people be healthier and stay healthier, physically and emotionally. Check out everything we offer at wwhealth.org. We can help you take the first step!