Missouri’s Health Ranking

Here in the United States, rivalries are all around us.  From brand rivalries (Coke vs Pepsi) to political rivalries (Democratic vs Republican) to advertised rivalries (Mac vs PC) to college and professional sports rivalries (Cardinals vs Cubs), even to some time ago when your high school student body would rally together to excel in all competitions against an opposing high school, it is fairly easy to think of ways we strive to prove that one entity is better than the other.  For as competitive and rivalry driven as we are, it seems we could make nearly anything a friendly competition.  Here's an opportunity for us here in Missouri to improve our rankings, all while making our lives healthier in the process!

The United Health Foundation recently released the 22nd annual edition of America's Health Rankings: A Call to Action for Individual's and Their Communities.  Beginning in 1990, this report has detailed a state-by-state analysis of the overall health of our country using health outcomes (actions that have already occurred) and health determinants (actions that can impact the future).  This year, Missouri ranked 40th. Last year we ranked 39th, and the determinant (future) vs outcome (past) predictors show us on a course to have our health ranking continue to decline over time.

So what does this all mean?  It means that perhaps it's time for a friendly rivalry!  A few individuals, for example you and me, cannot make enough positive health changes personally to change our overall state rating drastically.  However, a few individuals who are willing to encourage and support health changes in their community AND to rally others in the community to do the same, can begin to make big changes in small ways. 

One way that individuals can improve their health, is by engaging in self-management programs and increasing physical activity.  Rates of adults with diabetes and those who are obese have both increased over the past five years.  Attending a self-management program, such as the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program offered here in Missouri can help empower individuals to take control of conditions that affect their health, including diabetes, obesity, arthritis, and cardiovascular (heart) disease. These courses can also help reduce the number of hospital and emergency room visits.  As you may remember from another recent post, engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate Physical Activity a week can also help adults stay healthy.  A recent YouTube video from a physician, helps visually demonstrate why and how thirty minutes of physical activity a day can be helpful (which would be more than 150 minutes a week!):

To be competitive and to improve upon our ranking for next year, we need a lot of people to take their health seriously.  Here are a few suggestions for ways that you can make small changes in your own community.

  • Ask a friend to be a walking partner.
  • Encourage a loved one to take a self-management workshop.
  • Advocate for healthy changes in your community (installation of sidewalks, bike lanes, and smoke-free public places are a good start).
  • Start up a community exercise program or long-term goal setting event (like a Walk-A-Thon or "Biggest Loser" type program).
  • Take preventative measures to improve your health (including cancer screenings, yearly doctor visits, and regular dentist visits).
  • Ask local grocery stores and convenience stores to stock fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Talk with your friends and family, especially children and teenagers, about why both your health and theirs is important to you.

You can view a full fact sheet on Missouri's 2011 America's Health Rankings here.  To see the full report, or to learn more about the United Health Foundation and/or America's Health Rankings, head on over to www.americashealthrankings.org.

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