Indiana public health continues slide

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It’s fair to say that wellness has never gotten more attention in Indiana than it is now.

Trouble is, that attention doesn’t seem to be producing change.

Indiana has continued in the wrong direction on its rates of obesity, diabetes and physical inactivity—all key indicators of public health.

That’s both a medical and an economic problem. Employers already spend more per worker on health care in Indiana and the Midwest than in the rest of the country—about 8.6 percent of total compensation versus 7.8 percent nationally, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The lack of progress isn’t for lack of trying. The latest data on public health indicators are from 2012, the eighth year of Gov. Mitch Daniels’ high-profile push for better health among Hoosiers. Daniels' efforts, at best, made things less-worse than they would have been.

Daniels made fiscal discipline his highest priority, so Indiana’s public health spending remained low. In 2012, Indiana spent $13.51 per person on public health, ranked No. 49 among all 50 states, according to the Trust for America’s Health, a public health advocacy group.

Indiana employers also have spent more time and money on improving worker wellness—and doing more than peers nationally, according to Healthiest Employer LLC, an Indianapolis-based organization that produces a Healthy Employers Index for more than 4,000 employers around the country.

Indiana’s employers score far higher on that index than peers for having policies and leadership focus on wellness, according to Healthiest Employer. This year, Hoosier employers scored 69.7 percent, compared with 55.4 percent for employers overall.

Rod Reasen, CEO of Healthiest Employer, said the scores make him optimistic.

“Societies, governments, and employers of all sizes will always have an interest in keeping their populations healthy,” he wrote in an Aug. 19 supplement to Indianapolis Business Journal naming the five winners of a healthiest employers contest in Indiana. “And I believe we will all discover that the health of a population defines its strength.”

If he’s right, then Indiana is getting weaker each year, according to survey data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last year, 31.4 percent of Hoosier adults were obese, up from 30.8 percent the year before. Indiana ranked each year as the nation’s eighth most obese state.

Five years ago, the obesity rate in Indiana was 27.5 percent, ranking 11th nationally.

Obesity is helping drive the diabetes rate higher. Last year, 10.9 percent of Hoosier adults were diabetic, ranking 11th. A year ago, 10.2 percent were diabetic, ranking 15th. Five years ago, 8.3 percent were diabetic, ranking 17th.

Hoosiers’ exercise habits got a bit better last year, with physically inactive adults dropping to 25.9 percent from 29.3 percent in 2011. But that’s still a tick worse than the 25.5 percent inactive in 2007.

In addition to these measures, rates of smoking and infant mortality also remain high—placing the state in the bottom 10 in each category.


  • We Should Not Be Surprised!
    The decline in the health of our State has been deteriorating over the last 20 years (http://www.americashealthrankings.org/IN/2012). There is plenty of blame to spread around. 1. State Politicians – This was mentioned in the article and demonstrates the deficiency of enough public health funding in current and past administrations. There also appears to be a lack of a plan to address the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The State is also at fault for not funding another medical school besides IU. It took private sector money to get Marian’s osteopathic medical school funded. 2. IU – gets part of the blame for not training enough health care providers. Remember, it has been our only medical school. 3. Hospitals – The local hospital systems over the years need to take some of the blame as well for their turf-war mentality. All have expanded their reach in as many directions as possible. One only needs to look at the North Meridian corridor between 103rd St. and 126th St. All 4 of the major players are there. 3 of which have not historically been north side healthcare facilities. There has been a brick and mortar explosion over the last several years. Besides these investments, the hospitals have been buying up physician practices which may not have been a wise investment. This was done years ago and failed. Now, the hospitals are backpedaling to cut expenses because of challenges associated with the Affordable Care Act. 4. Physicians – Some blame must be born by physicians. It appears that physicians have bought into the strategy that being owned by a hospital will maintain and ensure their current and future income. Having one’s schedule, practice patterns, and salaries dictated by some hospital administrator/ accountant does not seem like a conducive work environment to me. At least the American Health Network has remained independent of the mounting hospital woes. Patient care does not seem like it can be high on the agenda when serious financial pressures are dictating the delivery of health care. What seems to be the underlying problem of the State’s current, health care environment as reflected in Indianapolis? Some might call it greed, some might call it poor planning, and some might call it ineptitude of our political leaders. Regardless of the causes, all leaders (political and private sector) of our State must take responsibility and admit to our citizens that our health care system has failed. With the scarcity of health care providers and confusion of how to address the Affordable Care Act in our State by a most stakeholders, I fear that the overall health of our citizens will continue to decline for decades to come.
  • Healthy Eats
    There is a fast-food joint on every corner...and often times two or three in a row. This type of eating is no longer a 'treat' in our society, but a go to place for lunch and dinner. Look at the grocery store ads and the coupon section in the Sunday paper...do you see many healthy choices there? I don't. In order to eat healthy, you have to cook...and I don't see this happening.
  • Fitness
    If true, fitness centers in our state university dorms is a good start (Indy Star 8/20/13). Why didn't they think of this before?

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