Louisiana Updates


Louisiana Now Exclusive: How do we improve health in Louisiana?

Doctors and nurses discuss their current cases at a hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana. According to an October study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, one in three Americans had difficulty paying medical bills this year. Almost half of those surveyed said they had a family member who did without their medicine or postponed or reduced their recommended medical care because of the cost.
photo: AFP/File/Robyn Beck

"Health is not valued ’til sickness comes." - Dr. Thomas Fuller

Here in Louisiana, we have an emergency. The 2008 United Health Foundation ranked the state last in the country. And it's a familiar spot, as we've been at the bottom of that list for 15 of the last 18 years.
The researchers evaluated a historical and comprehensive set of health, environmental, and socio-economic data to rank the states.
The trouble is, we're not exactly up against stout competition. The United States as a whole has been stagnate over the last four years when it comes to improving health.
The United States currently falls behind 27 other countries in terms of a healthy life expectancy with an average of 69 years. Japan leads all countries with an average of 75 years. This country also has the worst mortality rate from treatable conditions when compared to 18 other industrialized countries.
The report cites unprecedented levels of obesity, an increasing number of uninsured people, and the persistence of risky behaviors, particularly tobacco use.
Smoking leads to an estimated one out of every five deaths each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Obesity has more than doubled in the last 19 years. One in four Americans is currently considered obese putting them at increased risk for a wide variety of ailments.
Topping it all off, nearly 46 million Americans have no health insurance. This usually indicates people are not getting preventative care or treating chronic problems.
Vermont led this year's rankings. The New England state may be a long way away, but perhaps we can learn a thing or two and apply it to the Bayou State. After all, Vermont took the top spot for the second year in a row. The state originally ranked 16th when the first rankings were released, and has climbed steadily over the last eight years.
First off, the prevalence of smoking has declined in Vermont. On top of that, the state has seen a slower rise in obesity than the national average. Plus, their uninsured numbers remain low.
It turns out the health of a state may correlate with other factors. Consider that Vermont has a low percentage of children in poverty and a high graduation rate. That suggests other factors like income and education play a role in overall health.
The report cites such socioeconomic challenges for driving down the rankings of the states at the bottom of the list. In other words, hovering near the bottom of other important rankings probably solidified Louisiana's spot on the health list.
Regionally, the southern states ranked exclusively in the bottom 15. None of the states cracked the top 35.
Now's the time for change. What we've been doing isn't working in this state, or in this country for that matter. We have a sitting governor who once headed up the Department of Health and Hospitals. He's seen first hand what we're up against in this state.
Bringing up the rear in such rankings year in and year out is simply unacceptable.
We need to find a better way. We can do better than this.

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