3 Key Findings from America’s Health Rankings New Study on Prevention
By SMART Health Claims
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Americans use preventative services at only half the recommended rate, leaving tens of millions of people without basic preventative care.
The consequence of neglecting preventative care in America is not just higher rates of illness and disease. According to the Institute of Medicine, missed prevention opportunities cost the United States an estimated $55 billion in just one year. Each year, chronic diseases lead to 7 out of 10 deaths, and nearly one out of every 2 adults has at least 1 chronic illness - many of which are preventable.
America’s Health Rankings examined the topic of access to preventative care on a national scale in its 2016 study Spotlight: Prevention. The study revealed that the nation is falling behind on preventative healthcare targets despite the fact that there is clear evidence and widespread knowledge of the importance of prevention to our nation’s health. Here are 3 key findings from that study:
3 Key Findings:
1) Prevention and immunization rates lag behind national targets
The study finds that immunization rates vary significantly among states and lag behind U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2020 target of 80%. Vulnerabilities to chronic diseases, including cancer, obesity, diabetes, and AIDS are detected at higher rates in communities with concentrations of racial and ethnic minorities because people are either less likely to seek preventative care or have limited access to it. Additional findings include:
- Nearly 1 in every 3 children is overweight or obese, putting them at risk for future, often preventable chronic diseases
- 71%of children aged 19 to 35 months completed the recommended series of childhood immunizations
- Childhood immunizations rates range from 84.7% in Maine to 63.4% in West Virginia
- Adult influenza immunization rates range from 50.2% in South Dakota to 31.7% in Florida
- Pneumococcal vaccination rates among those aged 65 and older range from 75.6% in Oregon to 61.9% in New Jersey
2) Prevention is highly correlated to healthcare access
The study reveals significant state-to-state disparities by income, education, geography, race and ethnicity in the use of preventative care. After examining access to preventative care through criteria including holding health insurance, having a dedicated healthcare provider and visiting a dentist, data showed that those that have health insurance are more likely to have regular medical visits and as a result, receive more preventative insight, education and care. Some details from this finding include:
- A lower percentage of Hispanics have access to preventative services than non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks
- Nearly 88% of adults report having some type of health insurance. This varies from a high of 95.4% in Massachusetts to a low of 75.1% in Texas
- Nearly 77% of adults report having a dedicated health care provider. Among the states, this measure varies from a high of 89.3% in Massachusetts to a low of 64.8% in Nevada
3) Successful prevention is approached holistically
Scoring each state by access, immunizations, and chronic disease, the study revealed huge disparities between states in prevention performance. It found that states that perform well in one area generally performed well in others. The obvious conclusion was that the best way to protect against disease is to take a more complete, all-encompassing approach to prevention efforts.
What does this mean for local public health agencies?
Following decades of research about the importance of prevention, a major shift occurred with the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which heavily directed strategy and funding to prevention. However, since the 2008 recession and the subsequent launch of Obamacare, more than $40 billion has been removed from public health funding.
This drop in public funding is having a detrimental effect on many local health department prevention programs. As resources shift away from prevention, studies like the America’s Health Rankings report are documenting the rise in preventable chronic diseases, the decrease in immunization rates and growing disparities in the use of preventative care.
The study confirms that as a nation, America is behind prevention and immunization targets and that particular populations are affected more than others. Supporting critical initiatives like prevention requires a greater discussion about the importance of public health funding, particularly given the evidence that our nation is less healthy due to a lack of prevention access, education, and care.