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BILL CRAWFORD: Mississippi back on bottom in senior health rankings

BILL CRAWFORD

Mississippi is getting older. No, this is not about our Bicentennial, but our people. 

 
Since 1980 Mississippi’s total population increased 18.5 percent but the population of residents aged 65 and older jumped 43.3 percent.  This pushed the median age up from 27.6 years in 1980 to 36.5 years in 2015. Over that time, the percentage of population aged 65 and older moved from 11.5 percent to 14 percent.
 
Guess what, health rankings rate  Mississippi the worst place to be old. 
 
The United Health Foundation just released its latest America’s Health Rankings – Senior Report. This is the fifth annual report. In the first two reports, Mississippi ranked 50th. We got off the bottom for two years. Now, we’re back again, dead last in senior health.
 
The foundation says it publishes the senior health report to encourage “continued conversations among policymakers, public health officials and community leaders” and to drive “action to promote better health for our nation’s seniors.” 
 
The report subtitle was “A call to action for individuals and their communities.”  We’ll have to see if Mississippi is paying attention. 
 
The report does treat Mississippi kindly. It doesn’t spotlight our bottom ranking. Rather, it says we’re one of the three states “with the biggest opportunities for improvement.”  Nice twist. Kentucky (No. 49) and Oklahoma (No. 48) join us in these opportunities. 
 
The rankings are based on 34 measures of senior health distributed among five categories. The categories and our ranking in each were: Behaviors (45th); Community & Environment (50th); Policy (41st); Clinical Care (47th); Outcomes (45th).
 
Interesting that our policies outrank our provisions for seniors.
 
The report included several lowlights and a few highlights for Mississippi:
 
Lowlights: In the past three years, food insecurity increased from 20.5 percent to 24.3 percent of adults aged 60+; in the past two years, volunteerism decreased from 25.3 percent to 20.3 percent of adults aged 65+; since 2013, obesity increased from 27.9 percent to 30.8 percent of adults aged 65+. 
 
Highlights: In the past three years, preventable hospitalizations decreased from 85.8 to 67.8 discharges per 1,000 Medicare enrollees; in the past two years, poverty decreased from 14.3 percent to 12.5 percent of adults aged 65+; since 2013, the percentage of adults aged 65+ with no disability increased from 54.0 percent  to 57.4 percent.
 
We ranked in the bottom 10 on 17 of the 34 measures and in the top 10 on only two.
 
The bottom 10 measures were: physical inactivity, obesity, dental care, poverty, volunteerism, community support, food insecurity, number of geriatricians, health screenings, hip fractures, hospital deaths, hospital readmissions, preventable hospitalizations, percent able-bodied, self-reported high health status, premature deaths, and teeth extractions. 
 
The top 10 measures were: excessive drinking, with only estimated 3.9 percent of seniors indulging at that level; and pain management, with 50.6 percent of seniors with arthritis who reported that related pain does not limit their usual activities.
 
Oh, the top five states for senior health were Minnesota, Utah, Hawaii, Colorado, and New Hampshire. The top ranked state in the cluster around Mississippi was Alabama at 43rd.
 
The state and national turmoil surrounding healthcare funding suggests our ranking is unlikely to improve any time soon.
 
Stay healthy my fellow seniors.
 
 
» Bill Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian (crawfolk@gmail.com)

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