Report on Senior Health Finds Americans More
Active, Less Hospitalizations, Nursing Care Better
Minnesota healthiest state for seniors,
Mississippi the least
May 22, 2014– Senior citizens are showing
encouraging gains in key health measures and taking more steps to
improve their own health, according to the second edition of United
Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings Senior Report: A Call to
Action for Individuals and Their Communities.
Minnesota is the healthiest state for seniors for
the second year in a row. Hawaii ranks second, followed by New Hampshire
(3), Vermont (4) and Massachusetts (5). Mississippi is the least healthy
state for seniors, followed by Louisiana (49), Kentucky (48), Oklahoma
(47) and Arkansas (46).
Key findings include:
> Seniors are more active compared to last year,
with physical inactivity declining from 30.3 percent of the senior
population to 28.7 percent.
> Preventable hospitalizations dropped from 66.6
discharges per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries to 64.9 discharges.
> Nursing home care improved, with quality nursing
home beds rising from 42 percent of beds rated four or five stars to
“We commissioned this report to understand and
identify ways to improve seniors’ health because Americans are living
longer and the senior population will double in size over the next 25
Reed Tuckson, M.D., senior medical adviser to
United Health Foundation. “It’s time to shift our focus from how long
Americans are living, to how well we’re living. We want this
report to encourage seniors and the people in their lives to be more
active, to talk about end-of-life plans and to live the best lives we
“The decline in physical inactivity indicated in
the report shows that seniors are making progress in living healthier
lives,” said Rhonda Randall, D.O., senior adviser to United Health
Foundation and chief medical officer and executive vice president,
UnitedHealthcare Retiree Solutions.
“However, significant challenges remain – such as
the prevalence of obesity and many chronic conditions – that we as a
nation need to address in order to improve seniors’ health and quality
of life. It is up to us – communities, states and the health care system
– to promote healthy behaviors among this growing demographic.”
Minnesota’s strengths include ranking first for all
health determinants combined, which includes ranking in the top five
states for a high rate of dental visits, a high percentage of
volunteerism, a high percentage of quality nursing home beds, a low
percentage of marginal food insecurity, a high percentage of
prescription drug coverage, and ready availability of home health care
workers. Like all states, Minnesota has areas where it can improve: its
challenges include low community support expenditures and a low
prevalence of older adults with a dedicated health care provider.
Rapidly expanding senior population poses
With the senior population poised to double in the
next 25 years, states and local communities should continue to address
unhealthy behaviors that threaten to compromise seniors’ health. More
than 35 percent have four or more chronic conditions, while more than 25
percent of seniors are obese and 28 percent are physically inactive.
Only about 60 percent of seniors received the flu vaccine in the last 12
months. Older adults will account for roughly 20 percent of the U.S.
population by 2030, according to the Center for Disease Control and
Prevention, making these challenges urgent.
“Chronic illnesses such as obesity, diabetes and
heart disease not only affect seniors’ overall health but place pressure
on families, caregivers and our health care system,” said Dr. Tuckson.
“These challenges will only intensify as the senior population continues
to grow. It’s critical that we work together –individuals, families,
communities, states and the health care system– to develop solutions
that address chronic illness among seniors and lay the groundwork for
improved health for generations to come.”
America’s Health Rankings Senior Report: A Call to
Action for Individuals and Their Communities offers a comprehensive
analysis of senior population health on a national and state-by-state
basis across 34 measures of senior health. In commissioning the report,
United Health Foundation seeks to promote discussion around the health
of older Americans while driving communities, governments, stakeholders
and individuals to take action to improve senior health.
Researchers draw data from more than 12 government
agencies and leading research organizations to create a focused,
uniquely rich dataset for measuring senior health at the state level,
including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S.
Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Labor, The Dartmouth
Atlas Project, the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger and the
United Health Foundation also produces the annual
America’s Health Rankings report. For 24 years, America’s Health
Rankings has provided an analysis of national health on a state-by-state
basis by evaluating a historical and comprehensive set of health,
environmental and socioeconomic data to determine national health
benchmarks and state rankings. The Rankings employs a unique
methodology, developed and annually reviewed by a Scientific Advisory
Committee of leading public health scholars.
The America’s Health Rankings Senior Report and the
America’s Health Rankings Report are designed to identify health
opportunities in communities as well as multi-stakeholder,
multidisciplinary approaches to improving the health of the population.
Through its programs and grants, United Health Foundation puts a
spotlight on the health of America while promoting evidence-based
solutions and means to improve it. To learn more about America’s Health
Rankings – and to get information on how to help improve community
health – visit www.americashealthrankings.org.
About United Health Foundation
Through collaboration with community partners,
grants and outreach efforts, United Health Foundation works to improve
our health system, build a diverse and dynamic health workforce and
enhance the well-being of local communities. United Health Foundation
was established by UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) in 1999 as a
not-for-profit, private foundation dedicated to improving health and
health care. To date, United Health Foundation has committed more than
$240 million to programs and communities around the world. Learn more at
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