What's New In The 2011 Colorado Health Report Card: Prevention In The Spotlight

Each year, CHI produces the Colorado Health Report Card in partnership with the Colorado Health Foundation. The 2011 Report Card, released this morning, has a number of interesting findings:

1. The good news: Uninsurance rates for children and adolescents have declined over the past decade. In the face of an economic recession, this represents good news for the ability of Colorado children to access health care. While there’s no one thing that’s responsible for this decline, record-level Medicaid and CHP+ enrollments are clearly playing a role in blunting the impact of the economic downturn.

2. The not-so-good news: With three B’s and two C’s, Colorado’s grades are best described as “middle of the pack.” Our one A- in 2010 – for Healthy Aging – fell to a B in 2011. Even though some people think of Colorado as the healthiest state in the nation, this report card demonstrates that’s far from the truth.

3. The really not-so-good news: While we’re still the leanest state in the nation, the big news this year is that our obesity rate has broken the 20% barrier – and not in a good way. With an obesity rate of 22%, Colorado lost its distinction as the only state in the nation in which fewer than one in five adults are obese. If you haven’t already seen it, the CDC has a powerful (and slightly frightening) time-lapse map animation that demonstrates this trend.

In addition to the grades, this year’s report card highlights the return on investment of prevention initiatives. In a society that’s focused on short-term gratification, the long-term benefits of preventing disease are often overlooked. However, the programs profiled in this year’s supplement to the report card provide evidence that we can reduce health care spending and make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation by investing in prevention.

For example, did you know that every dollar invested in water fluoridation yields approximately $38 in savings? Or that every dollar spent on workplace wellness programs reduces employers’ medical costs by $3.27? Or that one dollar invested in childhood vaccinations saves $16 in health care and societal costs?

For more statistics like these, and information on the programs that are currently at work in Colorado, download “Prevention: Strong Investments in Colorado’s Health” (PDF, 2MB).

Emily King is a research analyst at CHI.