Healthy Lives – Healthy Community

health-community-17030Recently the United Health Foundation shared the findings of their 2012 National Health Rankings study. Some of the criteria used in determining the rankings included tobacco and alcohol abuse, crime rates, exercise, infectious diseases, public health funding, high school graduation rates, uninsured population, availability of primary care physicians, cancer and heart disease rates, premature birth rates, and immunizations.

How did Illinois fare?  Illinois ranked 30th out of the 50 states. The report was broken down into various categories and here are some grim Illinois statistics: Up to 29% of the people in Illinois have sedentary lifestyles, 22% of the population smokes, and up to 41% of the population is obese.

And locally? According to the County Rankings Report and Roadmap 2013, a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Winnebago County ranks 82 out of 101 counties in Illinois.  Nearly one quarter of our adult population smokes, 29% are obese, and 27% have a sedentary lifestyle.

What do these statistics have in common? They have nothing to do with the quality of healthcare. In fact, no country spends more on healthcare than the United States.

Australia spends just half of what the US spends on healthcare, yet they have a longer life expectancy than the United States. Treating cardiovascular disease alone in the US accounts for 18% of total healthcare costs and 30% of Medicare costs.

What these statistics have in common is our lifestyle, which is driving up disease and health care costs. It shows much of what affects our health takes place outside of the doctor’s office.

Why is this important to know? A healthier community is a more vibrant community.  People are more engaged and productive when they are healthy. Healthcare costs are an employer’s second largest expenditure.  A healthier workforce means more dollars are available to invest to keep a business competitive and to hire people. Individuals who spend less on medical bills have more discretionary income to spend on goods and services in our community. Who knows? Maybe the government would pay our schools, municipalities, and social agencies what they are due in a more timely manner if they didn’t have to spend 17 cents of every dollar on our healthcare costs.

Having a healthy community benefits everyone. Each one of us needs to do our part. Good health begins at home. Keeping fruit within easy reach on the kitchen counter makes a quick and heathy snack. Take a pledge not to buy snacks in crinkly bags. Grocery shop from a shopping list. Read nutrition labels and chose only products that are low in sodium and saturated fat. Do activities as a family. Ride bikes, walk in the neighborhood or on one of our beautiful bike paths. Find tasty and healthy recipes in a cookbook or online to add to what is made for dinners throughout the week. Slowly replace these dinner recipes with those dinners that are not as healthy.

We can make a difference.  Let’s do a Spring clean-up, and chose to engage in “best practices” for our health.