2010 Colorado Health Report underscores economic impact of health


The health of many Coloradans is on the decline, most alarmingly among children across the state. Since 2006, there has been a steady increase in overall obesity rates for Colorado residents. Just as concerning, increases in obesity lead to chronic conditions including diabetes, hypertension…

2010 Colorado Health Report Card underscores economic impact of health 
Higher obesity rates mean $874 million in annual costs for residents
The health of many Coloradans is on the decline, most alarmingly among children across the state. Since 2006, there has been a steady increase in overall obesity rates for Colorado residents. Just as concerning, increases in obesity lead to chronic conditions including diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, all of which drive up health care costs and impact the economy.

The 2010 Colorado Health Report Card, officially released today by the Colorado Health Foundation, monitors the health of our state. The report tracks 38 health indicators, which are divided into five life stages — Healthy Beginnings, Healthy Children, Healthy Adolescents, Healthy Adults and Healthy Aging. Each life stage is then assigned a letter grade.

Colorado’s reputation as the leanest state in the country masks the fact that it fares poorly when compared to other states in many other health indicators. For example, the state lags behind in prenatal care (34th), dental care for children (38th) and children’s health insurance coverage (44th). And many of the health indicators for Colorado are declining more rapidly than the rest of the nation.

“We call this the ‘Colorado Paradox,'” said Anne Warhover, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Foundation. “While Colorado has the leanest population of adults, we fall far behind in several other health indicators. In fact, Colorado’s obesity rate for adults has actually doubled in fewer than 20 years. If this trend continues, we will not be No. 1 for long as our rates are climbing at a faster rate than other states.”

Declining health weighs heavily on the state’s economy. For example, the current economic impact of obesity in Colorado is an estimated $874 million each year¹; this figure will increase exponentially if areas of concern in the 2010 Report Card are not addressed quickly. The health of our workforce is one of many variables that could help control runaway health insurance premiums. According to statistics from the Urban Institute, health insurance premiums have grown twice as fast as Coloradans’ average wages and are expected to cut into 40 percent of the average family’s income in the next few years.

“If the state can reduce Colorado’s obesity rate to 1998 levels, we would see nearly $27 billion in economic savings by 2023,” said Michele Lueck, president of the Colorado Health Institute, which compiles the research and data for the Report Card. “It is also important to remember that obesity rates are just one indicator of a larger health and economic issue. Many of the Report Card indicators can be linked to a positive economic savings if health grades improve across the state.”

2010 Report Card highlights: 

Good news
  • Colorado’s older adults are active and healthy, ranking first in the United States for rates of physical activity and second in up-to-date vaccinations.
  • Colorado ranks No. 1 for adolescents who have eaten five or more servings of fruits or vegetables in the past week.
  • Colorado ranks No. 1 for having the lowest percentage of adolescents who were sexually active in the past three months.
Could be worse
  • The number of uninsured children continues to stay steady, at about 12 percent.
  • Colorado ranks No. 1 or is the leanest state, in adult obesity. However, adult obesity rates in Colorado are climbing at a faster rate than in many other states. The adult obesity rate has more than doubled in Colorado since 1990.
  • Despite Colorado’s reputation for healthy living, fewer than one-quarter of Colorado adults consume the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, making the state simply average compared to the rest of the country.
The bad news
  • Poverty dramatically affects Colorado’s children and their overall well-being, contributing to poor health and low academic performance. Currently, more than 16 percent of Colorado’s children are living in poverty.
  • Colorado’s rank for childhood obesity dropped from third in 2003 to 23rd in 2007 with 14 percent of Colorado’s children classified as obese.
  • Colorado experienced a 15 percent drop in infant immunizations. Colorado’s drop in immunization rates is likely explained in part by a limited supply of the Hib vaccine due to a national shortage.
  • The state ranks 44th in percent of children not covered by insurance.
Grades at a glance:
Year-over-year results201020092008
Healthy BeginningsCCC-
Healthy ChildrenD+D+C-
Healthy AdolescentsB-B-B
Healthy AdultsBBB-
Healthy AgingA-B+B+
“When it comes to health the stakes are high and even higher when you consider that good health is inextricably linked to Colorado’s economic success,” said Warhover. “While we need to remain diligent and focused on improving the health of Colorado’s children, we must also stay committed to improving our efforts across all five life stages as the comprehensive impact of health from birth to death has a measurable domino effect on our entire economy.”

To read more about the 2010 Colorado Health Report Card, expanded information on the health indicators and the methodology behind the analysis of the data, please visit www.ColoradoHealthReportCard.org.

¹Finkelstein, E., et al. (2004). “State-level estimates of annual medical expenditures attributable to obesity.” Obesity Research 12(1):18-24.

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