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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media Contact: Suzanne Beranek

March 21, 2013


Office: 303.953.3668

What if we were No. 1?: The 2012 Colorado Health Report Card answers the question

Individuals and businesses in the state would benefit from
improving obesity, mental health indicators

DENVER – Approximately 92,600 fewer adults would report mental health difficulties and 24,900 fewer children would be obese if Colorado were No. 1 among other states in mental health and childhood obesity. That's according to PDF Icon Transparent "Keeping Colorado Competitive: Roadmap to a Healthier, More Productive Workforce," a supplement to the 2012 Colorado Health Report Card released today by the Colorado Health Foundation and the Colorado Health Institute.

The Report Card supplement explores the connection between the state's physical and mental health and its economic health. Along with highlighting the economic burden poor and mediocre health impose on Colorado's economy, the supplement quantifies – in specific dollar amounts – how Colorado would benefit if it were No. 1 among states in key health indicators. Among the findings:

  • Colorado employers and employees could save an estimated $121 million annually in health care costs if the state had the lowest rate of depression. Currently, Colorado ranks No. 13 in the nation for the percentage of adults reporting poor mental health. The National Business Group on Health estimates that approximately 217 million workdays are completely or partially lost annually due to mental illness in the United States. Cumulatively, lost productivity related to depression costs employers nationwide $44 billion a year.
  • Colorado employers and employees could save an estimated $229 million annually in health costs if adult obesity rates returned to 1996 levels. Though Colorado has the lowest rate of adult obesity, that rate has doubled in 15 years. Employers pay an additional $1,091 annually in health care costs for an employee who is obese compared to one who is not.
  • Colorado employers and employees could save an estimated $38 million annually in health care costs if the state had the lowest rate of childhood obesity. Recent statistics show Colorado is No. 23 in childhood obesity. If it were No. 1, 24,900 Colorado children would not be obese. Medical information provider Thomson Medstat estimates that annual health care costs for an obese child are $2,635 higher than for a child of normal weight.

Now in its seventh year, the Report Card tracks 38 indicators spanning five life stages: Healthy Beginnings, Healthy Children, Healthy Adolescents, Healthy Adults and Healthy Aging. By assigning a letter grade to each of the five life stages that includes ranking Colorado against the other states from best to worst, with No. 1 being the "best" state to No. 50 being the "worst," the Report Card provides a comprehensive picture of the health of Colorado residents.

For the first time, the Report Card analysis asks the question, "What if we were No. 1?" illustrating what it would mean if Colorado were to achieve the top ranking in each particular indicator.

Among the answers:

  • 2,100 more babies would be born at a healthy weight
  • 123,400 more children would have access to a medical home
  • 32,600 fewer high school students would smoke cigarettes
  • 376,800 fewer adults would binge drink
  • 16,200 more older adults would have all of their recommended immunizations

"While it's true that Colorado fares well in some areas – and not so well in others – the latest Report Card shows how individual Coloradans would benefit from the vision of making Colorado the healthiest state in the nation," said Anne Warhover, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Foundation. "Colorado may be the 'leanest' state, yet we're clearly far from the top of the class by many measures in health and health care."

Michele Lueck, president of the Colorado Health Institute, said the results underscore opportunities for stakeholders in Colorado's health – including private citizens, nonprofit organizations, policymakers and civic and business leaders – to find ways to improve the state's physical, mental and economic health. "The Report Card underscores where we can capitalize on our strengths, what weaknesses we can remediate and how keeping Colorado competitive requires an investment in our health," Lueck said.

Report Card results:
While Colorado is making progress with some key health indicators, the state's overall grades haven't improved much since the Colorado Health Foundation issued its first Report Card in 2006. From 2010 to 2012, the overall grade for Healthy Beginnings (an indicator that measures prenatal care for babies and their mothers) remained unchanged at a mediocre C. During the past year, the state's grade for Healthy Children fell from an unacceptable C- to a dismal D+. Meanwhile, the grades for Healthy Adolescents, Healthy Adults, Healthy Aging improved only slightly between 2011 and 2012.

Grades at a glance:

Year-over-year results 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Healthy Beginnings C- C C C C
Healthy Children C- D+ D+ C- D+
Healthy Adolescents B B- B- B- B
Healthy Adults B- B B B B+
Healthy Aging B+ B+ A- B B+

"By showing where there's room for improvement – and what's at stake if we improve – the Report Card provides an important tool for determining how healthy we are and what needs to be done to make us healthier," Warhover said.

About the Colorado Health Foundation
The Colorado Health Foundation works to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation by encouraging healthy living, increasing the number of Coloradans with health insurance and ensuring they have access to quality, coordinated care. The Foundation invests in the community through grants and initiatives to health-related nonprofits that focus on these goals, as well as operating medical education programs to increase the health care workforce.

About the Colorado Health Institute
The Colorado Health Institute is a trusted source of independent and objective health information, data and analysis for the state's health care leaders.