Charles T. Frock
Chief Executive Officer
FirstHealth of the Carolinas
The good news is the United States is a healthier place in which to live. The bad news is that North Carolina isn’t.
According a 2006 study called “America’s Health Rankings: A Call to Action for People & Their Communities,” North Carolina ranks 36th in the country in terms of health. That’s exactly the same ranking that the Tar Heel State had the year before.
The report, produced by the United Health Foundation in partnership with the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention, ranks the nation’s health status based on such factors as personal behaviors, work and living environment, and quality of health care. Since 1990, the year of the first “America’s Health Rankings” report, the health of the United States has improved by about 19 percent. That’s thanks in large measure to the good health of residents of the top 10 states: Minnesota (the healthiest state for four years in a row), Vermont, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Connecticut, Utah, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Maine and Wisconsin.
Conversely, and probably not surprisingly, nine of the 10 least healthy states in the country (Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, West Virginia, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana) are in the South. The other is Oklahoma. While North Carolina (barely) misses that sad designation, it is close enough to the bottom of the list to warrant serious concern.
The authors of the study cite a dramatic increase in obesity, a rising number of Americans (46 million) without health insurance and smoking (by 21 percent of American adults) as major health concerns throughout the nation. These factors are also issues for the FirstHealth of the Carolinas service area, and many are covered in the 2007 “North Carolina Men’s Health Report Card.” Compiled through FirstHealth’s participation in the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Community Voices program, this document was introduced to the public during the North Carolina Men’s Health Summit in Chapel Hill in January. (You will read more about it in our summer 2007 magazine issue about “Men and health.”)
All of this information is distressing, but here is hope—especially for people who are willing to take a personal role in their health care. This issue of FirstHealth of the Carolinas is called “You the (smart) health care consumer.” You may be interested to know that we considered calling it “You the (smart) patient.” But that was before we realized you don’t have to be a patient to be concerned about your health and that you’re likely to be better off if you approach it proactively.
That’s not always possible, of course, but there are many things that you can do to help. The most obvious involve exercising, eating healthily, getting enough sleep, managing stress, scheduling routine checkups that include age- and gender-specific examinations, and giving up tobacco.
FirstHealth of the Carolinas can help you with all these things and more. Our Active for Life program encourages even the most sedentary adults to put activity into their life. Our FirstQuit program helps tobacco-users give up their habit. Our Mobile Health Services program provides a variety of health screening opportunities—including a new ultrasound screening program for aortic aneurysm, stroke/carotid artery disease and peripheral vascular disease—in communities where access to health care is often an issue. (See a related story on page 20.)
In addition, FirstHealth’s annual Board/Medical Staff Leadership Retreat later this spring will focus on the “First in Health” component of our 2020 Vision: Working Together, First in Quality, First in Health, as we continue, organizationally, to make a difference in the health of our communities. And we are very excited about a new Community Health Worker/ Patient Navigator program now being developed by Community Health Services. This program will help people get into the health care system as well as help them find their way around it once they are in—thus paving the way for prevention, early intervention and early treatment.
All of this goes to show that while we may live in one of the country’s least healthy states, we can take measures to change that status. It’s up to us as (smart) health care consumers.