St. Charles Herald-Guide

Louisiana named ‘least healthy’ state in U.S.

By Derek Clontz - January 17, 2007

The United Health Foundation has ranked Louisiana as the “least healthy” state in the nation for 2006 and the picture painted by the respected research group isn’t pretty.

“Louisiana is 50th this year, a position it has held for 14 of the 15 editions of this report,” the foundation said in its grim analysis.

“It ranks in the bottom five states on six of the 18 measures - a high prevalence of smoking at 26.5 percent of the population, a high rate of uninsured population at 20.6 percent, a high percentage of children in poverty at 25.5 percent of persons under age 18, a high rate of cancer deaths at 224.2 deaths per 100,000 population, a high infant mortality rate at 9.7 deaths per 1,000 live births and a high premature death rate at 10,279 years of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 population.

“It also ranks in the bottom ten states for a high rate of motor vehicle deaths, a low high school graduation rate, a high violent crime rate, a high incidence of infectious disease, low support for public health and a high total mortality rate.

“Louisiana is 50th for the combined measures of risk factors and 49th for the combined measures of outcomes, possibly indicating that the relative health of the population will remain at current levels in the future.

“Health disparities are also a challenge, as only 69.1 percent of pregnant black women receive adequate prenatal care compared to 86.5 percent of pregnant white women.

“In the past year, the prevalence of obesity decreased from 25.5 percent to 24.8 percent of the population, and per capita public health spending declined from $35 to $22 per person.

“Since 1990, access to adequate prenatal care has increased from 67.0 percent to 79.2 percent of pregnant women receiving adequate care, the prevalence of obesity has more than doubled from 12.3 percent to 24.8 percent of the population and the rate of cancer deaths has increased from 210.2 to 224.2 deaths per 100,000 population.

“The infant mortality rate has decreased from 11.8 to 9.7 deaths per 1,000 live births, a smaller decrease than the nation as a whole.

In our exclusive 10-part series, the Herald-Guide will take a closer look at the major health problems facing Louisiana and St. Charles Parish.

We will explore ways to preserve your health, and the health of your loved ones, through all available resources.

We’ll provide you with wellness options. We’ll talk to local officials and experts to allay fears where they are unfounded - and alert you to potential problems you might not even know about.

One resource you should be aware of immediately is the re-launch of the state’s health Web site and toll-free hotline. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and the Louisiana Public Health Institute kicked off the official Stay Healthy Louisiana Web site, http://www.stayhealthyla.org/ after Hurricane Katrina.

The site now serves as a central source for public health information in Louisiana, providing users with easy-to-understand tips and information in an interactive and feature-rich environment. The revamped Web site offers opinion polls, an “Ask the Expert” feature, the latest news from DHH and local health officials, an e-mail newsletter, and links to a variety of other health-related Web sites. The site also features a discussion forum in which Louisiana residents can share tips and information with one another or chat about issues.

In addition, the new http://www.stayhealthyla.org/ site provides guidance and information on issues that are critical to Louisiana residents, such as disaster recovery and preparation, mental health, obesity, diabetes, asthma and more.

Users will also be able to download audio and video features, as well as free copies of the Family Readiness Guide, produced by the Office of Public Health, and the Stay Healthy Louisiana Hurricane Recovery Guide, produced by DHH and the Louisiana Public Health Institute.

“The Web site is a unique, Louisiana-focused health information center that will help citizens stay up-to-date on critical health issues and allow them to communicate with Louisiana health experts, as well as each other,” said Dr. Fred Cerise, Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary.

Next week: Obesity ... how to fight fat & where to get help in St. Charles Parish ... even on a tight budget...