Taking a Long View on Texas’s Health

By: Marshall Dawer, M.D. M.S. F.A.C.P.  ABEM, Market Medical Director for UnitedHealthcare of North Texas

Can you believe it has already been 25 years since we embarked on the 1990s? A quarter century has passed since “Cheers” was T.V.’s No. 1 hit, “Home Alone” ruled the box office and “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips topped the Billboard charts.

The year 1990 also marked the release of the very first America’s Health Rankings report – when we first learned where Texas ranks relative to every other state in overall health and wellness. As a physician and market medical director for UnitedHealthcare in North Texas, I always look forward to this annual report because it provides an overview of where we stand in health compared with our peer states. As they say, we can’t improve what we don’t measure. That’s as true for health as it is for anything else.

The special 25th anniversary report provides a reflection of Texas’ health that is at once sobering and encouraging.  In 1990, Texas ranked 33 among the 50 states in overall health.  It reached a ranking of 42 in 2011, but the state’s scores have improved since then for a ranking of 31 in 2014.

According to the 25th anniversary report, Texas experienced the nation’s second-highest improvement in ranking – up from 36 last year to 31 in 2014. This is because of a decrease in smoking, higher rates of immunization, and a decrease in poor mental health days.

Related to the problem of obesity in Texas, UnitedHealthcare provides programs such as the Diabetes Prevention Program. It is a proactive, employer and community-based initiative of UnitedHealthcare in partnership with the local YMCA. The program helps educate people on living healthier lives and empower community to take action of improve their health.

Taking a long view on health and wellness in Texas makes it clear where we need to focus our energy for the next 25 years. The biggest health challenges Texas faces include high prevalence of physical inactivity, high percentage of children in poverty and limited availability of primary care physicians.

When it comes to the future of Texas’ health, we are all in it together. I look forward to continuing progress where we do well and galvanizing energy to address areas where we need improvement. At this important moment, let’s commit to making the changes necessary today to ensure that, 25 years from now, we can celebrate a quarter century of meaningful health improvement.

Dr. Dawer is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and an Emergency Medicine Specialist with more than 30 years of experience in healthcare and public health.

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