TERRE HAUTE —
Smoking and obesity continue to weigh down Hoosier health scores into the bottom of American rankings.
Statistics released this week by the United Health Foundation, American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention place Indiana at No. 41 on the list, four spots worse than 2011.
In compiling an annual report, America’s Health Rankings, researchers attribute the state’s low placement to one of the highest smoking rates in the country, growing levels of obesity and underfunded public health initiatives.
According to the data, Indiana’s 1.25 million adult smokers earned it a No. 44 in that category, while its 1.5 million obese adults helped score 42nd in both obesity and sedentary lifestyles. The report also notes more than 500,000 Hoosiers are diabetic.
Local officials didn’t seem shocked by the data, but agreed there’s no one simple reason for Hoosiers’ unhealthy state.
Joni Wise, administrator of the Vigo County Health Department, pointed out that Indiana spends significantly less on its public health programs than other states, which in turn causes a number of seemingly unrelated problems. Whether involving unclean water or air pollution, public health funding matters.
“Public health takes in so many things, and if you don’t invest the dollars in it, then your citizens are less likely to have healthy lives,” she said.
According to the report, Indiana has one of the lowest levels of public health funding per capita in the country, increasing to just $44 from $33 in the last five years. Meanwhile, Vermont, which came in No. 1 in the country’s health rankings, boasted $149 per capita health spending.
Wise said those population-based health programs span air-quality initiatives to seat-belt education. Tallied together, they add up to a healthier environment, and ultimately healthier citizens, she said.
“We were slow as a state to address clean, indoor air policies,” she said, explaining her preference for that term as opposed to an “anti-smoking” label. But when coupled with what the report termed “high levels of air pollution” in Indiana, second-hand tobacco smoke indoors adds to the high numbers of chronic illnesses faced by Hoosiers. Counties such as Vigo used to operate Air Pollution Boards, she added, until funding for those has been cut in recent years.
And obesity continues to be a problem for Hoosiers. Even in a nation where every state is struggling with the issue, Hoosiers seem to be more complacent about their status, even accepting of it, she said. Like other health issues, obesity is complicated and involves socio-economic factors, access to healthy food and recreation areas, and at some point, personal choices, she explained. Other states with better rankings have citizens making different choices.
“They have the knowledge to make healthier choices,” she said, pointing out money does seem to matter. States, and even counties within states, that have higher household incomes and education levels tend to fare better in overall health. Whether it’s more disposable income for food and exercise or the knowledge to better utilize what they have available, the topic is ripe for discussion, she said.
Nationally, No. 1 Vermont was followed in the rankings by Hawaii, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Minnesota. At the other end, Mississippi and Louisiana tied for 49th, followed by Arkansas, West Virginia and South Carolina.
Leamor Kahanov, chair of Indiana State University’s department of applied medicine and rehabilitation, agreed the issue stems from a complicated set of problems.
“There are so many variables, I think it’s really hard to hit on one,” she said.
Kahanov was instrumental in establishing the university’s new Center for Health, Wellness and Life Enrichment, and said addressing the topic of overall health from a “team approach” is helpful, particularly when utilizing a “patient-centered perspective.” Instead of sending one patient to see multiple specialists — such as those addressing nutrition, smoking, and diabetes — it often works best to have those individuals on the same team to address the total patient, she said.
But most patients already know what they need to do, whether it’s quit smoking or lose weight, she said. Getting them to follow through seems to be the tough part.
Lifestyle and culture play a role, and the types of food Hoosiers will be eating this holiday season, for whatever reason, isn’t as healthy as other regions. The population found in rural areas tends to display low levels of health literacy, and if they live great distances from health care providers, they seem less likely to keep up with visits, she said. Unemployment and lack of health insurance are also at play.
“If there was one thing we could address, I think we would have done that a long time ago. It’s the accumulation of those things put together,” she said.
Likewise, Jenna Hasenour, diabetes educator at Union Hospital, said the swirling factors are as varied as an advertisement-driven media culture and family dynamics.
“Education does have a lot to do with it, and how people have eaten historically is how they feed their kids, and that’s how it passes down from one generation to another,” she said, estimating her heaviest patients are in excess of 400 pounds. “And it’s starting younger and younger too.”
But why Hoosiers tend to reach for different foods than their counterparts in Vermont remains a puzzle, she admitted. Why a rural state with farms full of vegetables has residents opting for fast food is a complicated issue.
“That’s a good question, and sometimes it has to do with a lack of knowledge about healthy foods,” Hasenour said. “It’s about choices. And I’m not sure why this area tends to have more high-fat, high-carb choices than other places in the country that have lower numbers.”
Indiana also scored poorly in terms of activity level, ranking among the most sedentary states. Again, why a state full of parks and trails has residents rated sedentary compared with those on the East Coast isn’t completely clear.
“That plays a major role, and people don’t realize the impact that exercise can have on modifying their risk factors, not just for diabetes, but for heart disease,” Hasenour said. Also, the link between obesity, diabetes and heart disease tends to spiral, one interacting with the others. “So it’s kind of a progression.”
With her patients, Hasenour encourages setting small goals which can be accomplished and measured. Substituting soda with water can be the first step in helping a patient lose 50 pounds, with other goals added along the way.
“Just a simple change like that can make a difference in weight loss,” she said.
Wise said the United Way of the Wabash Valley is tackling the topic through its Community Health Initiative Committee, which she chairs. Among the group’s goals is to create a program to increase community access to fresh produce.
But ultimately the decision to participate in those and other programs comes down to individuals’ choices.
Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or email@example.com.
2012 statistics put Indiana four spots worse than 2011
TERRE HAUTE —
Smoking and obesity continue to weigh down Hoosier health scores into the bottom of American rankings.
Banks of the Wabash Festival is more than just yearly entertainment
Pioneers think counterintuitively. Where others see widespread apathy, they focus on the possibility for progress. In a way, the 2013 Year of the River celebration began in the 1970s.
Planning session aims to better Terre Haute
It’s not yet clear what will come of it, but dozens of community leaders spent the whole day Wednesday trying to develop a plan – or collection of plans – to make Terre Haute “a better community.”
Education funding boost won’t benefit all schools
In the budget bill passed by the General Assembly last month, there is more money allocated for K-12 education over the next two years, but that doesn’t mean every school will get more dollars.
- Day of Action job options open
Park Board renames land around Memorial Stadium
Land surrounding Indiana State University’s Memorial Stadium on Terre Haute’s east side has been designated as Veterans Memorial Park, following a unanimous vote Wednesday from the Terre Haute Park Board.
Deputy suffers minor injury during incident
A Vigo County Sheriff’s deputy received a minor injury to his hand Tuesday night while subduing a drunken driving suspect who fled behind a North Terre Haute business.
Man accused of child neglect gets new trial date
An Oct. 15 trial date has been set for a Terre Haute man arrested in November for child neglect after he and his wife allegedly tied up and confined their adopted children in the family home.
Police find meth labs, arrest Pierson Township man
Police uncovered two active methamphetamine labs in southeastern Vigo County on Monday, leading to the arrest of a Pierson Township man.
New date set for attempted murder trial
A new trial date has been set for a Terre Haute woman charged with attempted murder.
Rose-Hulman professor researching ways to make homes storm safe
Tornadoes produce greater uplift forces than hurricanes, which can flatten homes such as in Moore Okla., south of Oklahoma City.
Group wants to connect downtown Terre Haute with the Wabash River
Fairbanks Park is underutilized.
The Wabash River is peaceful and inviting, but there is some concern about its cleanliness as well as pollution levels. Also, people can’t get on the river unless they have a boat.
New conservancy district appoints first directors
Members of the first board of directors of a new lake conservancy district were appointed Tuesday by the Vigo County Board of Commissioners.
Vigo law enforcement signs Triad charter to protect seniors
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller joined Vigo County law enforcement and community activists Tuesday to sign the county’s first Triad charter, becoming the 22nd Triad in Indiana.
Wabash Valley Red Cross wraps up Save the Day Campaign
The American Red Cross Wabash Valley Chapter’s 2013 annual meeting concluded the 17th annual Save the Day Campaign, and the results lifted the spirits of all who were involved.
Some Vigo roads washed out
Spring storms resulted in $250,000 in damages to roads in southern Vigo County, with costs including sand and labor to save homes near river bottoms, said county highway Assistant Superintendent Dan Bennett.
County Council votes $78K toward rail spur
County officials voted Tuesday night to make good on a 2011 promise to help improve a railroad spur just north of Terre Haute for Menard Inc.
Spring flooding damages future CSO holding lagoon
Flood waters from the Wabash River have done costly damage to one of the city-owned “lagoons” on former International Paper property.
Vigo tops state average for IREAD-3 scores
The Vigo County School Corp. exceeded the state average in the percentage of students passing the state’s mandatory Grade 3 reading test, IREAD-3.
Storms cause minor damage in Valley
Tuesday morning storms in the Wabash Valley caused thousands of Duke Energy customers to lose power.
Kindergartner diagnosed with MD treated to a day with the fire department
“He’ll just never forget this day,” Stacey Manley said, a little bit tearfully, as she watched her smiling 6-year-old son Carter sitting happily in the captain’s seat of Fire Engine 2.
Casey, Illinois aims for another world record
The town of Casey, Ill., may soon weave its way into the record books as the small town with the most world records. After setting records for the world’s largest wind chimes and the world’s largest golf tee, Casey is now looking to become home to the world’s largest knitting needles and crochet hook.
Rose-Hulman projects will promote growth, learning for people with physical challenges
Life changed dramatically for college engineering student Drew Christy on Feb. 22, 2008 when he was involved in an auto accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury.
‘500’ gas stations being sold to Speedway LLC
After several decades in business, the area’s familiar “500” gasoline stations and convenience stores will soon be missing from the roadsides of Vigo and Sullivan counties.
Terre Haute woman faces 14 charges
A Terre Haute woman faces 14 criminal counts after her arrest Friday on drug-related charges.
Two adults injured in ATV accident
Two adults were injured Sunday evening while riding an all-terrain vehicle near Lexington Farms Subdivision off Moyer Drive in southern Vigo County.
Vigo schools’ medical claims down 4 percent
The Vigo County School Corp.’s medical claims were about $13 million over the last 12 months, down 4 percent from the prior year, said Diane Titchenell, an Anthem account manager that works with the school district.
2013 Government Directory now available
The 2013 Government Directory is now available.
Life-Size Ping Pong: Valley pickleball tourney draws large crowd to Brittlebank Park
It’s been described as “ping pong on steroids.”
Some people call it “life-size ping pong where you stand on the table.”
Boat trip aims to raise awareness about Lewy Body Dementia
In 2013, the Year of the River, it makes sense to link a grand adventure on the Wabash River with a good cause.
Legislature had little taste for alcohol bills
When it comes to alcohol, the 2013 legislative session may be marked more by what it didn’t do to boost booze sales than what it did.
- More News Headlines
- Banks of the Wabash Festival is more than just yearly entertainment