Declining health care investment will let the pack catch up


The Center for American Progress recently published an article with an interactive map showing the state-by-state risk factors for asthma, high blood pressure and diabetes, all chronic ailments cited as preexisting conditions for health insurance. Being a local think tank, I thought it best to concentrate only on Minnesota and look at historical trends, rather than just the 2009 snapshot.

First off, Minnesota is doing relatively well compared to most other states. We had the lowest rates of both asthma and high blood pressure in 2009 and are in the top tier for low rates of diabetes. For asthma, it is the lowest rate recorded since 2000, bucking a national rising trend.  High blood pressure also seems to be declining, which is mixed news considering it’s still substantially higher than in 1995.  Diabetes data only dates back to 2004, but in that short time span there has been a notable increase from 5% to 6.3%, still a relatively low figure compared to most of the U.S.  As far as these three specific conditions are concerned, we’re doing well; however, the country’s obesity problem has hit Minnesota hard.

The rate of obesity in Minnesota has increased greatly since 1995, when the obesity rate was about 15%. Today, more than 25% of Minnesotans fall in that category with a Body Mass Index of more than 30 (i.e. someone who is 5′5″ and weighs 180lbs or someone who is 5′10″ and weighs 209lb), which is an overall increase of more than 60%.  About 1.3 million Minnesotans are considered obese by the Centers for Disease Control standards.  If you also add in people who are overweight, it would bring the number to more than 3.3 million Minnesotans, roughly 63% of the state. Which means those good scores we’ve been receiving for low rates of high blood pressure and diabetes could start to erode, stretching our already overburdened health care system.

Many of these problems could be curbed with primary care intervention and better dietary instruction from health professionals. Minnesota must do a better job investing in our public health system, which includes funding for the state’s medical training facilities, producing more, well-trained providers.  Widening, not cutting off, access for low-income Minnesotans will also produce better health outcomes.  Investment in public health initiatives such as the Statewide Health Improvement Program aimed at changing behavior and preventive health care is a key example.  We must do better.

For more on Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data from the CDC, go to: