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"Healthy Days" per Month as a Measure of Chronic Disease and Disabilities

Posted Jan 18 2011 12:00am

A recent article about racial health disparities in the New York Times using CDC data was fascinating and I recommend it for anyone interested in general health issues (see: Broad Racial Disparities Seen in Americans’ Ills ). To whet your interest, here are three short statements extracted from it:

  • Babies born to black women are up to three times as likely to die in infancy as those born to women of other races.
  • American Indians and Alaska Natives are twice as likely to die in car crashes as any other group.
  • More than 80 percent of all suicides are committed by whites, but young American Indian adults have the highest suicide rates by far — 25 per 100,000 population at age 21, compared with 14 for whites, 10 for blacks and 8 for Asians and Hispanics.
  • Compared with whites, blacks have double the rate of “preventable hospitalizations,” which cost about $7 billion a year.

All of these facts were quite shocking to me but here's one that I found almost unbelievable:

  • People in Utah, Connecticut and North Dakota report the most “healthy days” per month — about 22. People in West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee report the fewest, about 17.

I'm not exactly sure how "healthy days" are defined and I am sure that older individuals have fewer of them than more robust, younger people. Obviously, people with known disabilities will report more such days. Multiple criticisms can also be leveled at self-reported data. However and for me, I would report that nearly all of my days are "healthy" ones. By way of contrast, and for people in West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, nearly half the days in any month are reported by them as unhealthy. When you consider the high prevalence of chronic conditions such diabetes, obesity, hypertension, chronic lung disease, chronic heart disease, and osteoarthritis, these numbers start to make more sense. Perhaps even more so for many of the southern states (see: Drop Me Off at the ER as Soon as I Finish My Fried Fish Dinner ). The key question is what positive steps can we take in this country to improve the number of healthy days enjoyed by a broad swath of the population.

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