Good news on the state health front

Friday, August 15, 2003

Want to hear some good news? Some really good news. Okay, here it is: Nebraska is one of the healthiest states in the nation, topped in the 2003 Health Care State Rankings by only two states: Vermont and New Hampshire.

That's something to be proud of, especially when you consider it means there are 46 states lower on the health charts. Nebraska's advancing level in the rankings -- from fifth five years ago to this year's third place level -- was proclaimed earlier this month at a press conference held by Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns.

So you would think there would be rejoicing. Based on the national rankings, it would appear everything's A-OK, health-wise, in the Cornhusker State, so we must not have anything to worry about. Right?

No, that's not right. Far from it. While Nebraska is doing very well on the 21 measurements which determine the health care rankings, there are two very serious problems which could wreck our health record in years to come.

Those two concerns -- which are especially severe among the state's children -- are obesity and inactivity. According to the health care rankings compiled by Morgan Quitno Press, the good news of Nebraska's third place health care placing is tainted by the state's 49th place ranking (just one from the bottom) in physical activity outside of work.

In last week's column, Gov. Johanns reported that: (1) One out of five Nebraskans is obese; and (2) Nearly a third of Nebraskans, 31 percent to be exact, do no leisure time physical activity. That's scary for the future, because one out of three of our school-aged youth are either already overweight, or are at risk of becoming fat.

We need to change that, and we need to do so quickly. To lead the effort, Gov. Johanns has tapped the chief medical officer for the Nebraska Department of Human Services, Dr. Dick Raymond, and the commissioner of the Department of Education, Doug Christensen.

"We will work to pull together schools, organizations, families and state agencies to fight the problems of inactivity and obesity," Dr. Raymond said. "We have to get our kids moving again. It is essential for continued good health."

The payoff? It could be the greatest Number One ranking this state has ever received ... that of being the nation's leader in healthy lifestyles.

And, the great thing is, it's an attainable goal. "We must all get up and get moving," Gov. Johanns says. The key is establishing a lifelong habit of exercising that carries over from childhood to adulthood.

Let's get moving, Nebraska. The effort could lead us to the top of the nation's health rankings, and -- for long-lasting life --there's no better Number One than that.

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