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Our Opinion: Minnesota ranks high for overall health

Here’s some good news to ponder at Christmastime:

Minnesota places third among all 50 states for overall health — and Minnesotans are spending less of their money on medical care.

This is the second straight year Minnesota has placed third in the annual rankings, according to the latest edition of America’s Health Rankings, a nation-wide comparative health index sponsored by the United Health Foundation in partnership with the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention.

The index shows Minnesota leads the nation in several positive health outcomes, including fewest days of poor physical health, fewest cardiovascular deaths per 100,000 people, and lowest number of years lost due to premature death per 100,000 people.

The state also earns praise for its high rates of physical activity and low rates of diabetes and infant mortality (which the report indicates is the lowest in 24 years).

“Minnesota has plenty to celebrate in public health, and in closely related areas such as education investment and expanding access to care,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger.

“We are fortunate to have a relatively strong economy and a history of strong public health services at the local and state levels. Our focus in the next few years must be on making sure that infrastructure is ready to deal with the public health challenges of the 21st century — specifically obesity and chronic diseases, along with the glaring disparities in health outcomes for some minority groups.”

The report highlights a number of ongoing challenges for Minnesota, including a high percentage of adults engaging in binge drinking (Minnesota ranks 47th), low immunization coverage among children (Minnesota ranks 37th for children between 19 and 35 months), and low per capita public health investment (Minnesota ranks 46th in this measure, with an investment of $47 in state and federal funding per person).

America’s Health Rankings is the longest running comparative health index of states. It uses measures of behavior, community and environment, public and health policies, clinical care and health outcomes to describe the health and wellness of each state compared to all other states.

The rankings are updated each year to provide a perspective on change in health over the last 24 years.

Health care spending in Minnesota increased 2 percent to $38.2 billion from 2010 to 2011, according to a report released today by the Minnesota Department of Health.

The report looks at all health care spending, including private health insurance, out-of-pocket spending, state public programs, and Medicare.

This latest health care spending data reflects a trend of slowing growth in health care spending since 2007. It also indicates that in national comparisons, Minnesota continues to look competitive with regard to health care spending inflation. In 2001, Minnesota’s growth rate was half the nation’s rate of almost 4 percent in 2011, the most recent year for which data are available.

Total spending in 2010 was $37.5 billion or a growth rate of 1.7 percent from 2009. Together with the 2 percent growth seen in 2011, these rates mark the lowest year-over-year change in health care spending since MDH began tracking this trend for Minnesota in the mid-1990s.

Strong heath rankings combined with a slower rate of spending are two trends we can toast — with low fat eggnog, of course — this holiday season.