The State of Senior Health: Where Illinois Made Strides, and Where We Need to Improve

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Salud

By: Dr. Bruce Weiss, medical director, UnitedHealthcare of Illinois

With America’s senior population expected to double in size by 2050, it is important that we ensure seniors in Illinois can live full and healthy lives. The America’s Heath Rankings Senior Report, published annually by United Health Foundation, offers a comprehensive picture of senior health in our state. The report shows where older adults in Illinois have made strides and draws attention to areas where we need to improve.

As a physician, I always look forward to this annual report because it provides an overview of where seniors in Illinois stand in health relative to our peer states. As they say, you can’t improve what you don’t measure. That’s as true for senior health as it is for anything else. This year’s Senior Report showed that Illinois ranks 37 out of all 50 states in key measures of senior health. This is a drop of two spots from the previous year.

The good news for senior health in Illinois in the past year, flu vaccine coverage increased 12 percent from 52.5 percent to 58.6 percent of adults aged 65 and older. Also, in the past year, hospital deaths decreased 11percent of decedents aged 65 and older. These are positive signs for senior health in our state and successes to build upon in 2016.

However, with the senior population in America poised for rapid growth as Americans live longer – and often sicker – it is more important than ever that we work together to take steps toward a healthier future. In the past year, smoking increased from 7.7 percent to 8.6 percent of adults aged 65 and older, food insecurity increased 11 percent of adults aged 60 and older, and poor mental health days increased eight percent.

When it comes to the future of senior health in Illinois, we are all in it together. This report is an opportunity to assess where we stand and think about where we are going. I hope that this report encourages Illinois community and health leaders to celebrate and build on the accomplishments in senior health made this year – and approach remaining challenges head on.

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