Polls don’t reflect it, the media isn’t reporting it and our leaders are not talking about it but the number one issue today is healthcare. Our current healthcare system is unsustainable and threatens to bankrupt this country. Most all factions, including doctors, insurance companies, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, public health advocates, lawyers, governments and a myriad of special interests (like AARP) agree healthcare reform is imperative. Unfortunately, turf battles, financial considerations, regulations and control issues are preventing meaningful change.
Healthier people live longer and more productive lives and spend less on healthcare. But our state consistently ranks among the bottom third in the nation in key health indicators. If asked, the average person will proclaim they are healthy but healthcare screenings reveal high percentages with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type II diabetes or obesity and the management of these chronic conditions accounts for 75 percent of all annual healthcare expenditures.
The recently released 2012 BeActive NC: Tipping the Scales reports the costs of medical treatment, workers’ compensation claims and lost productivity for eight factors. In addition to the above-mentioned risk factors, depression, physical inactivity and tobacco use run the costs up to 53.8 billion dollars per year. 65 percent of North Carolina adults and 41 percent of children and teens are considered overweight or obese; nearly 21 percent of medical and prescription bills in 2010 can be attributed to excess weight. If 68,000 sedentary adults were to become active, it is estimated we could save nearly 55 million dollars in medical care and lost-productivity costs the first year.
Today’s healthcare crisis is reminiscent of the 1940s. North Carolina ranked 42nd among 48 states in health indicators. One-third of our counties had no hospital beds. We ranked 45th in the number of physicians and 30 percent of doctors were over 55 years of age. Our infant death rate was the 38th worst in the nation and in 40 other states a mother stood a better chance of surviving childbirth. Tuberculosis, high blood pressure and chronic diseases were rampant, especially in rural areas where little or no health care was available.
Governor Mel Broughton challenged state leaders to act. Over the next few years 7,000 hospital beds were added, the UNC Medical School expanded from two year to four years and Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill was built as a teaching hospital. Big band leader, Kay Kyser, a Rocky Mount native, became the chair of “The Good Health Plan,” uniting our state efforts around a theme song by Frank Sinatra and Dinah Shore called “It’s All Up to You.”
A group of healthcare leaders in North Carolina has formed to meet today’s healthcare crisis and is designing a statewide campaign to help us become “A Healthier NC.” This intensive education and messaging campaign, to be rolled out sometime in 2013, has a slight theme variation. In addition to reaffirming the 1940’s theme of each person’s responsibility for their own health, A Healthier NC will also recognize the important role that communities around them – families, churches, civic groups, schools, neighborhoods and even cities and towns – can play in support of becoming healthier.
A Healthier NC is today’s imperative. We are a state rich in resources and caring people, giving us great confidence North Carolina can rise to the current challenge.