MaineHealth has released its seventh annual Health Index Report, one of Maine’s most trusted barometers of progress on seven of the state’s most pressing health priorities: childhood immunizations, tobacco use, obesity, preventable hospitalizations, cardiovascular deaths, cancer deaths, and prescription drug abuse and addiction.
The Health Index Report is released in concert with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings, an annual snapshot comparing the overall health of nearly every county in the nation. Used as a benchmark for MaineHealth’s Health Index Report, the Rankings compare counties on 30 factors that influence health including education, housing, violent crime, jobs, diet, and exercise. Together, the two reports provide insight into community health trends, progress and challenges in Maine and across the country.
According to the Rankings, the healthiest county in Maine is Cumberland, followed by Sagadahoc, Knox, and York and Hancock counties, while Washington County again ranks as the unhealthiest county.
Key findings from this year’s Health Index Report include:
- Maine had the fifth largest increase in drug overdose death rates in the nation, comparing rates in 2012-2014 to 2013-2015. Maine’s recent surge in overdose deaths continued in 2016 with 378 Mainers lost – an increase of over 40% from 2015. The counties of Kennebec, York and Carroll (New Hampshire) had the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in the MaineHealth service area.
- Tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death and Maine is no longer a national leader reducing tobacco use. While the U.S. smoking rate has decreased since 2012, Maine’s rate has not changed significantly. The Report also finds that more states now have a lower smoking rate than Maine; only three states have higher smoking rates than Maine.
- Maine’s death rates for tobacco-related cancers are among the highest in the nation. In contrast, death rates for colorectal cancer have declined faster in the MaineHealth service area than in the United States. One factor that contributed to this decline was the increased utilization of evidence-based screenings for colorectal cancer.
- Cardiovascular deaths are increasing. Age-adjusted rates of deaths due to cardiovascular disease have been steadily decreasing in Maine and across the United States for many years. However, rates plateaued in recent years (starting with 2010-2012 rates) and the latest rate for 2013-2015 indicated an increase.
- The flattening obesity trend among both adults and youth is encouraging. The estimated percent of adults with obesity has not increased significantly from 2012-2015, while the rates for students in grades 5-12 have remained steady from 2011-2015. This flattening of the curve is an important achievement on the path to reduce obesity rates.
- On-time childhood vaccination rates showed improvement. Across the MaineHealth pediatric and family medicine practices, up-to-date rates for six of the 10 vaccines increased from 2014 to 2016. Furthermore, the 2016 rates for eight of the 10 vaccines exceeded the Healthy People 2020 targets.
County-level data for two of the priority areas – obesity and tobacco use – will be incorporated into the Health Index Report as soon as it becomes available from the Maine CDC.
New for this year’s report, MaineHealth has established two aggressive targets for each of the seven Health Index priorities: a short-term target (ending in September 2018) for interventions underway at MaineHealth organizations and a long-term target (ending in September 2021) for measures that monitor health across the broader community populations.
In 2015, MaineHealth was recognized as one of five leading health systems in a report published by the American Hospital Association titled, “The Leadership Role of Nonprofit Health Systems in Improving Community Health.” The Health Index Initiative was cited as evidence of the MaineHealth system’s strong commitment to improving the health of individuals and communities.
Read the full report