The State of North Carolina is not doing enough to promote the health of its people.
In 2010, the State of North Carolina identified 13 major health focus areas and established 41 decennial health objectives and targets to meet by the year 2020, with the goal of making North Carolina a healthier state. Unfortunately, our state is nowhere close to reaching this goal anytime soon.
My analysis last year of our state’s progress in achieving the goals outlined in our health improvement plan, Healthy NC 2020: A Better State of Health, found that “at the current pace it would take the state 48 more years (or until the year 2065) to achieve all of its 2020 targets.”
With eighteen months to go until 2020, analysis of new state data shows that not only will our state not come close to achieving these health objectives but also that our state is worse off today in 17 key health objectives compared to nine years ago.
In other words, instead of making progress towards becoming “one of the healthiest states in the nation,” various health conditions in North Carolina have gotten worse.
For example, 12 out of 13 (92 percent) of the state’s major focus areas are negatively affected, including: maternal and infant health, mental health, substance abuse, chronic disease, injury & violence, and physical activity and nutrition. Within these focus areas, some of the major health objectives in which our current status is worse off today compared to nine years ago includes:
- the rate of mental health-related visits to emergency rooms;
- the unintentional poisoning mortality rate;
- the percentage of individuals aged 12 years and older reporting illicit drug use;
- the suicide rate;
- the percentage of people spending more than 30 percent of their income on rental housing;
- the percentage of adults with diabetes;
- the infant mortality racial disparity between whites and people of color
Moreover, North Carolina has consistently trailed other states in overall health rankings for almost two decades, and currently ranks 33rd in the country.
Based on the evidence it is clear that in order to improve our state of health and make progress on our 2020 goals a real concerted effort is needed from health professionals, insurers, business and community leaders, advocacy organizations, consumer groups, the faith community and North Carolina’s residents.
Over the summer I will be releasing a series of posts covering more in-depth some of the state’s ‘Healthy NC 2020’ focus areas, the goal of which will be to lift up where we are falling short and how we can make progress for the state and for each North Carolinian whose health and well-being depends on the policies and systems that support them.
Luis A. Toledo is a Public Policy Analyst for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.