Lower Teen Pregnancy, But Overall A Mixed 2016 Colo. Health Report Card

February 17, 2016
Graphic:Colorado Health Foundation Report Card

An annual health report card released Wednesday gives Colorado good marks in areas like health insurance coverage and physically active seniors. But the Colorado Health Foundation report also shows challenges around immunization rates and child poverty.

The report ranks Colorado against other states in 38 categories over five life stages. Each stage has separate criteria, but here's how the grades shake out: A C+ in the infants and children categories, a B for adolescent health, a B+ for adults, and B+ seniors  And, overall, Colorado ranks just about in the middle of the 50 states in most categories.

Strides in the number of people with health insurance:

The report card has tracked this issue for 10 years.  Colorado had a big expansion of health coverage through Obamacare and the expansion of Medicaid, and there have been increases in the numbers of people, kids and adults, with coverage.

"With more Coloradans insured, we're seeing more Coloradans having access to a medical home, having a person relationship with a medical provider," says Kyle Legleiter,  policy director at the Colorado Health Foundation, which issued the report. "One of the most promising things that we track in our healthy beginnings category of the health report card is the number of mothers-to-be who receive timely prenatal care before they deliver their babies."

Good prenatal care gives babies a better start.  In that category, Colorado cracked the Top 10, going from 27th two years ago to 6th this year.

Teen pregnancy also has fallen in Colorado:

Chart: Colorado Teen Pregnancy 2005 2013 (STAFF)

Colorado ranks at the top for physically active adults:

Coloradan seniors do very well compared to the rest of the country for that. The report finds three out of four seniors were physically active in the past 30 days.  The state placed in the top spot in the country in that category.  But there's a troubling trend.  Colorado -- and pretty much every state -- is packing on pounds in general.

"If you look at the actual rate of obesity for adults in Colorado today and compare it with where other states were 10 years ago, we would be one of the most obese states in the country 10 years ago with the obesity rate that we have -- as the leanest state today," Legleiter says.

And here's another thing to worry about.  Colorado children didn't do as well in that physical activity category, ranking 24th.  Only about two thirds of children participated in vigorous physical activity for four or more days a week. 

Colorado still struggles struggling with its immunization rates:

One of those health indicators the report tracks, and this is a major one, is immunizations.  Do babies get all their recommended immunizations?  The report found that number has dropped to about 74 percent in 2016.  That's down six percentage points from a decade ago.  That lands us right in the middle of states at 25th.  

The report also points to child poverty as a problem:

Chart: Colorado Child Poverty 2006 2014 (STAFF)

"The stress on those families and the opportunities that they have for healthy, nutritious food, physical activity opportunities, going to see a doctor in a timely way.  All of those things can sort set those children up for a lower health trajectory than they might have otherwise."

In all, the health report card shows a mixed bag for Colorado, with some bright spots, some challenges. Where the state has dedicated resources - like the Medicaid expansion and the teen pregnancy initiative - there have been some improvements. The state's budget is tight again this year, which definitely will have an impact on how aggressively Colorado can address these areas that have been persistently hard to solve.