Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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October 28, 2013

BRIAN HOWEY: Political obstacles for an unhealthy Indiana

State GOP shows little concern for Hoosiers' well-being.

As the focus turns from the manu-factured shutdown/default crisis in Congress to the disastrous rollout of Obamacare, there is one thing Hoosiers should focus on. Indiana is not a healthy state.

Indiana ranked 41st in total health, according to America’s Health Rankings. It was ranked 37th in 2011. In 2000, Indiana’s obesity rate was 19.9 percent, ranking 42nd in the U.S. In 2012, it was 30.1 percent. Our smoking rate has gone down from 27 percent in 2000 to 21.2 percent last year, or 1.5 million smokers, but that is still high enough to rank us 44th. In 2001, our diabetes rate was 6 percent. Now it is 9.8 percent, ranking Indiana 33rd. We rank 38th in heart disease. Indiana is 49th in air pollution at 13.1 micrograms of fine particles per cubic meter.

In the past decade, the percentage of children in poverty more than doubled from 10.8 percent to 23.6 percent. Some 13.5 percent of our households are “food insecure,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In the past year, the number of infectious disease cases rose from 7.8 to 11.7 cases per 100,000.

I’ve reported this before, but once again, 2.7 million Hoosiers (out of 6.5 million) walked into a hospital emergency room last year, and consumers ultimately pick up those costs. Thirty Indiana counties have no obstetrics services. Because of this lack of prenatal and postnatal care, Indiana’s infant mortality rate is a stunning 7.7 per 1,000 babies, a full percentage above the national average. From 2006 to 2010, according to the Indiana Department of Health, 4,115 Hoosiers died by suicide.

Indiana State Police busted a record 1,726 meth labs in 2012, up from 1,437 in 2011. And we have a prescription drug overdose “epidemic,” according to Attorney General Greg Zoeller.

So this resistance to Obamacare is baffling in a public health sense. Politically, it has drawn the most vociferous opposition since the Vietnam War. But from a policy standpoint, at least it is trying to address an overall situation that should induce a “crisis” atmosphere from our public servants.

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