Pre­ventable hospi­tal stays drop by 20%

Modern Healthcare - - NEWS - By John N. Frank

The rate of pre­ventable hospi­tal stays dropped al­most 20% from 2003 to 2011, even as large gaps re­main be­tween the health­i­est and un­health­i­est coun­ties in the U.S.

That’s ac­cord­ing to the fifth an­nual County Health Rank­ings pub­lished last week by the Robert Wood John­son Foun­da­tion and the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin Pop­u­la­tion Health In­sti­tute.

The best-per­form­ing coun­ties had 46 pre­ventable hospi­tal stays per 1,000 en­rollees com­pared with a na­tional aver­age of 65 per 1,000. In ad­di­tion, “pre­ventable hospi­tal stays in the un­health­i­est coun­ties are 1.4 times more com­mon than those in the health­i­est coun­ties,” ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

“While Amer­i­cans are gen­er­ally liv­ing longer and health­ier lives, large gaps ex­ist be­tween the least healthy and health­i­est places,” the re­port stated. “The least healthy coun­ties have twice the pre­ma­ture death rates, twice as many chil­dren liv­ing in poverty and twice as many teen births com­pared to the health­i­est coun­ties.”

The re­port de­fined a pre­ventable hospi­tal stay as one in­volv­ing a con­di­tion that could have been ad­dressed in an out­pa­tient set­ting. Its find­ings came from look­ing at the ex­pe­ri­ences of Medi­care en­rollees and us­ing those as a guide­post for the en­tire pop­u­la­tion.

The health­i­est coun­ties had bet­ter ac­cess to healthy food, parks, gyms and ex­er­cise fa­cil­i­ties, the re­port noted. They also had more ac­cess to pri­mary-care doc­tors, den­tists and men­tal­health providers. “The least healthy coun­ties have more house­holds that are over­crowded; homes that lack ad­e­quate fa­cil­i­ties to cook, clean or bathe; and too many people pay­ing more for hous­ing than they can af­ford given their in­come,” the re­port con­tin­ued.

The rank­ings “show us how health is in­flu­enced by our ev­ery­day sur­round­ings—where we live, learn, work and play,” said Brid­get Catlin, di­rec­tor of the County Health Rank­ings.

The re­port also found that adult smok­ing rates dropped from 21% in 2005 to 18% in 2012 and that over­all phys­i­cal in­ac­tiv­ity rates are de­creas­ing.

Also, the num­ber of ba­bies born to teens de­creased by al­most 25% since 2007 and by more than half since 1991 “due to greater ac­cess to and more ef­fec­tive use of con­tra­cep­tion and de­lays in ini­ti­at­ing sex­ual ac­tiv­ity,” the re­port stated.

“While Amer­i­cans are gen­er­ally liv­ing longer and health­ier lives, large gaps ex­ist be­tween the least healthy and health­i­est places.”

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