Colorado’s “healthy” sta­tus may de­cline

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Jen­nifer Brown

About half of a per­son’s health and well-be­ing is de­ter­mined by the “lot­tery of life,” and in Colorado, the gap be­tween the wealthy and the poor con­tin­ues to widen.

With­out greater in­vest­ment in hous­ing, food pro­grams and health care for im­pov­er­ished and mi­nor­ity Coloradans, the state’s sta­tus as the health­i­est in the na­tion will dwin­dle, says a new re­port from the Colorado Cen­ter on Law and Pol­icy.

“Colorado has this rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing a pretty healthy state,” said Michelle Webster, man­ager of re­search and pol­icy anal­y­sis for the cen­ter. “But if you dig a lit­tle deeper, you can see there are enor­mous dis­par­i­ties that are highly re­lated to your in­come and where you live.”

The 25 per­cent of Coloradans with the most in­come live six to 10 years longer than the bot­tom 25 per­cent, the “Vi­tal Signs” study found. The re­search found that what mat­ters most, when it comes to health, is the fam­ily a per­son is born into, the schools they at­tend and where they play — all of which are re­lated to eth­nic­ity and in­come.

“Life is more dif­fi­cult when you don’t have enough money to meet your ba­sic needs,” Webster said. “Maybe you are work­ing mul­ti­ple jobs and jug­gling in­con­sis­tent sched­ules. Life is more stress­ful and more dif­fi­cult, and it takes a toll on adults and chil­dren.”

The Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics now rec­om­mends that physi­cians screen for “poverty” be­cause of its long-last­ing health ef­fects on chil­dren.

Colorado also is be­com­ing more mul­tira­cial. In 2000, about 25 per­cent of the state’s pop­u­la­tion was non-white. That is ex­pected to in­crease to 45 per­cent by 2040. This is sig­nif­i­cant be­cause of “per­sis­tent racial gaps in in­come, em­ploy­ment, op­por­tu­nity and ul­ti­mately health” be­tween whites and peo­ple of color, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

In­come is the rea­son for at least 50 per­cent of the dif­fer­ences in life ex­pectancy be­tween whites and blacks, said the cen­ter’s re­port, quot­ing Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity re­search.

The re­port also found that whether peo­ple live in ur­ban or ru­ral Colorado can af­fect their odds of good health.

Pitkin, Ea­gle, Grand, Larimer and Dou­glas were among the health­i­est coun­ties, ac­count­ing for pre­ma­ture death, low birth weight, and poor phys­i­cal and men­tal health days. Those among the un­health­i­est were Pue­blo, Prow­ers, Baca and Las An­i­mas.

The re­search, re­leased just ahead of the 2017 leg­isla­tive ses­sion, is meant to bring at­ten­tion to pro­grams in­tended to draw peo­ple out of poverty, in­clud­ing af­ford­able hous­ing.

“The larger point is that poli­cies that en­sure eco­nomic sta­bil­ity for fam­i­lies are re­ally pub­lic health poli­cies,” Webster said. “We shouldn’t think about in­come-re­lated poli­cies as only im­pact­ing the econ­omy. They im­pact the health and well-be­ing of our com­mu­nity.”

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