Show Me Personal Politics

Today's Kansas City Star has a front page story that should embarrass any politician in Kansas and Missouri.  It is titled The health of Kansas and Missouri is going downhill.

The article notes that in the survey of general measures of health that the United Health Foundation has been doing over the last 25 years the rank of both Kansas and Missouri has fallen greater than other states.  In 1990, Kansas was 12th; now it is 27th.  Missouri was 24th; now it is 36th.

More after the fold.
The survey measures such things as the following:


The measures that go into the rankings include a range of health behaviors like smoking and binge drinking; personal health indicators such as diabetes and obesity; and indicators, such as preventable hospitalizations, that are used to rank health care quality. Also in the mix are environmental and social factors such as air pollution levels and number of violent crimes.

Here are some of the reasons for Missouri's fall in the rankings.


▪ Over the past 25 years, the nation's cancer death rate has been slowly going down. Missouri's has been creeping up.

▪ In 1990, the rate of heart disease deaths was lower in Missouri than for the nation as a whole. Now the rate is higher.

▪ Diabetes used to be slightly less prevalent in Missouri than in the rest of the nation. Now it's just as common.

Out of the 27 measures used in the rankings, Missouri is among the bottom 20 states in 18 categories. In four categories -- including smoking and immunizing adolescents -- it's among the 10 worst.

Patrick [an associate professor of public health at St. Louis University] said some relatively simple policy changes, starting with raising the state's tobacco tax, could benefit the health of Missourians.

At 17 cents per pack of cigarettes, Missouri has the lowest tobacco tax in the nation. The average state tax is $1.54 per pack. New York's tax is the highest at $4.35 per pack.

And, perhaps this is one of the reasons for Missouri's fall in the rankings.


Missouri budgets less money per capita for public health than any other state. The national median for state spending is $27.49 per person. In Missouri, it's $5.86.

For the Kansas City Health Department, that means the state covers only about a fifth of what it costs to manage outbreaks of infectious diseases such as measles and whooping cough, department director Rex Archer said.

Archer estimates that his department's budget would grow by more than $10 million if Missouri spent as much on public health as other states do.

"I could make a huge difference in life expectancies in Kansas City if I had just the median of what other health departments are paid," he said.

Those of us in Missouri are going to see a lot more bills to eliminate abortion.  Of course, if the Missouri legislature was truly pro-life, it would be doing something about these dismal measures of public health. Of course it won't because that takes money.

In the 1960s, we said "the personal is political."  A lot of Missourians are unnecessarily sick or die because of decisions are politicians have made with regard to public health.  

(Note: this report does not report on the consequences of not funding Medicaid. These rankings are going to be worse in the future.)

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