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Minnesota retains top spot in senior health report

  • Associated Press
  • May 21, 2014 - 9:55 AM

LA CROSSE, Wis. — Minnesota has retained the No. 1 spot in an annual report on senior health but Wisconsin's rise to 10th in the nation was the biggest leap of any state.

The United Health Foundation's study, "America's Health Rankings Senior Report: A Call to Action for Individuals and Their Communities," showed Wisconsin rose from 19th.

The findings showed that nearly 15 percent of Wisconsin residents 65 and older reported falling within the past 12 months, compared with about 27 percent nationally, according to the La Crosse Tribune (http://bit.ly/1h7ZrdX ). Twenty-six percent of Minnesota's seniors fell, finishing 14th.

Doug Mormann, director of the La Crosse County Health Department, credited programs sponsored by the health department, churches, organizations such as the YMCA and the area's two major health institutions that teach strategies to avoid falls, as well as exercise and strength training.

"It really is important for family members to encourage parents and aunts and uncles to exercise," he said. "It doesn't have to be strenuous — it could just be walking."

The report gives Wisconsin demerits for a "high prevalence of chronic drinking" and obesity. The state ranks 49th for problem drinking, compared with Minnesota's 28th. Wisconsin ranked 47th for obesity, Minnesota was at 24.

Wisconsin seniors registered fifth place in smoking, compared with Minnesota's 22nd. Wisconsin has a high percentage of dedicated health care providers, finishing third. Minnesota was 43rd.

Wisconsin seniors are good about getting their teeth checked, snapping up third place for dental visits, while Minnesota locked its jaw on first.

The United Health Foundation, a nonprofit arm of UnitedHealth Group, issues reports on health status of other segments of society and began the senior report last year.

The study cites some encouraging results.

"We saw improvements in quality of nursing home care and end-of-life care. We also saw some gains in levels of activity among seniors and some reductions in avoidable hospitalizations."

© 2014 Star Tribune