Anne Warhover is president and CEO of the Colorado Health Foundation. Since 2004, Warhover has been instrumental in working with the Foundation’s Board to focus the organization’s efforts on three outcomes: encouraging healthy living; increasing the number of Coloradans with health insurance; and ensuring they have access to cost-effective, quality, coordinated care.
When I talk with people about the Colorado Health Foundation’s vision that Colorado can be the healthiest state in the nation, they often say “Aren’t we already the healthiest state?” The results from the 2009 Colorado Health Report Card show the state has a long way to go before we can claim that title.
The “D+” for children is simply unacceptable. The fact that we’ve made no measurable progress on health indicators for children since the first Report Card was issued in 2006 (and, in fact, have lost ground on a few) is deeply disturbing, particularly when coupled with other trends. Our child poverty rate is the fastest growing in the nation. More than 190,000 Colorado children – one in six – live in poverty. Our high school graduation rates are stuck at about 75 percent, leaving the rest to subsist on the economic roadside. Too many of our children are destined for a life of insufficient education, poverty and poor health. I believe everyone in Colorado will be appalled at this scenario – and we should be.
I think of the issues with children’s health as a Colorado conundrum, similar to the conundrum we face in education. Well-educated, healthy adults are attracted to the Colorado lifestyle and have moved here in significant numbers. Colorado adults have the lowest obesity rates in the nation; we exercise regularly and eat well. We also have a higher percentage of college graduates than most states. But those patterns break-down with our children – they’re heavier, don’t eat as well and aren’t as active as older Coloradans, and fewer of them will graduate from college.So although it’s tempting to rest on our laurels, and to congratulate ourselves when yet another media report lists Colorado as one of the healthiest states in the nation, we know better. And we know we have to do better for our children.
The Colorado Health Foundation is committed to that goal. We’re working to make Colorado schools healthier places for our kids – making sure they get nutritious food, appropriate school-based health care, regular physical activity and health education. Through LiveWell Colorado and other partners, we’re supporting community-based programs to help children eat well and be more active. We’ve invested in programs to ensure all children who are eligible for CHP+ are enrolled. Perhaps most important, we’re supporting the work that so many of you do to improve Colorado children’s health.
I’m convinced that together, we’ll not only make Colorado the healthiest state – we’ll also change the grade for Healthy Children from “D+” to a solid “A.”
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