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Modest Gains Made in Maine's Health Status in 2011

Portland, ME - Maine was the 8th healthiest state in the US in 2011, according to the annual publication America's Health Rankings, released today by United Health Foundation. Although the state held the same spot in 2010, a new report issued today to coincide with America's Health Rankings by MaineHealth, the state's largest health system, shows major improvements in several markers of overall health status.

According to Deborah Deatrick, MaineHealth's Vice President of Community Health,  MaineHealth's Health Index Report closely tracks six key health indicators that influence the state's rural, low income, and older population:  tobacco use, obesity, child immunizations, preventable hospitalizations, cancer, and heart disease.  The Index is a unique tool developed by the system to measure the impact of clinical services, community programs, and policies in regions of the state where hospitals affiliated with MaineHealth are located. 

Maine has experienced a recent reduction in the rate of deaths due to certain conditions. While the state had one of the highest rates of cancer deaths over the past decade, the rate of cancer deaths dropped, as reported in the 2011 edition of America's Health Rankings.  Other positive changes in the past year include a decrease in deaths from heart disease, an increase in the ratio of primary care physicians to the population, and a reduction in infant mortality. 

Two major causes of poor health in Maine rose slightly in the new AHR report:  tobacco use and obesity.  Cigarette smoking among adults 18-64 rose slightly from 17 to 18% and the rate of obesity climbed from 26% to 27%.  According to Deatrick, there are approximately  240,000 adults who smoke in Maine and more than 360,000 who are obese.  Both problems lead to chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure - and are major factors in the growing cost of health care. 

MaineHealth works with physicians, hospitals, patients, and entire communities to develop effective programs that focus on Maine's top health problems.  "The Health Index is a tool to monitor the effectiveness of what we're doing. The issues we are working on are so big that it takes many people and organizations who are focused on getting to long term health improvements.  MaineHealth works with many partners in government, other health systems, and community organizations.  By collaborating and focusing our efforts together, we are starting to make headway," Deatrick said.

The 2011 MaineHealth Health Index Report contains many examples of effective collaboration on issues like obesity. MaineHealth and its largest hospital member Maine Medical Center, along with Hannaford, Unum, TD Bank, Anthem, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, and United Way of Greater Portland have sponsored the Let's Go! child obesity prevention project in Greater Portland for the past several years.  Research shows that children and families reached by Let's Go! are more likely to have adopted obesity-reducing behaviors.  Aided by hospitals, the Maine Centers for Disease Control, schools, child care centers, youth organizations and others, Let's Go! has now spread to 15 of Maine's 16 counties. 

The new Health Index Report also highlights efforts to further improve cancer rates through increased screenings for breast and color cancer, more regional collaboration among hospitals and physicians to provide care that is closer to home for patients and families, and a federally-funded program that provides free screenings and colonoscopies to low income adults through a partnership with the Maine Centers for Disease Control.

A pdf of the 2011 MaineHealth Health Index Report is available at, along with a link to the 2011 America's Health Rankings report.

MaineHealth is a nationally-recognized, not-for-profit group of leading hospitals, physicians and healthcare organizations working together to help make the people of Maine the healthiest in America.  Ranked among the nation's top 100 integrated health care delivery networks, MaineHealth's member organizations include Maine Medical Center, Miles Memorial Hospital, Southern Maine Medical Center, LincolnHealth – St. Andrews Campus, Stephens Memorial Hospital, Pen Bay Medical Center, Spring Harbor Hospital, Waldo County General Hospital, HomeHealth Visiting Nurses, NorDx, Synernet, and Maine Physician Hospital Organization.  Affiliates of MaineHealth include MaineGeneral Medical Center, Mid Coast Hospital, St. Mary's Regional Medical Center, and New England Rehabilitation Hospital of Portland.


CONTACT: Deborah Deatrick, MPH
Vice President, Community Health       



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