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Health Index Report Focuses on Health Priorities

March 16, 2016

MaineHealth has released its sixth annual Health Index Report, one of Maine’s most trusted barometers of progress on seven of the state’s most pressing health priorities: childhood immunizations, tobacco use, obesity, preventable hospitalizations, cardiovascular deaths, cancer deaths, and prescription drug abuse and addiction. The report describes how the MaineHealth system and many partners are collaborating to address the high-priority issues through clinical, community and policy strategies.


New features of this year’s Health Index Report include an in-depth piece on behavioral health, including rates of depression by county and availability of mental health providers, and easy-to-read color-coded maps that compare county rates for the seven Health Index priorities.


Also released today is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s 2016 County Health Rankings, an annual snapshot comparing the overall health of nearly every county in the nation. Used as a benchmark for MaineHealth’s Health Index Report, the Rankings compare counties on 30 factors that influence health, including education, housing, violent crime, jobs, diet and exercise. Together, the two reports provide insight into community health trends, progress and challenges in Maine and across the country.


According to the Rankings, Sagadahoc County once again ranks as the healthiest, followed by Cumberland, Knox, York and Lincoln counties, while Washington County dropped to the unhealthiest spot.


Key findings in this year’s Health Index Report include:


  • Index targets for five of the seven priorities were met in 2015; MaineHealth is setting aggressive new targets for 2020 and adding short-term measures to track progress.

  • On-time childhood vaccination rates showed continued improvement. Up-to-date rates for eight of 10 individual vaccine rates increased across the 39 MaineHealth pediatric and family medicine practices from 2014-2015, as did the up-to-date rate for the 10-vaccine bundle.

  • Cardiovascular deaths remain a challenge; while age-adjusted rate of stroke deaths decreased from 2002-2014, the rate of decline for all types of cardiovascular deaths has slowed in recent years, with little to no change between 2010 and 2014.

  • Tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death. Maine high school students’ use of tobacco declined significantly in 2015, to 16 percent, but a troubling trend of e-vapor and e-cigarettes emerged, with one-third of the students indicating they had tried and over 18 percent had used such products within the last 30 days. There is evidence that e-cigarette use by youth who had never smoked could lead to use of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

  • The flattening obesity trend among both adults and youth is encouraging. The estimated percent of adults with obesity has not increased from 2012-2014, while the rate for students in grades 5-12 has remained steady from 2011-2015. This flattening of the curve is an important achievement on the path to reduce obesity rates.

  • Drug overdose death rates rose more sharply in Maine than nationally between 2010-2014; and perhaps contrary to common perception, 48 percent of drug deaths in 2012-2014 were individuals aged 45 or older.

  • There was a startling increase in Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome – babies born to drug-addicted mothers. When tracking of this syndrome began in 2004, 54 Maine babies were identified; in 2015, this number rose to more than 1,000, accounting for between 4 percent of births in Cumberland County to 17 percent and 19 percent in Penobscot and Piscataquis counties, respectively. Low birth weight, premature birth, respiratory distress, among many long-term development and social after-effects, are attributed to this syndrome.


“The Health Index Report shows not just the facts and figures, but also details the substantial clinical, community and policy initiatives and partnerships under way that have contributed to the progress being made to improve the health of Maine people and communities,” said Deborah Deatrick, senior vice president for community health at MaineHealth.


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