Bridging the Great Health Divide: Louisiana near bottom of list for senior health outcomes

Experts say Louisiana ranks near the bottom of the list every year due to poverty
In Louisiana, health for seniors is near the bottom of the country.
Published: Jul. 19, 2021 at 5:36 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 19, 2021 at 6:36 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Did you know life expectancy in the United States has been decreasing over the last few years? Not only that, in Louisiana, health for seniors is near the bottom of the country. We all want our loved ones to live long, prosperous lives. But in Louisiana, that may not be the case.

“We’re 44th out of 50 for senior care, now we’re 50 out of 50 for general health outcomes.”

Dr. David Holcombe, Region Six Office of Public Health Director

Louisiana ranks near the bottom of the pack every year in the “America’s Health Ranking’s Senior Report.”

“There’s far fewer things for Louisiana that are in the good green section than in the not so good yellow section,” said Holcombe.

That’s because of a number of reasons, including poverty.

“Really the thing that distinguishes us from any other states is the high rate of poverty among seniors,” said Holcombe.

Seniors in Louisiana have a fair amount of food insecurity, a high smoking rate and little to no consumption of fruits and vegetables.

“When you have a big chunk of the population that lives in poverty, then they can’t make good choices, can’t buy their medications, they can’t buy good food.”

Dr. Holcombe

The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t help, leading to things like social isolation.

“That limited the ability of many to visit and to share with the elderly because of the risk of infecting them with the virus,” said Dr. Kevin Stephens Senior, Chief Medical Officer for UnitedHealthcare Employer and Individual.

This also lead to poorer health outcomes for our state’s most vulnerable seniors.

“Social isolation leads to another phenomena that you see in Louisiana which is a high level of mental distress. So we rank, a lot of people that have that are isolated and have mental distress and paradoxically, well, it actually goes along, we have very low levels of senior volunteerism,” said Holcombe.

But, Louisiana didn’t come out on the bottom in every category.

“Most seniors have a roof over their head. Also, in Louisiana, we have very low suicide rates among seniors. And then for some, whatever reason, seniors in Louisiana don’t fall as much. So we’re not at the bottom of the pack for that,” said Holcombe.

In addition, Stephens says there are some things we can do in the state to improve our rankings, like going to see the doctor.

“The wellness visit, that is so important for people to remember that you have to go to your providers and you have to do the things that we know can affect your health and your outcomes.”

Dr. Kevin Stephens Senior

It is also important to show support to our elderly.

“Sharing of time, space to prevent loneliness, isolation and companionship is so important,” said Stephens.

But until we can address poverty, Louisiana will continue to lag behind.

“Since poverty is such a central part of poor health outcomes, then addressing senior poverty is critical,” said Holcombe.

It will take all of us working together to help our elderly’s health outcomes.

“As we work together, we can have a better, healthier system, we can have better health outcomes. It takes all of us to make Louisiana a better place to live and work,” said Stephens.

You can find the full report and each state’s rankings here.

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