Massachusetts’ 2013 Health Report Card Released

The grades go far beyond our hospitals and doctors.

Health grade

Where did we fail? Grade photo via Shutterstock

Massachusetts is constantly in it the spotlight for its top-notch hospitals and doctors. But what if our people were in such good health they didn’t need great medical care? That’s what the Healthy People/Healthy Economy coalition wants to know.

The goal of the coalition, founded in 2010 by the Boston Foundation and New England Healthcare Institute, is, as they put it, “shifting our state’s focus from ‘health care’ to ‘health’ and making Massachusetts the national leader in health and wellness.” So starting in 2011, the group has released an annual report grading how well the Commonwealth is doing in a variety of health categories. The 2013 report was just released, and the results are mixed.

We did well in a number of categories, like biking and walking (B, which actually seems a little low to us), farmers’ markets (B+), primary care (B+), school-based BMI reporting (A-), and healthy school meals (B).

But the report raises some issues that we need to work on, too. Our trans fat policy got a D; sugar-sweetened beverage policy got an F. Youth physical activity got a surprisingly-low C, and public health funding got a just-slightly-better-than-last-year D. Beyond those categories, the report’s authors set aside “High-quality Early Childhood Education”, which has been shown to improve an individual’s health later in life, and “Zoning and Licensing that Promotes Active Living and Access to Healthy Food” as two major things to try to improve.

While these kinds of health rankings and reports are everywhere and can only tell you so much, we think this one is interesting. Of course it’s great to have some of the best hospitals in the country right here in Boston, and it’s inspiring to see so much medical research happening all around us. But it’s always easier to prevent health problems than to treat them, and this report seems like a valuable tool in figuring out how to do just that.