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2021 senior report shows lower poverty, less food insecurity and more vaccines for Virginia

Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 11:37 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The Virginia senior report put together by the United Health Foundation is in its ninth year.

Officials receive data for more than 49 measures of health from environment to clinical care received.

Virginia saw lower rates of poverty, less food insecurity, a low prevalence of excessive drinking and more seniors who got vaccinated against pneumonia.

Some challenges include increasing mental and behavioral health issues using drugs, higher rates of suicide and more seniors in mental distress.

“Social isolation is defined in seniors for those who are never married, widowed, living alone, living in poverty or living with a disability, and we can expect that got worse with the pandemic. Although this year’s report doesn’t have that data, subsequent years we will see that.”

Health officials say the state can improve with getting more home healthcare workers, especially to help seniors living with multiple chronic conditions.

The America’s Health Rankings 2021 Senior Report highlights the pre-COVID public health realities and identifies that Virginia is doing fairly well related to the health of older adults across the state.

In Virginia, the 2021 Senior Report finds:

· Virginia seniors experience low rates of poverty, and the state ranks 4th best in the country related to seniors faced with food insecurity

· Across the state, there is a low prevalence for excessive drinking among seniors

· Virginia ranks 39th in the country for the quality of its nursing homes

· Multiple chronic conditions increased 12% between 2010 and 2018 from 35.5% to 39.8% of Medicare beneficiaries ages 65+

· Virginia struggles with access to home health care services, ranking 32nd in the nation with 114 workers per 1,000 individuals aged 65+ with a disability

Understanding the health of our nation’s seniors is especially important as our country continues to respond to COVID-19. America’s Health Rankings highlights 49 measures of population health, examining the impact that social, economic and environmental factors have on overall health. The report was developed in partnership with the Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association (GAPNA).

Key National Findings

· Seniors faced increasing mental/behavioral health challenges: Leading up to the pandemic, seniors experienced a number of worsening behavioral health outcomes – including a 39% increase in drug deaths and a 3% increase in suicide between 2014-2016 and 2017-2019 and an 11% increase in frequent mental distress from 2016-2019. Before the pandemic, the risk of social isolation for seniors in a given state was correlated with higher rates of frequent mental distress.

· Measured improvements in clinical care: Prior to the pandemic, seniors across the country experienced improvements in clinical care factors – including a 13% increase in geriatric providers. Flu vaccinations among seniors rose 6% between 2017 and 2019.

· Disparities by geography, race/ethnicity and other factors persist: Health improvements for older adults were not experienced equally across the country, with populations in rural states and certain racial and ethnic populations facing greater challenges.

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