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Climbing Toward Health

Climbing Toward Health

Along the road to this year’s “Reaching Our Peak,” we met Coloradans who are taking health and well-being into their own hands.

Students at the Girls Athletic Leadership School in Denver merge exercise with academics. In Pueblo, community members are working with a corner store chain to bring healthy food to its outlets in lower-income neighborhoods.

Senior citizens in Boulder share their stories with high school students, passing along wisdom and developing relationships with the teens. Hospital administrators in Colorado Springs offer healthier choices in their employee cafeterias. And public health nurses in Jefferson County work closely with moms-to-be and their families providing prenatal care and services that go beyond the basics.

The bottom line of this new Colorado Health Institute report, “Reaching Our Peak 2015: Scorecard for a Healthier Colorado,” is that Colorado is making strides towards becoming a healthier state, but progress is slow and uneven in some cases.

The report, the third “Reaching our Peak,” analyzes progress over the past year in five categories: schools, communities, workplaces, the health care system and places where we age.

CHI’s research finds that Colorado made progress in aging, communities and the health care delivery system. The state maintained its position – but did not gain ground – in schools and workplace.

We graded Colorado’s progress based on interviews with experts as well as research into state and federal legislative actions, policy and program implementation and expansion, government support and private sector investment and engagement.

The report examined sweeping policy initiatives as well as on-the-ground community efforts such as an ambitious food cooperative in a lower-income Denver neighborhood. 

We learned that leaders and advocates are considering health impacts in some surprising new areas and helping residents make healthy choices by promoting fresh food retail in underserved communities.

The conversation in health care is shifting from coverage to innovations such as adoption of the medical home model and comprehensive prenatal care. 

Programs to help older Coloradans age in place are slowly progressing from idea, to planning, to reality. Several public health departments are working with statewide and nonprofit partners to introduce workplace wellness to more employers.

But there is work to be done. While students are receiving healthier school meals, Colorado lags behind other states in school-based physical activity and has few nutrition requirements outside of federal mandates.

Collaborative efforts to improve school-health programming and build a more robust early childhood education system are underway, but it will take time to yield change. Value-based insurance design take-up has been limited, and mandatory paid leave initiatives have yet to succeed.

Creating a healthier state takes resources, leadership and support, and time. There are many important conversations, promising initiatives and tried-and-true programs that are transforming health across the state.

While Colorado still has a ways to go in reaching its peak, progress should promote optimism about the path ahead.