Tufts Health Plan Foundation Releases Report Analyzing Factors That Contribute to Healthy Aging in Rhode Island

Offers comprehensive community profiles for every city and town

PROVIDENCE, RI – October 13, 2016 – The Tufts Health Plan Foundation today released the Rhode Island 2016 Healthy Aging Data Report at an event at the State House. A comprehensive examination of the health of older adults in Rhode Island, the report offers detailed profiles of every town and city, plus maps and other tools to understand healthy aging trends and disparities throughout the state.

Changing demographics are creating new opportunities and challenges in cities and towns across the nation, but until now there was no “big picture” overview of the health of older adults in the state—and in each Rhode Island community.

“We hope this resource will serve as a catalyst to recognize the contributions and needs of older adults in Rhode Island and help communities begin to understand what they can do to address those needs,” said Thomas Croswell, chief executive officer of Tufts Health Plan.

The Rhode Island 2016 Healthy Aging Data Report, which is available at www.HealthyAgingDataRerports.org, includes Community Profiles for all 39 Rhode Island cities, plus two Providence neighborhoods. Additional reports examine 20 zip codes in core cities and high-density population areas. The website also includes more than 100 statewide health indicator maps.

“It’s crucial that we provide high-quality, relevant services for our older adults. The Rhode Island 2016 Healthy Aging Data Report will help guide our policy decisions to support healthy aging and build vibrant, healthier communities,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo.

The profiles will help residents, agencies, providers, and governments understand the older adults who live in their cities and towns – their ages, living arrangements, health status, strengths, and vulnerabilities. More than 120 indicators of healthy aging have been compiled and analyzed. Each indicator is listed alongside state averages, allowing for a comparison of how a town is doing relative to the rest of the state by each variable.

The report is a solid foundation on which to build efforts to improve the health of individuals and communities. The data allow an exploration of issues such as the distribution of disease or disability, the impact of gender on health disparities, and how population health varies by zip code.

“The data show that demographic and socioeconomic factors contribute most to differences in older adult population health,” said principal investigator Elizabeth, Dugan, PhD, who is an associate professor at the Gerontology Institute at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at University of Massachusetts Boston. “This finding has profound implications for health care-related decisions and for discussions about larger issues of social and economic justice in our society,” Dugan continued.

Key findings:

  • Rhode Island looks pretty healthy in national rankings, but compared to other New England states, older Rhode Island adults have more health challenges. They have the highest regional rates of high cholesterol, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, diabetes, asthma, anemia, osteoarthritis/rheumatoid arthritis, cataracts, and those living with four or more chronic diseases.
  • When it comes to the health of older adults, resources matter. Wealthier, mostly southern communities have health indicators that are generally better than the state average. Less resourced, mostly urban areas, have health indicators that are generally worse than the state average.
  • There are gender disparities, but there is no clear winner. Overall—and in most communities in Rhode Island— older men have higher rates for mortality, chronic kidney disease, ischemic heart disease, heart attack, and diabetes. But older women’s rates for anemia, asthma, hypertension, high cholesterol, multiple (four or more) chronic conditions, Part D prescription fills, emergency room visits, and skilled nursing home stays were higher.
  • Healthy behaviors make a difference. Older adult population health tends to be better in communities with the highest levels of good health behaviors and preventive service use, and in communities with better social environments as reflected in lower crime rates and higher voter participation rates.
  • Population health is much higher or lower than expected in a few Rhode Island communities, despite the powerful influences of income and education levels. These communities may provide lessons about both more-effective and less-effective strategies for improving public health.

About the Rhode Island 2016 Healthy Aging Data Report
The Rhode Island 2016 Healthy Aging Data Report is intended to expand the conversation about healthy aging for a broad audience of community, service, thought and policy leaders in the state. The goal is to assess the health status of the Rhode Island older adult population at a sufficiently local level to be actionable for the purposes of targeted interventions.

The report was funded by Tufts Health Plan Foundation with research led by Elizabeth Dugan, PhD, Frank Porell, PhD and Nina M. Silverstein, PhD from the Gerontology Institute of the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston. The report uses data of older adults age 60+ and 65+ from three main sources: U.S. Census, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). To view the Highlights Report, the Community Profiles, and the interactive maps, please visit www.HealthyAgingDataReports.org.

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