Tennessee men receive failing grades on health report card

Monday, September 27, 2010 at 1:19pm

When it comes to health, Volunteer State men are not making the grade.

Tennessee men received poor or failing grades in nine of 14 health categories measured in the Tennessee Men’s Health Report Card, a study of the overall health of the state’s more than 3 million men.

They received ‘F’ or ‘D’ grades for deaths related to heart disease, lung cancer, head and neck cancer, all cancers combined, chronic liver failure, AIDS, motor vehicle accidents, suicide and homicide.

In addition, nearly a third of men (32.2 percent) who responded to a health risk survey categorized themselves as obese, up from 25.3 percent in 2003, and 26.2 percent said they nave not engaged in any physical activity in the past month.

The report card, released Monday by representatives from the Tennessee Department of Health, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Meharry Medical College, measured publicly available data from 2008 — the most recent year available — against national goals set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their Healthy People 2010 report, assigning a grade to each measure and comparing the data to statistics from 2003.

In discussing the report card, Jeff Balser, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said it highlights some great opportunities.

“And as an administrator, we all know what ‘great opportunities’ are. Those are things where we need serious help,” Balser said. “We have a lot of work to do.”

Among the most striking statistics was the increase in suicide deaths. The HP2010 goal is to reduce the number to 5 per 100,000 men. In Tennessee the number rose to 32.2 in 2008 from 27.6 in 2003.

In addition, the percentage of men over the age of 18 who reported binge drinking in the past month veered further from the goal of 6 percent, jumping to 15.7 percent from 10.5 percent.

Of course, there was some positive news in the report.

Tennessee health care providers are doing a good job of providing access to colorectal cancer screenings, with more than 59 percent of men over the age of 50 receiving the tests, up from 45 percent in ’03. Also, nearly 71 percent of men over the age of 65 received flu shots in the past year, and 76 percent over the age of 18 received cholesterol screenings in the last five years. These measures qualified for ‘A’ grades.

Tennessee men’s rates of diabetes and prostate cancer deaths per 100,000 men also received top marks.

State Health Department Commissioner Susan Cooper said these results provide a road map for improving the health of Tennessee men through better diets, increased physical activity and other lifestyle changes.

“This report rings a very loud and serious alarm that it’s time for all of us to get on board to address the health issues that are shortening the lives of men here in Tennessee,” Cooper said. “Start your journey. Start today. Stand up, get moving, eat better, and let’s get on our way to a healthier Tennessee.”

To view the full report card, visit www.tnmenshealthreportcard.vanderbilt.edu.