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Using Data for Action at the State and Local Level

A Healthy Profile of Older North Carolinians

The proportion of older adults that make up North Carolina’s population has increased in recent years, and this increase is expected to continue for decades to come. Currently, about 28% of North Carolinians are age 50 or older, and this proportion is projected to be 35% by 2030. To compile a picture of the health of older adults in North Carolina, the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics, the North Carolina Division of Aging, and the Older Adult Health Branch of the North Carolina Division of Public Health, published A Health Profile of Older North Carolinians in 2003. This report uses North Carolina data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) surveys, death certificates, cancer registries, and hospital discharges.

The report covers the following major health topics among older adults: general health status and well-being, health care access, health-related risk behaviors, heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, Alzheimer’s disease, influenza and pneumonia, diabetes, motor vehicle injuries, suicide, arthritis, mental health, and osteoporosis/hip fractures. To capture the wide range of ages that can fall within the “older adult” category, the report groups data into four age groups: 50–64, 65–74, 75–84, and 85 and above. In addition, with the exception of the hospital discharge data, data are broken down by race and sex, two factors that can greatly influence a person’s health status and health care.

The report provides a concise statistical picture of the burden of health problems among older adults in North Carolina. Although it does not discuss specific programs for reducing these health problems, it provides health and aging professionals and policy makers with a blueprint for prioritizing the health needs of older adults and for designing and establishing programs and guidelines to meet these needs.

North Carolina's 17 Area Agencies on Aging are using the publication to create a new 4-year plan that includes healthy aging issues. Universities, hospitals, and county departments on aging have used the data in the report to develop grants and request funding to address problems among the older populations that they serve. Aging advocacy groups, including AARP and Senior Tarheel Legislatures, are using the information for policy planning initiatives. Additionally, senior and community centers have held Healthy Aging workshops to discuss the data in the report with health care professionals and the general public. The report is available on the Internet at www.schs.state.nc.us/SCHS.

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Florida Examines Its Older Adult Population

In 2010, the Florida Needs Assessment Survey was administered to 1,850 adults aged 60 years or older living in the state of Florida, through a cooperative effort of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs and the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Florida. The assessment covered demographics, living situation, self-care limitations, nutrition, housing, healthcare, emergency preparedness, transportation, social engagement and community factors, caregiving, information and assistance needs, volunteerism, and abuse/neglect/exploitation issues. To ensure representation traditionally “hard to measure” groups, oversampling was done among low-income, minority, and rural populations.

The assessment results are available at the state and Planning and Service Area (PSA) level to allow for maximum flexibility in using the data. The reports (available at http://elderaffairs.state.fl.us/doea/needs_assessment.php) provide an excellent example of how other states can proactively examine their older adult population to best serve their needs.

Source: Florida Department of Elder Affairs. Web site: http://elderaffairs.state.fl.us/doea/needs_assessment.php.

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Maine Elder Women’s Health Indicator Framework

In the spring of 2001, the Maine Bureau of Health (BOH) received a small grant from the Health Resource and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Office on Women’s Health, Region 1. The goals of the project were:

  • To develop a set of indicators for monitoring the health status of Maine’s elder women.
  • To identify data sources for these indicators and to gather baseline data
  • To identify opportunities for collaboration between BOH and the Bureau of Elder and Adult Services
  • To formulate recommendations for programs and policies to improve the health status of Maine’s elder women.

This project culminated with the report Assessing and Monitoring the Health Status of Maine’s Elder Women: the Elder Women’s Health Indicators Project. This report is not intended to be a comprehensive analysis of all of the issues associated with the health of Maine’s elder women. Instead it is a starting point, or place to begin the process of systematically assessing and monitoring elder women’s health so that interventions can be targeted, improvements can be measured, and policies can be formulated to ensure a targeted and focused approach to improving the health of Maine’s elder women.

The framework for and content of this report were designed for state policy makers and decision makers and professionals in public health and elder services as well as a general audience. The state-level data used throughout the report come primarily from the Maine Department of Human Services, Bureau of Health, Office of Data, Research and Vital Statistics; the Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System (BRFSS); Maine Hospital Discharge Data; and the 2000 US Census.

Response to the report has been very positive. Focusing on health indicators for elder women highlights a population that needs increased attention. To obtain the report, contact Sharon Leahy-Lind, Women's Health Coordinator, Bureau of Health, Maine Department of Human Services at 207-287-4577 or e-mail sharon.leahy-lind@maine.gov.

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Missouri Senior Report — Ahead of the Baby Boom: Missouri Prepares

By 2020, the older adult population in Missouri is expected to exceed 1.2 million, or nearly 1 in 5 Missouri residents. To prepare for this shift in demographics, state officials have developed the Missouri Senior Report: Ahead of the Baby Boom: Missouri Prepares. This 2006 report provides county-level data and other useful information to help state and local policy makers, service providers, and older adults themselves plan for future needs. Prior to this report national and state-level data on older adults could only be obtained from multiple sources, and the data were rarely provided in a format that was user-friendly to consumers.

To develop this report, state officials collected input from Missouri's 10 Area Agencies on Aging and from a series of 47 town hall meetings attended by more than 500 residents from around the state. Useful indicators and measures of the status of older adults for the report were identified through these discussions and meetings. The Report is available online at http://missouriseniorreport.org/.

The Report reflects a collaborative effort of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), the Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis (OSEDA) at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and other agencies and organizations with an interest in promoting health and quality of life among older adults. It provides demographic data, rates the state and each county on several key measures, and ranks the counties on the basis of a composite score for all measures. It also includes articles written by academic partners on the topics of mental health, health and socioeconomic disparities, and transportation. DHSS and University of Missouri Extension staff members are available to consult with communities to use the data for strategic planning.

The Report serves not only as a source of data for planning and policy decisions, but also as a tool for health education and promotion, providing information about the demographic shifts in the state's population and the need for changes in areas such as housing, transportation, and employment. It will be updated annually and address emerging topics of concern.

To supplement the Report, Missouri also has an interactive health data system, Missouri Information for Community Assessment (MICA). This system allows users to summarize data from a variety of sources, create and download tables, prepare geographic presentations, choose priorities for health policy and planning initiatives based on county and state data. An evidence-based intervention component for selected topics is in development that will enable users to choose interventions to address selected health issues. The MICA system is available at http://www.dhss.mo.gov/MICA.

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