Colorado is committed to becoming the healthiest state in America, that message was stated loud and clear by Gov. John Hickenlooper at his State of Health address on Monday, May 6, which kicked off the release of Colorado’s State of Health report. You can read the full report here or a summary of the report here.

Both Gov. Hickenlooper and the report acknowledge that Colorado’s existing health care system is unsustainable and all too often individuals are not receiving the right care at the right time in the right care setting. We at CCHI believe this: people deserve to receive the care they need, when they need it. Hickenlooper expressed that we must build a comprehensive and person-centered statewide system that addresses a broad range of health needs, delivers the best care at the best value, and helps Coloradans achieve the best health possible.

In order to make Colorado the healthiest state and to improve our health system the State of Health report outlines four areas in which Colorado will strive to make improvements in as well as providing details on just how we can enhance our system.

The first step outlined in the report is to promote prevention and wellness and to do this we must help individuals stay healthy or become healthier. One step toward this goal is to tackle obesity among youth and adults by preventing nearly 150,000 Coloradans from becoming obese, improve support for bicycling (as a bike commuter myself I’d love to see this grow!), and to grow Pedal the Plains – click here to learn more about PTP. Another step is to provide support to improve mental health, the report addresses that we can do a much better job combating depression and substance abuse. By 2014, the goal is to identify opportunities with data collection systems to better measure the effectiveness of behavioral health services and individual behavioral health outcomes. Additionally, the report emphasizes the need to support reductions in substance abuse by preventing 92,000 Coloradans from misusing prescription drugs. We must also improve oral health of young Coloradans and ensure 7,5000 Colorado children visit a dentist before age one.

The next step on the way to making Colorado the healthiest state is to expand coverage, access and capacity; we must ensure individuals can access care at the right time and the right place. The report outlines the need to expand public and private health insurance coverage. Currently, we are well on our way to achieving part of this goal with the launch of Connect for Health Colorado’s online insurance market place on October 1st, as well as the recent expansion of Medicaid. With these two pieces to a larger puzzle we can hopefully reduce the rate of uninsured Coloradans. Second the report calls for the need to strengthen Colorado’s health workforce by modernizing our workforce and preparing for future needs. Lastly, the gaps in access to primary and other health services must be closed and done so by recruiting and retaining 148 additional providers and provide broadband network access to 400 rural and urban hospitals. 

Next, the report outlines the need to improve health system integration and quality. In order to achieve this we must eliminate barriers to better care and improve our ability to work effectively within and across systems to ensure person-centered care. CCHI is no stranger to this concept, we advocate daily in our work for barrier-free access to affordable health care. The report calls for the need to expand use of patient-centered medical homes by connecting 555,000 to a patient-centered medical home. Additionally, we must support access to state information and services by facilitating data-sharing agreements between state agencies and nongovernmental partners. We must also support better behavioral health through integration by integrating the physical and behavioral health systems. And lastly to improve health system integration and quality we need to improve access to community-based long-term services and supports.

Lastly, the State of Health report identifies in order to make Colorado the healthiest state we must enhance value and strengthen sustainability. To achieve this we must redesign financial incentives and infrastructure to focus on quality and value, not volume. This is another piece that resonates deeply with us at CCHI, we believe access to care should be that of quality care. In order to accomplish this the report outlines we must achieve cost containment in Medicaid by reducing costs by $280 million. We must also advance payment reform in the public and private sectors by developing payment reform pathways. And finally, we need to invest in health information technology by ensuring most Coloradans are served by providers with Electronic Health Records and connected to Health Information Exchange. 

CCHI has been working toward many of those goals for years. We are happy to see the governor outline similar desired outcomes in the State of Health report. This work cannot be done by just a few, but it will require all of our voices, participation and commitment – then and only then can we truly work to be the healthiest state.  Working together we can move Colorado closer to that common-sense goal. 

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