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Nevada’s healthcare needs a house call

A pair of recent news pieces has called attention to Nevada’s ailing health. In July, CNBC posted a click-bait list, “America’s 10 Worst States to Live in 2016,” with the Silver State coming in at 10th-worst. Writer Scott Cohn explains the rating:

 

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. And there are some things Las Vegas — and the rest of Nevada — can keep to themselves. They include one of the highest violent crime rates in the country, a relative shortage of doctors and lots of people without health insurance.

 

Groan-inducing cliché aside, CNBC has a point. Particularly concerning is the health and welfare of our children; according to data-analysis firm WalletHub, Nevada is dead last in the nation for children with health insurance, 44th for pediatricians and family doctors per capita, and 20th for infant mortality. Women don’t fare much better, WalletHub says, placing Nevada next-to-highest in number of uninsured women.

This may partly explain our state’s mention in today’s New York Times article on the stagnating life expectancy of American women. The article summarizes a Harvard study in which researchers found a correlation between life expectancy and state of residency, with states that have a generally poor quality of life also having the shortest life spans for their women. “Many with the lowest social and economic scores had the highest mortality: Nevada, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming,” author Sabrina Tavernise writes.

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Okay, we get it: Something needs to be done about our health. That’s the Southern Nevada Health District’s presumed reply to these unsavory headlines. The public health agency, coincidentally, rolled out a blueprint for solving the problem — in the Las Vegas Valley, anyway — on August 10.

Called the Community Health Improvement Plan (giving it the nifty government acronym CHIP), the plan is the result of several years’ worth of work by multiple public and private parties. It has two strands: identifying Southern Nevada’s strengths and weaknesses in public health; and outlining specific ways to fix the problems. It capitalizes on the trend of pooling resources and communicating among various stakeholders to tackle a complicated issue (for instance, the recent multi-agency effort to save the endangered sage grouse that enlisted the help of ranchers, developers and environmentalists).

Here’s an example. The plan calls for implementing, by December 2017, a community nurse line in a combined communications center during peak 9-1-1 call times. It will require social services, Las Vegas Fire and Rescue, the City of Las Vegas, hospitals, insurance providers and others to coordinate resources and efforts. The hoped-for result would be a special number that Southern Nevadans can call during non-life-threatening health emergencies, and someone answering calls that can direct them to the necessary services without bogging down the police and ambulance network that’s designed for acute crises. CHIP has three priorities — access to care, chronic diseases and policy/funding — with dozens of goals and strategies for meeting them.

It’s all meant to help the various players in the medical field dig in and eliminate health disparities in our community, as the health district’s chief office Joe Iser said in a statement. Or, to put it another way, Iser and his colleagues would like to see some headlines down the road that place Nevada at the top of some good lists. For a change.

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