RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia’s statewide ranking for general health among older people has improved since the pandemic began, according to a new report.
The UnitedHealth Foundation just released the 2022 America’s Health Rankings Senior Report.
The comprehensive look at our senior health in the nation at every state level includes 62 measures of our health from more than 21 different data sources.
Virginia ranks 16th nationwide for the overall health of its seniors. Virginia ranked 25th in 2019.
dr Rhonda Randall, vice president and chief medical officer at UnitedHealthcare Employers and Individual, said Virginia’s improvement has come at the expense of other states.
“I think part of that is due to the fact that Virginia has stayed pretty much where it was before the pandemic on some specific outcomes, particularly behavioral health,” she explained. “Many other states have gotten worse. So Virginia hasn’t necessarily improved, but Virginia has held up where there has been significant deterioration in our nation.”
Researchers ranked Virginia 11th among our seniors for its low level of food insecurity.
The Commonwealth ranks 15th nationally for low prevalence of inadequate sleep.
But dr Randall highlighted several areas where Virginia could improve.
Overall, Virginia reported too many avoidable hospitalizations compared to the rest of the nation. About 61 percent of Virginia facilities have ratings of less than four or five stars, indicating a low prevalence of quality nursing homes in Virginia.
Here, too, the question of personnel remains an issue.
“Virginia ranks 28th nationwide for the number of home care workers. So some of these things can be a call to action. In Virginia, there are approximately 38 home care workers for every 1,000 people over the age of 65. The national average is 58 home care workers for every 1,000 people over 65,” Randall said.
Seniors dying from suicides and drug overdoses have also risen.
“The other important things that have unfortunately increased nationally — we’ve seen a significant increase in drug deaths and drug overdoses among seniors,” Randall said. “These are non-prescription opioids in particular. This is very worrying. It has increased in all age groups. I think people might think seniors are exempt when in fact they were the population that grew the most.”
This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email [email protected] to submit a tip.