- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 25, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A new report on health concerns in Arkansas should be easy for the general public to understand and will educate Arkansans on specific issues in their communities, the state Department of Health said.

The 140-page report addresses issues such as life expectancy, infant mortality and health literacy in Arkansas.

“We are trying a different approach,” co-author Jennifer Dillaha told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1l0PimJ ). “Instead of reports that are very technical, we are trying one that is easier to read. Many health concepts are not hard to understand, but when you use all types of technical language and abbreviations that are not known to the general public, then we have created a barrier that is not necessary.”

The report, titled “Arkansas’s Big Health Problems and How We Plan to Solve Them,” is being distributed to local health units, health care providers and community organizations such as libraries and hunger relief agencies.


America’s Health Rankings ranked Arkansas 48th out of 50 states for residents’ overall health in 2012 and 49th in 2013, the report, released March 7, noted.

“Arkansas is ranked low for many reasons,” according to the report. “These reasons include high rates of early death, infant death and death from chronic diseases. They also include other factors, such as unhealthy lifestyles, low high-school graduation rates, and differences based on where people live in the state.”

The life expectancy for someone living in Arkansas was 76 years in 2008, the report said. Life expectancy in the United States was 78 at the time.

Also, health literacy is estimated at 37 percent of the adult population in Arkansas and 36 percent in the United States.

“Health literacy consists of a wide range of skills that people use to get and act on information so that they can live healthier lives,” the report said. “People use health literacy skills when they go to the doctor, take care of a sick child or help their aging parents fill out their Medicare forms.”

Kristie Hadden, assistant professor and director of health literacy with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ Regional Program, said research has shown that health literacy affects health outcomes.

“The more people can understand, the better prepared they are to take actions,” Hadden said. “We know that people who struggle with health literacy are more likely to be hospitalized, they are less likely to participate in things like mammograms and flu shots.”

Health department spokeswoman Kerry Krell said the report will be rewritten every five years and will be updated as necessary.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com