Report: Drug deaths up in Iowa, but other signs encouraging

DES MOINES — New data from the United Health Foundation show a handful of significant and chronic health conditions on the rise across the U.S., with colorectal cancer and drug deaths of particular concern in Iowa.

There is some good news: The new research shows Iowa has a low prevalence of people reporting frequent mental distress, less food insecurity than other states, and fewer people avoiding health care because of cost. But it has higher rates of obesity, too few geriatric providers for the aging population, and a growing number of people with diabetes.

Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer of employer and individual for United Healthcare, explained some chronic conditions can be improved.

“These are generally conditions that can be well controlled, with the appropriate lifestyle modifications and treatment from your physician,” Randall pointed out. “Generally, these are conditions that someone will live with long term.”

Most remarkably in Iowa, deaths attributed to drugs increased 87% in the most recent reporting period, and poverty is up 27%.

Seven chronic conditions are on the rise nationally, including in Iowa. They include arthritis, asthma, cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depression and diabetes. Randall noted while the new data is concerning for many states including Iowa, there are some bright spots.

“The number of mental health professionals in our country increased 7%,” Randall outlined. “The number of dental professionals increased 7%. The percentage of uninsured decreased 7%. Occupational fatalities went down. Smoking is now the lowest it’s been.”

While still too low, the data show the number of geriatric providers is up 19% in Iowa, a state whose seniors rank 20th most healthy in the country.