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Report: Colorado 12th healthiest state in nation as chronic conditions rise

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Eric Galatas

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(Colorado News Connection) Colorado is the 12th healthiest state in the nation, according to the latest America's Health Rankings report.

But the number of Coloradans dealing with chronic illness such as arthritis, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular, kidney and heart diseases, depression and diabetes is on the rise.

Austin Montoya, senior communications officer for the Colorado Health Foundation, said when it comes to managing chronic conditions, some Coloradans face greater risks than others.

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"Black, Latino and Native American Coloradans are the most worried about being without health insurance in the next year," Montoya reported. "And if you don't have health care coverage, you certainly are not getting the medications that you need."

Montoya is describing just one of many social stressors continuing to play a major role in health outcomes. The stressors were examined in a separate survey meant to help Colorado lawmakers and other decision makers understand the scale of health challenges facing Coloradans. Other social determinants of health include food, housing and job insecurity, and lack of money to access health care.

Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer of employer and individual for United Healthcare, said the new health ranking data showed more than 29 million adults in the U.S. are living with three or more chronic conditions. She explained income and education level are both strongly linked to the rising number of health challenges.

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"Those who make less than $25,000 a year, and those who haven't received a high school diploma, have the greatest number of chronic conditions," Randall pointed out.

Montoya noted social stressors disproportionately affect communities of color. While 37 percent of all Coloradans fear losing their health insurance, 69 percent of Native American residents have those fears. And 33 percent of Latinos fear losing their job, compared to 21 percent of all Coloradans.

"Latinos, Native American or indigenous Coloradans, they are all more likely to worry about affording food, affording their housing," Montoya outlined.