Making Nebraska the Healthiest State: A look at the health status of Nebraskans

Posted September 25, 2015 in Nebraska, healthy living, healthiest state, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Dr. Ali Khan, obesity, weight loss, public health, health coach


Earlier this week, I attended "Making Nebraska the Healthiest State," which was presented by Dr. Ali Khan, dean of the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health, at the annual Public Health Association of Nebraska Conference.

His talk was open to the public, and I thought it would be interesting, so I went.

Khan described the public health status of Nebraskans and how public health entities can work to make Nebraska the healthiest state.

Nebraska is currently ranked 10th, which was a surprise to me. I had no idea Nebraska was in the top 10 healthiest states in the country! The top reasons for the rating is that Nebraska has a low rate of drug-related deaths, a high rate of high school graduation and high immunization coverage for children.

The ranking is based on the number of people who have diabetes, cancer and heart disease, the number of people who have health insurance, how many people are obese and report no physical activity, the number of people who smoke, the number of people who report binge drinking, disparities in health status by education level and other factors.

Some of the stats I thought were interesting…

  • 29.6% of the population in Nebraska is considered obese. (ranked 27th in the nation)
  • 23.5% of the population report no physical activity
  • 18.5% of the population smokes (that's 260,000 people and costs the state $162 million a year in Medicaid!!)
  • 11.3% of the population doesn't have health insurance (that's 77,000 people)
  • 9.2% of the population has diabetes (ranked 16th in the nation)
  • 20% of the population reports binge drinking. (ranked 44th in the nation) Nebraska has the highest rate of self reported DWI in the country


(Dr. Ali Khan. Photo from the University of Nebraska Medical Center)

Dr. Khan had a very simple prescription for people:

  1. Stop smoking
  2. Exercise 150 minutes each week
  3. Eat 7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day

Khan explained that it's not possible for hospitals, clinicians and medical professionals to impact all factors that affect health outcomes, so there is a need for innovative prevention strategies. (hello, health coaches!!)

One of his recommendations was to create cultural changes by developing community-level infrastructure. This basically means bringing together a broad set of stakeholders, having diverse perspectives, assessing needs in the community and creating information systems.

The UNMC College of Public Health hopes to make Nebraska the healthiest state in the nation by 2020. They want to make Nebraska a world leader in student experience, cancer prevention and control, community-based health transformation and health systems transformation.

The talk made me realize that you don't have to be a medical professional or public health worker to help make your community healthier. Just a few things I'm doing in my community...

  • I'm a health coach! I help people make lifestyle changes to become their healthiest and happiest selves. I plan to start giving workshops in my community!
  • I'm a group fitness instructor.
  • I write this blog. My goal is to inspire you to nourish and move your body.
  • I helped bring outdoor fitness equipment to a local park. Free workouts!!
  • I am the chair of Activate Buffalo County, an organization working to promote health and physical activity in the community.
  • I recently agreed to be on the Girls on the Run Task Force. I've always wanted to get involved with Girls on the Run, but I can't be a coach because of my work schedule. Being on the task force allows me to be involved in other ways!


And the amazing thing is...YOU have the power to improve the health of your community.

What can you do? Simply make healthier choices every day, and share what you are doing with everyone. Share so much and so often that people think you're nuts! Your dedication, motivation and transformation will inspire others.

How will you begin to be a health advocate for your community?

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