Reforming our health care system is a marathon, not a sprint. I appreciate this metaphor as I remember how it feels to run an actual long-distance race; I ran my first half-marathon last year. It took months of training, and of running gradually increasing distances along the Cherry Creek Trail and in City Park. It was several months of hard work, and I was nervous that I might not reap the reward of all that effort. On race day though, all I had to do was pace myself and take it one mile at a time. I heard the crowd cheering me on and realized with each passing mile marker that my pace was actually better than I thought.
Often in our work, we get so caught up in the day-to-day tasks that it can be hard to gain perspective on how we’re doing on our big picture goals. Is the system improving? Are Coloradans getting healthier? Our marathon is measured in years, so our mile markers are the multi-year data collection efforts that help us gauge progress. We value that opportunity to pause and see where we’ve come from and what’s still ahead. Similarly, I value the times that I check my watch in the middle of a race to celebrate the distance I’ve traveled and also steel myself for how much more effort I need to exert before I cross the finish line.
The Commonwealth Fund recently released an update on their Scorecard on State Health System Performance, and it shows that while Colorado does have some areas needing focused intention and serious improvement, overall, we’ve improved in important ways. Colorado has gone from being 15th in the nation in 2009 to 12th this year. Most significant is the health equity ranking: we have gone from being 41st in the country to 24th. This indicates that the gaps in outcomes for our most vulnerable Coloradans are closing, especially those affecting our communities of color.
This is all good news; however, we need to pay closer attention to Coloradans’ ability to access care as those rankings have gotten worse or remained unchanged:
- Adults who went without care in the past year due to cost climbed from 13% to 16%; for low-income adults, that rate is an even more concerning 31%
- Adults without a dental visit in the past year also climbed from 13% to 16%
- Children without a medical home rose from 41% to 45%
This data supports CCMU’s strategy of strengthening our focus on access to care issues and continuing our work on health equity. Just as when I check my watch during a race, and am surprised when I’ve gone further than I realize, the news on our progress is energizing. But as the race isn’t over, we can’t stop running until we cross the finish line.