The business of ranking Hoosiers’ health

South Bend Tribune

Unfortunately, it’s no longer surprising when news comes that Indiana ranks low on health issues.

The latest pronouncement comes from Health Magazine, which ranked Indiana 41st of the 50 states in 2015 on health. The Hoosier state held the same spot in the rankings the previous year.

According to the magazine, “ … in the last year alone, the number of children in poverty rose 59 percent. Hoosiers smoke and drink too much, and they weigh more than they should.”

Anyone who cares enough to pay attention to such things knows that Hoosiers aren’t the healthiest. We’ve commented many times in this space about high infant mortality rates, obesity and smoking rates. But beyond the very real toll that poor health takes on each individual, there’s another impact on the long-term economic development of the state.

Kevin Brinegar, the president and CEO of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, said as much when he met with the Editorial Board just two years ago.

Indiana’s poor health habits have a direct impact on the economy of the state. Brinegar pointed out at the time that obese employees generate more than $51,000 in medical claims (per 100 full-time employees) each year, compared with $7,500 for healthy weight workers. Of course, all of this drives up health care costs.

While it may not be the most important issue when it comes to businesses deciding whether to locate in Indiana, it has a negative connotation. And it keeps the state’s very good business climate rating from being even higher, Brinegar said.

Indiana can’t change its history, but it can impact its future by understanding the full costs of obesity and other related issues: that they are bad for your health, and can be bad for business, too.