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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

AHA's Advice for Dayton on Saving Dollars and Lives

The following was featured on Minnesota Public News Service 12/14/10.

EDINA, Minn. - With a big chunk of Minnesota's projected $6.2 billion budget deficit coming from rising health care costs, the American Heart Association has some advice for incoming Governor Mark Dayton they say will help take a bite out of the deficit, and make for a healthier Minnesota.

Rachel Callanan, regional vice president of advocacy with the American Heart Association of Minnesota and Wisconsin, says the first step is developing a comprehensive, statewide system of care for strokes.

"With a stroke, time loss is brain loss, and there's really only a three-hour window of time for a patient to recognize symptoms of a stroke, be diagnosed at a hospital, and receive the appropriate drugs to get that best treatment possible."

She says that treatment is not as readily available in some rural Minnesota areas, and lawmakers can help by pushing to establish a statewide system that ensures correct diagnosis and quick transfer to the most appropriate hospital. Stroke is currently the leading cause of long-term disability in Minnesota, and Callanan says studies have found that a new approach could mean lower costs to patients and the state and fewer deaths.

Another life and dollar saver is curbing tobacco use. Callanan says smoking takes 5,000 lives each year in Minnesota, and costs a staggering $2.8 billion in excess medical costs.

"If we could increase the price of tobacco, we can reduce smoking rates and ensure that our kids never pick up the habit. Kids are the most price-sensitive group, and if we can keep them from ever starting smoking, chances are they never will pick up the habit."

Callanan says while Minnesota is considered one of the healthier states in the nation, the childhood obesity epidemic is taking its toll. She says that if it is left unaddressed, by 2020 there could be $3.7 billion in health care costs attributed to obesity.

"Overweight kids are more likely to become overweight adults, and some experts believe that our current generation of kids could become the first in American history to live shorter lives than their own parents."

She says Minnesota has already taken steps to address obesity and tobacco use through the Statewide Health Improvement Program, which is currently operating in all 87 counties. Callanan says they are urging lawmakers to continue support of the program.

"It's important to invest now to reduce the long-term impact of obesity and tobacco use on our health care costs, but also on the lives lost and impacted by chronic disease."

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