Health Notes: Minnesota, Wisconsin get top rankings for serving poor

Health systems in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Northland perform relatively well for low-income residents, a recent report says. The report, "Health Care in the Two Americas" by the Commonwealth Fund, which specializes in health issues, concluded...

Health systems in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Northland perform relatively well for low-income residents, a recent report says.

The report, "Health Care in the Two Americas" by the Commonwealth Fund, which specializes in health issues, concluded that care for low-income Americans lags behind care for the rest of the population overall.

But the Upper Midwest does better than most regions. Wisconsin ranked second overall, Minnesota ranked fourth, and the "hospital referral region" served by Duluth hospitals (including parts of both states) ranked in the top quarter overall of all such regions in caring for low-income populations.

Still, there's room for improvement. The report noted, for instance, that if the Duluth region were in the top 1 percent of all regions, 9,722 more adults (ages 18-64) would be covered by health insurance. And there would be 1,031 fewer hospitalizations for certain conditions among Medicare beneficiaries -- a potential savings of $7.5 million.

The state that best serves the health needs of low-income residents? Hawaii, the report said. After Wisconsin and ahead of Minnesota: Vermont. The worst: Mississippi.


Mind, heart and feet

Whether it's for the heart or the mind, you can walk for a cause this weekend:

  • The American Heart Association's Heart Walk will kick off at 10 a.m. Saturday at the baseball fields near the University of Minnesota Duluth's Malosky Stadium. Registration begins at 8 a.m., opening ceremonies will be at 9:40 and a health fair with free screenings and health information will take place from 8-10 a.m. Walkers can choose a one-mile or a three-mile course in the noncompetitive event. Also at the event, Jeff Stratioti will be honored as this year's Lifestyle Change Award winner. A heart attack the morning after Stratioti worked the "chain gang" at a UMD football game in December 2010 prompted him to make significant changes, according to the American Heart Association. He exercises a minimum of one hour a day, six days a week. He eats red meat just once a month, has eliminated sugar and follows heart-healthy guidelines for sodium and fat intake.

    Thanks to the diet and exercise regimen, Stratioti has lost 30 pounds and reduced his body mass index from 30 to 22. On a recent stress test, he achieved a rating that put him above the 95th percentile for men older than 55. He also lowered his LDL (bad cholesterol) from 145 to 73 and increased his HDL (good cholesterol) from 30 to 52.

    It's not too late to take part in the Heart Walk. People can form a team or show up individually. There is no cost to participate, but donations are encouraged.

  • This year's Walk to End Alzheimer's starts at 10 a.m. Saturday with registration beginning at 9 a.m. at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center's Paulucci Hall. The event is expected to draw more than 500 people locally, said an Alzheimer's Association news release.

    Alzheimer's staff will be available to provide information about "Direct Connect," which connects families with supportive services through a collaboration of Essentia Health, St. Luke's, Arrowhead Area Agency on Aging and the Alzheimer's Association.

    More information is available at

    Fall is for flu shots

    Fall means flu shots, and protection against the seasonal respiratory disease is available at a variety of places in the Northland.

    Among them:

  • St. Luke's is offering flu shots at its Denfeld, Mount Royal, Miller Creek and Mariner clinics from 3-7 p.m. Wednesday. Cost is $25; cash or check only. No appointment is necessary. Call (218) 249-5555 for more information.
  • Essentia Health is offering shots at its First Street Building, 420 E. First St., 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, Oct. 7-18. No appointment necessary. The same hours apply at Essentia Health-Lakewalk Clinic and neighborhood clinics in Hermantown, Lakeside, Proctor, West Duluth and Superior. Essentia is offering regional clinics as well; check their website at and click on the banner at the top of the page. Medicare Part B, Medicaid and most private insurance companies cover the cost of flu shots.

    Another ban on smoking

    Public housing in Eveleth is going smoke-free.

    A smoke-free policy will begin Tuesday in all individual units and the playground, the Eveleth Housing and Redevelopment Authority said in a news release.

    The Eveleth HRA will be the 12th in Northeastern Minnesota to ban smoking, the news release said.

    In Duluth, the HRA began phasing out smoking in its high rises in 2010, completing the process on May 1, 2011.

    The Eveleth HRA news release cited a market survey commissioned by the American Lung Association of more than 600 renters in Carlton, Lake and St. Louis counties. It reported 78 percent of respondents said they preferred a smoke-free building.

    Bone marrow drive on Saturday

    A bone marrow registration drive is taking place on Saturday at St. Luke's Lester River Medical Clinic, 6351 E. Superior St.

    Tanya Pitoscia, a clinical assistant at the clinic, organized the drive after a friend needed help finding a donor in the same way, a St. Luke's news release said.

    Bone marrow donations help patients with various forms of blood cancer. The event on Saturday will add people to the National Bone Marrow Registry.

    The drive will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and coincides with the Lester River Rendezvous.

    A website for Wisconsin women

    An interactive website focused on the health of Wisconsin women of reproductive age was launched on Wednesday.

    The site, , is a product of the Wisconsin Healthiest Women Initiative Leadership Team, said Sara Finger, executive director and founder, in a news release.

    The initiative is the product of an alliance of several statewide women's health organizations, the news release said.

    The website includes a preconception health resource "toolbox," and interactive quiz to create a reproductive life plan, data on women's health in Wisconsin and other resources.

    The news release noted that 23 percent of Wisconsin women ages 18-44 are obese, 23 percent smoke and 12 percent report poor mental health.

    Answers about Medicare

    A "New to Medicare" presentation will take place at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission, 221 W. First St., in the first-floor conference room.

    The presentation is for people who have questions about Medicare Parts A through D, Medicare insurance options, supplemental insurance, assistance paying for prescription drugs, the Medicare Savings Program and other topics.

    To register, call the Senior LinkAge Line at (800) 333-2433.

    Children's cancer center gets video game unit

    A Starlight Fun Center was donated to the Essentia Health Erick Peter Person Children's Cancer Center on Wednesday.

    The fun center -- essentially video games on a cart -- is designed to provide entertainment for hospitalized children and their families. Essentia has three other such units, all in Essentia Health-St. Mary's Children's Hospital.

    The fun center was donated by Milwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual and is part of $30,000 in donations to hospitals across Minnesota in conjunction with Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. In a news release, the insurance company said its childhood cancer program is a multiyear commitment to accelerating a cure for childhood cancer and to support families dealing with the disease.

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