Using America’s Health Rankings Resources at the State Level

The America’s Health Rankings team spoke with Dr. David Lakey of the University of Texas System to learn how he uses the resources and data provided at Dr. Lakey serves a dual role as the Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Chief Medical Officer at The University of Texas System and as Senior Advisor to the President and Professor of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler. He previously served as Commissioner, Texas Department of State Health Services and president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
America’s Health Rankings: How do you use America’s Health Rankings resources in your current position as Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Chief Medical Officer at The University of Texas System?
Dr. Lakey: I spend time meeting with organizations across Texas and use America’s Health Rankings resources to provide objective measurements of health within Texas. I use it to start conversations about what we can do to improve the health of our state. It is very helpful to start these discussions with the composite score, then break down the measures that contribute to our rank to educate community leaders and policy-makers about where we are making progress and where more work is needed.
For example, when we were compiling the Health Status of Northeast Texas report in 2016, we looked at America’s Health Rankings to identify strengths and challenges in the state, then married those findings with local data to determine how Northeast Texas fared across key measures. Identifying health outcome disparities helped gain support for establishing the School of Community and Rural Health at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler.
America’s Health Rankings: During your eight years as Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, how did you use America’s Health Rankings resources to track the health of Texas?
Dr. Lakey: While serving as Commissioner, I found America’s Health Rankings useful as an outside, validated source that helped set the baseline for how Texas was ranking across a number of important measures. It was particularly useful when looking for data on specific populations, such as the Senior Report, and how the health of Texas seniors fits in the broader context of the state’s health. Texas is a very large state, so it’s important to have a data source that can help us take a step back and see how we measure up against the rest of the country.
America’s Health Rankings: As you refer to America’s Health Rankings data and resources throughout the year, what do you find most surprising?
Dr. Lakey: I often use America’s Health Rankings data to compare Texas to the rest of the country and see some interesting trends. For example, even though tobacco is a persistent problem in the state, we have actually made more progress than many other states in reducing the number of people who smoke. We know that 28,000 Texans die each year from smoking, so we want to continue building on this progress to lower that number.
America’s Health Rankings Why is America’s Health Rankings such a valuable resource for public health leaders in your position in peer institutions across the country?
Dr. Lakey: America’s Health Rankings is an incredibly valuable resource for people like me because it is a consistent, validated source for data that is recognized across the country. When my colleagues and I write editorials, we often cite America’s Health Rankings data because we know our peers will respect the data and recognize that it was not influenced by any one state or health department.
About America’s Health Rankings America’s Health Rankings® is the longest-running annual assessment of the nation’s health on a state-by-state basis, checking the pulse of the nation for nearly 30 years. The platform provides data to serve as a benchmark for states and promotes data-driven discussions on opportunities to promote the health and well-being of our country.
Policy-makers, public health officials and community leaders are encouraged to use from America’s Health Rankings to better understand the challenges and progress made within their states and across the nation.

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