NOTE: The following is an excerpt from TeleVox’s Healthy World report, “A Fragile Nation in Poor Health”, which reveals the majority of Americans fail to follow their doctors’ advice, and uncovers a significant gap in our nation’s healthcare system – lack of patient care between doctor visits. Download it HERE!
Although the South is known for its hospitality, there’s really no polite way to say this, but the collective health of the region is “Going South.” Unfortunately, A Fragile Nation in Poor Health revealed millions of people living in the South are in denial about the state of their personal health. Only 1 in 20 people (5%) in the southern states admit they are in poor health. Surprisingly, more than half (53%) of Americans living in the South consider themselves to be healthy or very healthy.
Unhealthy States and the Diabetes Belt
However, according to the annual Unhealthiest States ranking, the states with the least healthy behaviors are primarily located in the South; the worst were Kentucky, Louisiana, Alabama and Arkansas, with Mississippi coming in dead last for the tenth consecutive year. In general, the residents of southern states are more likely to be smokers or obese, and Mississippi has a sky-high death rate from heart disease.
Additionally, this section of the country has been coined, “The Diabetes Belt” because researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have discovered that a wide swath across mostly southern U.S. states has diabetes rates above 11%, compared to 8.5% for the rest of the country. Widespread diabetes in the South is linked to the region’s high prevalence of obesity and lack of exercise. According to the CDC, Americans living in the South are the least active, and they don’t spend enough time exercising.
The Need for Action and Provider Encouragement
Despite the fact that so many Americans residing in the southern states are in declining health, they aren’t taking the appropriate actions to become healthier. In fact, A Fragile Nation in Poor Health revealed more than 8 out of 10 Americans residing in the southern states (82%) admit they don’t follow treatment plans they’ve been given by their doctor exactly as prescribed.
However, nearly half (46%) of those who feel they could better follow their prescribed plans would be likely to do so if they received encouragement from their doctors between visits to stay on course. And, more than one-third (34%) of people living in the South would follow instructions better if they received reminders from their doctors via email, voicemail or text telling them to do something specific, like take medication or check blood sugar levels.
One of the best ways Southerners can improve their health is to adopt healthier eating habits. People in the South have deep relationships with food as evidenced by popular sayings such as, “Food is Love” and “If it ain’t fried it ain’t cooked.” Southern culinary favorites include grits, soul food, and Memphis style barbecue. Many of the most popular American soft drinks including Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper originated in the South.
Southerners need physicians to truly partner with them to adopt healthier lifestyles. This is a proud bunch down South; so a soft touch, along with ongoing education will go a long way toward helping them adopt healthier habits.