So how are you feeling? They thought so

James M. Berklan
James M. Berklan

It is no secret that long-term care providers are generally troubled by high turnover, workplace injury and absenteeism rates. That's why it might be a good time for LTC job seekers and managers to think about heading to Alaska. Or Hawaii. Or South Dakota.

Why that unlikely trio? They came out on top in the Gallup and Healthways' most recent “Well-Being” poll of states.

The implications of the findings support the idea that high-scorers are going to have populations with better overall health and economies. This, in turn, leads to (or stems from) healthier, more satisfied citizens and workforces. Better worker engagement, performance and safety, as well as lower absenteeism are related outcomes.

Overall, Hawaii and Colorado seem like good bets since they're the only states to place in the Top 10 every year since the well-being poll began in 2008.

West Virginia and Kentucky, on the other hand, finished 50th and 49th, respectively, for the sixth straight year.

Success can indeed be fleeting. North Dakota, which was No. 1 in 2013, fell all the way to 23rd in 2014. Residents' overall life evaluations, along with things like higher smoking rates, reduced exercise and less healthy eating were top anchors pulling down the Northern-Plains-nearly-Canadian crowd.

Nearly 177,000 phone interviews were undertaken during 2014 to reach conclusions. Interviewers pried into residents' feelings about purpose, social, financial, community and physical aspects of their lives.

Gallup and Healthways noted this year that they updated their Well-Being Index for 2014, meaning scores are not directly comparable to past years. BUT state ranks can be compared to rankings from previous years, they emphasized. (Somewhere ears and/or eyes must be burning at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.)

A 2014 Gallup-Healthways state index shows that the Northern Plains and Mountain West are the highest well-being areas, along with a few Western ones and a handful scattered in the Northeast and Atlantic.

The bottom 20% (quintile) of this great country? A stripe of 10 states ranging from the South up through parts of the industrial Midwest. When you look at a map, it appears it must have had something to do with the original colonies expanding westward. (That's very dry humor, folks.)

The good news from the pollsters is states can improve their well-being scores with customized efforts that address city, rural or other populations. Some have gotten better through interventions with schools, employers and restaurants, while others have successfully pressed for change with governmental or other agencies.

The most important driver of improvement? It could be “a strong, uniform and sustained voice from governmental and organizational leadership” toward building a foundation for culture change.

Hmmmmn. Culture change. Maybe that would be a good concept for long-term care providers to look into some day.

James M. Berklan is McKnight's Editor. Follow him @JimBerklan.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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