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What to Know about Pa. Health

New statewide assessment highlights disparities, factors that lead to them

April 14, 2022

Nearly half of Pennsylvanians live with a chronic disease and the commonwealth is struggling to reach its goal of ensuring early access to prenatal care, according to a new report.

Last month, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) released “The State of Our Health: A Statewide Health Assessment of Pennsylvania,” highlighting Pennsylvania’s collective mission to address health disparities and the factors that lead to them. The report provides an overall snapshot of the health of Pennsylvania.

“The updated 2022 Pennsylvania Health Assessment is a critical step toward examining inequities by race and ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, age, education, sexual orientation, geography, and disability, so that we can work together for change,” Acting Secretary of Health Keara Klinepeter said in the report.

The 2022 health assessment includes input from the Healthy Pennsylvania Partnership, a diverse group of public and private organizations committed to improving the health of the state. The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania and health systems across the commonwealth contributed to the project.

Here are six notable findings:

  • Substance use and mental health:  Drug overdose deaths increased by 14 percent between 2020 and 2021. About 14 percent of adults in Pennsylvania experienced frequent mental distress during 2020.
  • Chronic Diseases:  Nearly half of Pennsylvania adults (47%) lived with one or more chronic diseases. Cardiovascular disease was the most common cause of death in Pennsylvania in 2019.
  • Demographics and social determinants:  Poverty affected Pennsylvanians disparately along racial and geographic lines and has a direct effect on health opportunities.
  • Maternal health:  Pennsylvania has fallen short of its goal to have 84.8 percent of pregnant people receiving care in the first trimester. This includes 64 percent of Black pregnant people and 78 percent of White pregnant people receiving early prenatal care during 2019.
  • Smoking:  16 percent of adults were cigarette smokers during 2020 and the associated health care costs directly related to smoking total $6 billion annually.
  • Health care coverage:  About 10 percent of Pennsylvania adults between 18 and 64 were uninsured during 2020, and 15 percent did not have a personal health care provider.

The report focuses on eight key themes and how social determinants of health affect outcomes. The themes are: substance use, maternal and infant health, mental health, environmental health, access to care, infectious diseases and immunization, chronic diseases, and injury and violence prevention.

HAP supports initiatives to improve the health of Pennsylvanians across the commonwealth. Pennsylvania’s hospitals and health systems are at the forefront of this important work to provide access to quality health care and address disparities in our communities.

Learn more about the report online.