Friday, February 20, 2015

Minnesotan's well-being drops, or does it?

Gallup - Healthways has released a new report on the state of American well-being. Minnesota is rated 11th, at the top of the second quintile. The factors used in the new rating are:
  • Purpose: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals (MN rank: 24/50)
  • Social: Having supportive relationships and love in your life (MN rank: 26/50)
  • Financial: Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security (MN rank: 6/50)
  • Community: Liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community (MN rank: 12/50)
  • Physical: Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily (MN rank: 16/50)
I find two things particularly notable, and disappointing, about the report.

First, the 2014 version is similar to, but different than, previous year's reports.

The 2013 Gallup - Healthways report on Minnesota's state of well-being, inclusively covers the period from 2008 through 2012/2013. These are the factors used for those years:
  • Well-being Overall
  • Life Evaluation
  • Emotional Health
  • Work Environment
  • Physical Health
  • Healthy Behaviors
  • Basic Access
Based on a quick review, I found no explanation for the changes in factors nor suggestions on how, if at all, to compare the 2014 rankings with those of prior years. With that caveat, here's the table showing Minnesota consistently near the top for the six years 2008 through 2013.

So, are we faced with the question of whether Minnesota's drop out of the top 10, usually the top 5, into the second quintile is due to changes in how well we actually are or simply to changes in the questions asked and how the rankings were compiled? Are we really getting less well or is the drop due to the assessment changes, or both?

I'm more deeply troubled by something missing, as far as I can tell, from both versions of the survey. For an evaluation of well-being, there's no information at all provided that would let us compare Minnesota's environmental quality with our physical and emotional and financial well-being. There is growing evidence that contact with nature is good for human health, that environmental pollution is a notable health risk and that we're creating an environment too toxic for our children to thrive.

I'm pleased to see Gallup - Healthways doing longitudinal assessments that could be useful in better establishing the benefits of more sustainable, "green" living and working. There's room for improvement, as always. In light of the concerns identified above, I believe Minnesota would be better served if we worked more consistently to tell our own story and tracked our progress over time. We'll visit these themes again next week. Minnesota has an annual operating budget of multibillions of dollars. Isn't it time Minnesotans started to track, on a consistent basis, what we're getting for our money?

Landscape Survey

By John Brehm 

And what about this boulder,
knocked off the moutaintop and
tumbled down a thousand years ago

to lodge against the streambank,
does it waste itself with worry
about how things are going

to turn out? Does the current
slicing around it stop itself mid-
stream because it can't get past

all it's left behind back at
the source or up in the clouds
where its waters first fell

to earth? And these trees,
would they double over and
clutch themselves or lash out

furiously if they were to discover
what the other trees really
thought of them? Would the wind

reascend into the sky forever,
like an in-drawn breath,
if it knew it was fated simply

to sweep the earth of windlessness,
to touch everything and keep
nothing and be beheld by no one? 

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Please be kind to each other while you can.