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From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
April 8, 1998

Self-Assessed Health Status and Selected Behavioral Risk Factors Among Persons With and Without Health-Care Coverage—United States, 1994-1995

Author Affiliations

Copyright 1998 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.1998American Medical AssociationThis is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

JAMA. 1998;279(14):1063. doi:10.1001/jama.279.14.1063-JWR0408-4-1

MMWR. 1998;47:176-180

2 tables omitted

PERSONS WITHOUT health-care coverage are more likely to have poor health and be at greater risk for chronic disease outcomes than persons who have health-care coverage.1 In the United States, the number of persons and the proportion of the population without health-care coverage has increased each year since 1987.2 State-specific surveillance of health-care coverage can be used to identify subgroups of the population who lack such coverage and may be at increased risk for poor health. To determine state-specific estimates of the prevalence of self-assessed health status and risk factors for chronic disease by health-care coverage status among adults aged 18-64 years, CDC analyzed data from the 1994 and 1995 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). This report summarizes the results of that analysis and indicates that adults without health-care coverage were more likely than those with health-care coverage to have poor health status, to be current smokers, and to be less physically active.

BRFSS is a state-based, random-digit–dialed telephone survey of the noninstitutionalized U.S. population aged ≥18 years. The 1995 BRFSS was conducted in the 50 states and the District of Columbia and was used to determine self-reported health-care coverage status and the selected risk factors of cigarette smoking, physical inactivity, and self-assessed health status among adults aged 18-64 years. To assess health-care coverage status, respondents were asked "Do you have any kind of health-care coverage, including health insurance, prepaid plans such as HMOs, or governmental plans such as Medicare?" Smoking was assessed by asking "Have you smoked at least 100 cigarettes in your entire life?" and "Do you smoke cigarettes now?" Current smokers were persons who reported having smoked ≥100 cigarettes during their lifetimes and who smoke now. Physical inactivity was assessed by asking the respondent "During the past month, did you participate in any physical activities or exercises such as running, calisthenics, golf, gardening, or walking for exercise?" Persons were considered inactive during their leisure time if they answered no to this question. For the purpose of this report, the estimates for health status reflect the proportion of persons indicating either fair or poor health status. Data from the 50 states were weighted to represent state populations and used to produce point estimates; 95% confidence intervals were calculated using SUDAAN.

During 1995, the prevalence of health-care coverage varied among states and ranged from 76.9% (Louisiana) to 93.3% (Hawaii) (median: 87.0%). The median prevalence of fair-to-poor self-assessed health status was 9.0% among persons with health-care coverage and 13.8% among those without coverage; state-specific prevalences among those with coverage ranged from 5.3% (Nebraska) to 17.3% (West Virginia), and among those without coverage, from 5.0% (New Jersey) to 27.9% (Kentucky).

The median prevalence of smoking among those with health-care coverage was 22.8%, compared with 39.3% among those without coverage. The median prevalence of physical inactivity was 25.1% among those with health-care coverage, compared with 31.2% among those without coverage.

Reported by the following BRFSS coordinators:

J Durham, MPA, Alabama; P Owen, Alaska; B Bender, Arizona; J Senner, PhD, Arkansas; B Davis, PhD, California; M Leff, MSPH, Colorado; M Adams, MPH, Connecticut; F Breukelman, Delaware; C Mitchell, District of Columbia; D McTague, MS, Florida; E Pledger, MPA, Georgia; J Cooper, MA, Hawaii; C Johnson, MPH, Idaho; B Steiner, MS, Illinois; N Costello, MPA, Indiana; P Busick, Iowa; M Perry, Kansas; K Asher, Kentucky; R Meriwether, MD, Louisiana; D Maines, Maine; A Weinstein, MA, Maryland; D Brooks, MPH, Massachusetts; H McGee, MPH, Michigan; N Salem, PhD, Minnesota; S Loyd, Mississippi; J Jackson-Thompson, PhD, Missouri; P Smith, Montana; S Huffman, Nebraska; E DeJan, MPH, Nevada; K Zaso, MPH, New Hampshire; G Boeselager, MS, New Jersey; W Honey, New Mexico; T Melnik, DrPH, New York; G Lengerich, VMD, North Carolina; J Kaske, MPH, North Dakota; R Indian, MS, Ohio; N Hann, MPH, Oklahoma; J Grant-Worley, MS, Oregon; L Mann, Pennsylvania; J Hesser, PhD, Rhode Island; J Ferguson, DrPH, South Carolina; M Gildemaster, South Dakota; D Ridings, Tennessee; R Diamond, MPH, Texas; R Giles, Utah; R McIntyre, PhD, Vermont; J Stones, Virginia; K Wynkoop-Simmons, PhD, Washington; F King, West Virginia; E Cautley, MS, Wisconsin; M Futa, MA, Wyoming. Cardiovascular Health Br and Behavioral Surveillance Br, Div of Adult and Community Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC.

CDC Editorial Note:

The findings in this report indicate that, in most states, more persons who are without health-care coverage consider themselves to be in poor or fair health than those with health-care coverage. In addition, persons without health-care coverage reported higher levels of physical inactivity and current tobacco use than did persons who have health-care coverage. Higher levels of smoking and physical inactivity are both important risk factors for many chronic disease outcomes.3

Although the wide variation in prevalence of self-assessed health status, smoking, and physical inactivity by state may reflect, in part, differences in sociodemographic characteristics (e.g., age, race/ethnicity, income, and educational level), previous reports indicate that this variation persisted even after estimates were standardized to adjust for these differences.4. Differences in self-reported health between persons with and without coverage also may reflect factors that influence the perception of ill health (e.g., subclinical illness, lack of access to providers, and the negative effects of smoking and physical inactivity).

The findings in this report are subject to at least two limitations. First, the study excluded households without telephones; previous studies indicate substantial differences in the characteristics of persons who reside in households without a telephone compared with those who reside in households with a telephone.5 Second, these estimates were only for adults and did not include persons aged <18 years. To adequately assess the impact of the lack of health-care coverage, information about the health status of children and young persons also should be considered.6

The BRFSS enables each state to document the proportion of its population without health-care coverage and the risk factor profile of this group. This information can be used to target subgroups for specific disease-prevention or health-promotion intervention efforts as well as for policy makers seeking to evaluate health-care changes at the state level. This information also can assist local and state health officials in anticipating the need for and planning of health-care and preventive-care services. The findings of this report and the results of previous studies that indicate that the number of insured in the United States increases annually and the uninsured are less likely to receive preventive-care services7 underscore the need for state and national policies that facilitate the broadening of health-care coverage.

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