Study: Newcomers to state could change health system

A new study finds that people living in Nevada more than a year are twice as likely as newcomers to report fair or poor health.

The health behaviors of newcomers could significantly impact Nevada's health-care systems, says Wei Yang, a public health professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, who conducted the study.

Hospitals, however, say a bigger factor is the aging population of Nevada.

For the past two decades Nevada has been the fastest-growing state in the nation, and the biggest portion of the newcomers 38 percent came from California.

Those newcomers are younger with lower incomes. Some 52 percent are Caucasian, and 27 percent are Hispanic. (Among Nevada residents of 10 years or longer, 70 percent are Caucasian.) The influx, says Yang, will change the way hospitals and clinics craft planning, prevention, health education and healthcare policies.

Yang evaluated the health behaviors of 8,663 people living in Nevada for varying lengths of time.

"Newcomers demonstrate strong differences in certain behaviors," says Yang. For instance, they are more proactive when it comes to preventative health screenings.

But they are less likely to get mammograms or HIV tests.

And while long-term male residents are less likely to get prostate exams, they also prove less likely to contract prostate cancer.

Longer-term residents are more likely to be obese, and newcomers are more likely to be diabetic.

Meanwhile, long-term residents are 6.8 times more likely to keep a firearm in the house.

Area hospitals, however, say newcomers aren't the driving force of change.

"The single, largest, predicted impact is that of the baby boomers," says Brock Maylath, business development specialist at St. Mary's.

However, he adds, "Many young adults do not see health insurance as a necessity and therefore elect not to purchase any coverage. This can have a significant financial impact on healthcare providers, particularly hospitals."

Cheri Glockner, a spokeswoman at Carson Tahoe Regional Healthcare, agrees that an aging population is a key piece of her hospital's planning, although she notes that some part of its service area, such as Dayton, have seen an influx of younger families.

Larry Trilops, vice president of ambulatory services at Renown Regional Medical Center, says increasing numbers of Medicare patients translates to a focus on anti-aging and wellness programs.

Screenings, says Trilops, are initiated through primary-care physicians. And that remains a weak link among the younger population, which tends to use the on demand, but more costly, urgent care services.


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