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November 28, 2014

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Three takeaways from health care symposium

A group of medical professionals joined forces last week at UNLV to discuss health disparities among women, minorities and the elderly in Nevada.

Nevada was the 37th-healthiest state last year, according to America’s Health Rankings, the longest-running annual assessment of the nation’s health.

Researchers and experts met under the theory that they can improve the state’s overall health ranking if they better understand the disparities that exist among population groups.

The Nevada IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence sponsored the four-hour symposium. Here are three takeaways:

Pedestrian accidents

Jennifer Pharr, an assistant professor of public health at UNLV who has been studying statistics from pedestrian-related accidents, found that 1,712 pedestrians were injured or killed after being hit by vehicles in Clark County from 2009 through 2011.

Fifty-seven percent of those crashes happened during daytime hours, but fatal accidents involving pedestrians were more likely to happen at night when it was cloudy outside.

People needing to walk for utilitarian purposes — such as going to work or the grocery store — were most vulnerable to being struck.

Suicide rate

Nevada has the fifth-highest rate of suicide in the United States, and it’s the state’s sixth leading cause of death, said Dr. Deborah Kuhls, associate dean of academic affairs at UNLV.

And older residents in Nevada are most at risk. Nevada seniors, ages 60 to 85, have the highest rate of suicide in the United States.

From 2000 through 2010, suicides surpassed motor vehicle deaths in Nevada.

Mental illness

The mentally ill are 10 times more likely to be in jails than in hospitals in Nevada, said Christopher Cochran, associate professor and chair of the department of health care administration and policy at UNLV.

There’s also an over-reliance on emergency rooms by seriously mentally ill people, most often at public and not-for-profit hospitals. In areas with higher competition among hospitals, unprofitable patients, such as the seriously mentally ill, are less likely to be admitted for treatment, he said.

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