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AHRQ'S 2007 State Snapshots provide broader portraits of State-by-State health care performance

An annual analysis to help health leaders identify areas of health care delivery that need quality improvement now includes important information such as each State's rate of obesity, health insurance coverage, mental illness, and the number of specialist doctors. These and other measures—called "State contextual factors"—are part of the 2007 State Snapshots released by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The updated State Snapshots Web tool also tracks States' progress toward reaching government-set health goals for 2010.

As in previous years, the 51 State Snapshots—every State plus Washington, D.C.—summarize health care quality in 3 dimensions: type of care (such as preventive, acute or chronic care), setting of care (such as nursing homes or hospitals), and by clinical areas (such as care for patients with cancer or diabetes). The evaluations are expressed in simple, five-color "performance meter" illustrations that rate performance from "very weak" to "very strong." Users may explore whether a State has improved or worsened compared to other States in several areas of health care delivery.

Users can get more detailed portraits of each State's performance by exploring the State Snapshots' 149 separate measures of quality. Those measures range from preventing pressure sores to screening for diabetes-related foot problems to giving recommended care to pneumonia patients.

Finally, the State Snapshots provide State rankings for 15 "selected measures." These rankings show that no State does well or poorly in all areas. Texas, for example, ranked 4th best at minimizing nursing home patients' pressure sores but 41st on vaccinating older people against pneumonia. Ohio ranked 7th for its high percentage of pregnant women who received prenatal care but 46th for its high rate of breast cancer deaths. New Mexico ranked 4th best on improving the mobility of nursing home residents but 50th for its low number of heart attack patients who received the right medications at hospital discharge.

The data in this year's State Snapshots are drawn from the 2007 National Healthcare Quality Report (www.ahrq.gov/qual/qrdr07.htm) which provides a national portrait of health care quality. It shows the quality of health care improved by an average 2.3 percent a year between 1994 and 2005, a rate that reflects some important advances but points to an overall slowing in quality gains.

AHRQ's annual State Snapshots is based on data drawn from more than 30 sources, including government surveys, health care facilities, and health care organizations. To access this year's State Snapshots tool, go to http://statesnapshots.ahrq.gov/snaps07/.

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