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News Brief

Jan. 3, 2024 |  By: Farah Siddiqi - Public News Service

Report: Number of MO mental healthcare professionals jumps nearly 40%

mental health

By Farah Siddiqi - Public News Service

The latest edition of America's Health Rankings report is out - and although Missouri ranked 40th overall, the state is showing improvement in the areas of volunteerism, colorectal cancer screenings, and a lower percentage of households experiencing severe housing problems.

Missouri compares well with neighboring large, mostly rural states with concentrated urban pockets.

Dr. Peter Panagos - professor of emergency medicine and neurology for Washington University in Saint Louis School of Medicine - said given Missouri's diverse patient population, he's not surprised at the ranking.

But he added that there are positives.

"We have a fairly high completion rate for high school education, our equality for income is fairly well," said Panagos. "We're a state that believes in helping others and our volunteer rate is quite high."

Missouri also had nearly a 40% hike in the number of mental healthcare professionals.

MO HealthNet - Missouri's Medicaid program - now offers access to behavioral health services to support mental health, drug, and alcohol abuse issues.

Panagos said the report highlights opportunities in lifestyle and public health decisions overall, such as fruit and vegetable consumption, use of tobacco products, and lack of exercise - all of which he says have implications for cardiac and brain health.

There are other critical factors contributing to the state's ranking too.

"As an emergency physician practicing in St. Louis, certainly I'm very, very, very aware of the impact of gun violence and homicide rates in our cities," said Panagos. "A lot of that is driven by our urban centers and our access to firearms."

Panagos said Missouri can use areas where neighboring states are doing better as a road map to improving the healthcare system, community support networks and overall public health.

Dr. Rhonda Randall - chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare Employer and Individual, which produces the health ranking - said the number of adults living with chronic health conditions in the United States is at an all time high.

"Things like arthritis, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, cancers, for example," said Randall, "conditions that can be well controlled with the appropriate lifestyle modifications and treatment from your physician."

She said UHC's report provides a big picture of the nation's challenges and strengths and what officials and what people can do for a better future. The report is at