In the first five years of King County’s employee wellness program, from 2007 to 2011, the county spent $15 million on the program and saved $46 million. King County, Washington, launched its employee wellness program, “Healthy Incentives Program,” in 2006, in response to rising health care costs at 9.8 percent from 2001 to 2005.

While debate about improving the nation’s health care system continues, policymakers, health care experts and consumers essentially agree on three goals—improving patient care, creating healthier communities and reducing health care costs. States face huge challenges in developing successful strategies for broad population impact, and even bigger challenges for having a positive impact in rural areas and among certain disadvantaged population groups. Speakers addressed strategies for improving population health, increasing immunization coverage, and providing data to guide state decision-making.

For every two packs of cigarettes sold in New York, at least one has been illegally smuggled into the state. That’s according to research by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which also reports that cigarette smuggling cost states an estimated $5.5 billion in lost revenue in 2012. “The significance of the problem cannot be overstated in high-tax states,” said Michael LaFaive, director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative at the Mackinac Center.

Colorado’s commitment to be the healthiest state will be achieved through spending smarter, not necessarily more, according to Tom Massey, deputy executive director and chief operating officer of the state Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. “As health care itself changes, so must the way we finance health care,” Massey said. “We must reform our payment models so we get better quality and value.”

Friday, a U.S. appeals court upheld a 2011 Florida law that prohibits doctors from discussing gun safety with their patients. The 2-1 ruling...

Last week, Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper announced very good news for his state. Teen birth rates had fallen 40 percent from 2009 through 2013. The drop moved Colorado from the 29th lowest teen birth rate in the nation in 2009...

Firearms are a public health issue in the United States. In 2010, 31,328 people died because of firearms, either from suicide, homicide, or accidents, and approximately 40,000 people were hospitalized with firearm injuries. The Institute of Medicine and National Research Council and the American Public Health Association have identified practices and areas of research that may reduce firearm-related deaths, violence and injuries.

The Associated Press reports that companies who make well-known products marketed toward children are taking on the e-cigarette world and protecting their brand names.

Lawyers for General Mills, the Girl Scouts of the USA and Tootsie Roll Industries are among those who have issued letters demanding that names like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Thin Mint and Tootsie Roll may not be used for the liquid...

Already there are complaints that servings of fresh fruits and vegetables, as recommended for a healthy diet, are more expensive than other less healthful foods.  The Wall Street Journal reported this week on an Arizona State University’s study of price increases due to the three year drought in California.

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As part of Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris' initiative as CSG Chairman, the Tennessee Nutrition Caucus was launched during Ag Day on the Hill late last month.  “This is a bi-partisan team of state legislators who understand that one’s quality of life depends on the necessities of life,” said Norris.  Part of the impetus to create the caucus is the current status of Tennessee's children and overall population.  According to Feeding America, 25.1% of Tennessee's children and 17.6% of the state's general population are unaware of where they will find their next meal.

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