Not sufficient, that is, to guarantee access to health care. The latest release of that great publication of the Centers for Disease Control, Health 2007, has the theme of health care access at its core.

Think of Health 2007 as the State of the States’ Health (all 50 collectively). This is the 31st annual version of this huge compendium. The book features updated data that paints a comprehensive picture about Americans’ health care, health status, financing, and resources (financial, labor, technological).

Health 2007 is one of my health care “must-reads” each year; it makes me feel better about paying my Federal taxes.

This year, however, the report doesn’t make me feel very good about its findings.

The good news: Life expectancy in the US continues to increase. We’re gaining on heart disease, stroke and cancer. Specifically, people with hypertension who stick with cholesterol-lowering drugs and supplements (e.g., statins, red rice yeast) are improving their chances at overcoming heart disease.

The bad news overall: The prevalence of chronic disease is increasing, as Americans continue embracing unhealthy lifestyles and behaviors. Thus, heart disease (among the undiagnosed and those people not following therapeutic regimens), diabetes, hypertension and back pain are epidemic in the US. Furthermore, health disparities between whites and non-whites continue to mar the American health landscape. Somehow the very American concept of “justice for all” still hasn’t permeated health care.

The bad news on access: Health 2007 underscores the key challenge of access to health care, even when an American has insurance coverage. The CDC points to several barriers to accessing care: transportation, lack of knowledge of where to go for care or when to seek care, cultural and language problems, and discrimination (as the CDC puts it, “covert or overt” in nature). Furthermore, there is a maldistribution of health providers in the US — many rural citizens lack access to needed clinicians, for example.

See the CDC’s Every American Insured website to learn more about this situation. Read the contents of this web page and you will find a disconnect between the CDC’s position on insuring every American vis-à-vis the Bush Administration’s most recent positions on health care for all; to wit, the CDC states right here that it should be a “Federal repsonsibility to reauthorize SCHIP.”

Health Populi’s Hot Points: The Devil is in the Details, and Health 2007 gives us more than enough of those to prove that the barriers to health care are real and formidable. Even if 100% of Americans were insured on January 1, 2008, there would still be many barriers to overcome which would be preventing the insured from taking advantage of available care by December 31st ’08. People need to understand when to access care, and how to access care. That takes education, using media and methods that people will want to learn from. We’ll need an army of recruits from the worlds of health behavior and health education, games and media, and ethnography to break down these barriers to access and to conquer disparities.