Do You Live in One of the 5 Least or Most Healthy States?
Americans have become less active and more obese in the past year, a recent study by America’s Health Rankings found. The report, compiled by the United Health Foundation (UHF), used factors such as behavior, community and environment, public policy, and clinical health to gain an understanding of our nation’s overall health.
In spite of the improvements seen by our nation in 2013, American health seems to be trending downward in such critical respects as obesity. “This year’s America’s Health Rankings is a solemn reminder that we have a lot more work ahead of us, ” Dr. Reed Tuckson, senior medical adviser to the United Health Foundation, noted in a press release detailing the findings. “Increases in the rates of obesity and physical inactivity will result in more people suffering from significant chronic diseases that compromise the quality of their lives, adversely affect their families and are unaffordable for the nation.”
The organization analyzed the data to rank all 50 states numerically, with one being the healthiest state and 50 being the unhealthiest. Read on to see America’s five healthiest states and five unhealthiest states as determined by this year’s statistics. The results may surprise you!
Utah moved up to No. 5 from its spot at No. 6 last year. The state ranked first overall for its low smoking rate, with just 10.3% of the adult population being reported as smokers, the report noted. This low number mirrors a heartening 3% drop-off in the national smoking rate over the past year. Utah also has the lowest incidence rate of children in poverty of all U.S. states, at just 9.2%.
Connecticut had an impressive showing this year, as it shot up from No. 7 to No. 4 in the past year. The state can thank its low smoking rate (15.5% of the adult population) and high rates of immunization coverage among children for that positive upturn. Connecticut has seen impressive declines in preventable hospitalizations, physical inactivity, and incidents of diabetes, the report adds.
Senior UHF advisor Rhonda Randall tells CNBC that officials are particularly concerned with diabetes rates, as the disease can be predictive of many other health issues. In 2014, self-reported cases of diabetes reached 9.6% of adults in the U.S. — over twice the rate seen 20 years ago. “That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Randall said, noting that the true diabetes rate is much higher, as many individuals aren’t aware that they suffer from the disease.
Massachusetts rounds out the top three states in health rankings, with exceptionally high scores in obesity (just 23.6% of the adult population), and ranking No. 1 in availability of both primary care physicians and dentists. The report notes that this state has seen a drastic decrease in physical inactivity among citizens, with rates falling by 11% in the past 2 years.
Vermont shines at the No. 2 spot of America’s healthiest states, maintaining a consistently high score in most health-related categories. The state particularly excels in high school graduation rates, where it ranks first in the nation, while maintaining low rates of violent crimes and children in poverty. Of particular note is the fact that infant mortality in the state has declined by 50% since 1990 (from 9.2 deaths per 1,000 live births, down to 4.6 deaths per 1,000 live births), the report states.
For the third year running, the Aloha State won out as the healthiest in America. Since the United Health Group rankings began in the early 1990s, Hawaii has never strayed far from the top, always claiming a spot among the six healthiest states. Still, Hawaii has ground to make up in several categories. For instance, 18.3% of the state’s adult population binge drinks; the state also has a surprisingly low immunization coverage rate among children (just 66.5%), the United Health Foundation report confirms.
Oklahoma has made healthful strides in recent years, but remains poorly ranked at No. 46 in the nation.“Unless we’re comfortable knowing that we’re leaving people’s lives on the lines, we need to pick up the pace, and we need to use policy to be able to drive those changes,” State Health Commissioner Terry Cline told The Oklahoman. Right now, the state lags behind its peers due to a high level of physical inactivity (31.1% of the adult population), low rates of immunization coverage for children, and the limited availability of primary health care physicians, the report shows.
Kentucky fared poorly in this year’s ratings, particularly in the categories of drug-related deaths. Although the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced an all-time nationwide low in smoking rates last month — the national rate plunged to just 17.8% — Kentucky’s statewide smoking rate hit a staggering 26.5% among adults in the last year.
Ranking at No. 48 overall, the Bayou State has some serious work to do in the areas of infectious disease, with the combined incidence rates of chlamydia, pertussis, and salmonella reaching 0.88%. The state reported dangerous levels of low birth weights and preventable hospitalizations, writes the report.
In spite of Arkansas’s relatively low rate of binge drinking, along with high per-capita public health spending, the state fared poorly in this year’s rankings. Coming in at No. 49, the state’s chief issues were a high incidence rate of infectious diseases, low immunization rates among children, and a lack of available dentists, the report claims.
In the 25-year history of the American Health Ranking report, America’s Health Rankings notes that Mississippi has not once placed past No. 48; this year, the state solidified its dead last ranking. The report paints a bleak picture of health in Mississippi, noting that “its overall ranking is unlikely to change significantly in the near future.” The state has the highest rate of physical inactivity in the country (35.2% of adults), with an obesity rate of 35.2% — an obesity rate that ties with West Virginia as the worst among all 50 states (for reference, the national average for obesity is 29.1%).
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