The health of the nation, as a whole, has declined for the fourth consecutive year. Rising obesity rates, persistence of unhealthy behavior such as alcohol and tobacco use and more people without health insurance are all contributing factors.
“The overall health of the nation remained stagnant,” said Dr. Reed Tuckson, senior vice president of the UnitedHealth Group Inc., the largest U.S. health insurer. The U.S. also continues to fare worse than other comparable countries.
Since 1990, the nonprofit United Health Foundation, created by UnitedHealth Group, has compared states on a host of health measures to determine whether the nation’s health is improving or declining.
This year, the report rated states on 23 measures, 16 of which are determinants and 6 measure health outcomes, including crime rates, obesity, binge drinking, immunization rates, air pollution, infectious disease rates and premature death.
Among the findings:
Minnesota, long one of the healthiest states in the nation, slipped to number 4 from number 2 last year. The state had ranked number 1 for four consecutive years.
Vermont was the healthiest state for the second consecutive year, followed by Hawaii, Connecticut, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, Utah and New Hampshire.
California ranked at No. 24, New York No. 25 and Florida No. 45.
Louisiana replaced Mississippi as the least healthy state.
Several southern states were grouped near the bottom of the rankings. The region shared some of the highest rates of obesity, which contributes to diabetes, heart disease and stroke as well as some forms of cancer, as well as high rates of tobacco use which causes lung cancer.
Mississippi led the nation in obesity at 33 percent of the population, while Colorado was lowest at 19 percent.
“We have not made any improvement in the overall healthiness of the nation,” said Dr. Tuckson.
The 19th annual state-by-state rankings were compiled by the American Public Health Association and the Partnership for Prevention advocacy group.
A Call to Action
There are many manageable steps people can take to stay healthy and improve their health including:
If you smoke, quit.
Exercise regularly and eat healthy.
Get regular checkups.
Learn about your own health, identify risk factors and change your lifestyle accordingly.
Meet with elected and appointed public officials to advocate for necessary and urgent action. #