Do you live in a "healthy" state? An annual ranking that tracks 23 health and socioeconomic factors found that Vermont remains the nation's healthiest state and Mississippi (again) is the unhealthiest.
The 20th annual report—titled, "America's Health Rankings"—was released by the UnitedHealth Foundation, the American Public Health Association (APHA), and the Partnership for Prevention. According to federal data from agencies like the CDC and the Census Bureau, the five healthiest states are Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Massachusetts. Meanwhile, the five least healthy states are Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Alabama.
Between 1990 and 2000, the nation's overall health improved by a mean of 1.6% annually; however, that rate dropped to 0.5% after 2000. In 2011, the improvement stagnated, according to the report.
The findings showed that several positive improvements among states likely were offset by negative trends. For example, preventable hospitalizations per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries declined from 70.6 last year to 68.2 this year, and cardiovascular deaths per 100,000 U.S. residents declined from 278.2 in 2010 to 270.4 this year.
Meanwhile, the researchers also found that the rate of adult obesity increased to 27.5% in 2011, up from 26.9% in 2010, and the rate of diabetes among adults increased to 8.7% of the population in 2011, up from 8.3% last year.
According to Georges Benjamin, the executive director of APHA, health improvement efforts should focus on prevention and be targeted to individual states and local communities. "Physical activity, nutrition, and tobacco: If we could get people focused on those three, we could take a huge bite out of the chronic disease epidemic," he says (Keiper, Reuters, 12/6; Bouchard, Healthcare Finance News, 12/6; Harding, CNN, 12/6; Bunis, CQ HealthBeat, 12/6 [subscription required]).