Annual state health rankings: Obesity, inactivity makes a comeback

Hawaii tops the list for the third straight year

The 25th annual "America's Health Rankings"—which identified Hawaii as the healthiest state in the nation for the third consecutive year—shows that obesity and inactivity rates continue to climb, despite encouraging progress reported last year. 

See past rankings

Released on Wednesday by the United Health Foundation (UHF), the American Public Health Association, and the Partnership for Prevention, the report uses data from federal agencies and associations to assess each state's performance on 27 core health measures, including tobacco use, infectious diseases, immunization rates, public health funding, cancer, and obesity.

The most—and least—healthy states

According to the report, the five healthiest states are:

    1. Hawaii
    2. Vermont
    3. Massachusetts
    4. Connecticut
    5. Utah

Meanwhile, the five unhealthiest states are:

    1. Mississippi
    2. Arkansas
    3. Louisiana
    4. Kentucky
    5. Oklahoma

Mississippi has been in the bottom three of the rankings every year since the report was first released in 1990.

Obesity, physical inactivity on the rise

According to the report, U.S. residents are more sedentary than ever before, despite encouraging findings in last year's report, and it is leading to greater prevalence of chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes.

Specifically, the report found that:

  • 29.4% of adults are obese, a 7% increase from 2013;
  • 23.5% of all residents are considered sedentary, up 3% from 2013; and
  • 9.6% of adults live with diabetes, more than double the number living from 20 years ago.

What's making America obese? It may not be calories.

However, Americans have improved on several health metrics since last year's report. For instance, the report found a:

  • 3% decline in smoking rates among adults, down from 19.6% in 2013 to 19% in 2014;
  • 4% decrease in infant mortality, from 6.3 to 6.0 deaths per 1,000 live births; and
  • 5% increase in immunization coverage among adolescents, up from 64% to 67.1%.

CDC: With low vaccine rates, some areas risk losing herd immunity

Reed Tuckson, senior medical adviser to UHF, says although "we applaud hard-won advances in several key measures... this year's America's Health Rankings is a solemn reminder that we have a lot more work ahead of us."

He adds, "It is inevitable that 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" (America's Health Rankings release, 12/10; America's Health Rankings report, 12/10; O'Donnell, USA Today, 12/10; Essoyan, Honolulu Star Advertiser, 12/10).

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