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Report shows progress taking place in key health measures

Thursday December 12, 2013
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Americans are making considerable progress in their overall health, according to United Health Foundation’s “2013 America’s Health Rankings: A Call to Action for Individuals & Their Communities.”

Nationwide, Americans improved in the majority of the measures captured by the rankings. The most notable gains came in key behavioral measures, including smoking, which dropped from 21.2 % of the adult population in 2012 to 19.6%. Seventeen states had significant reductions in smoking, with Nevada, Maryland, Oklahoma, Kansas and Vermont posting the largest decreases.

Physical inactivity dropped from 26.2% of the adult population to 22.9%, and America’s obesity rate remained approximately the same as reported in 2012 (27.6% of the adult population compared with 27.8%). This marks the first time since 1998 that obesity rates have not worsened.

State rankings

Hawaii has taken the title of healthiest state according to these rankings. Vermont, last year’s reported leader, ranks second this year and has placed among the top five states for the last decade. Minnesota is third, followed by Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Mississippi ranks 50th this year, with Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and West Virginia rounding out the bottom five.

Hawaii particularly scored well in measures for having low rates of uninsured individuals, high rates of childhood immunization and low rates of obesity, smoking and preventable hospitalizations. Like all states, Hawaii also has areas where it can improve, including higher-than-average rates of binge drinking and occupational fatalities, and lower-than-average rates of high school graduation.

Significant challenges

Obesity has leveled off, but the 27.6% rate suggests it must remain a top priority, according to the report. There remains considerable room for improvement in rates of physical inactivity (22.9%), smoking (19.6%) and diabetes (9.7%).

“I am encouraged by the progress we’ve made this year and am hopeful that the leveling off we see in America’s obesity is a sign of further improvement to come,” Reed Tuckson, MD, external senior medical adviser to United Health Foundation, said in a news release. “We should certainly celebrate these gains. They encourage us to continue to identify and effectively implement best practices in these areas and in addressing diabetes, heart disease and other chronic health conditions that compromise Americans’ health and vitality.”

“America’s Health Rankings” is an annual comprehensive assessment of the nation’s health on a state-by state basis. It is published jointly by United Health Foundation, American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention.

The data in the report come from well-recognized outside sources, such as the CDC, American Medical Association, FBI, Dartmouth Atlas Project, U.S. Department of Education and Census Bureau. The report is reviewed and overseen by a scientific advisory committee with members from leading academic institutions, government agencies and the private sector.

Full report: www.americashealthrankings.org.


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