Americans are living longer given increasing medical advances, but these advances can’t offset Americans’ unhealthy lifestyles, according to United Health Foundation’s 2012 America’s Health Rankings®.
Rates of premature, cardiovascular (CV) and cancer deaths have declined since 1990 by 18 percent, 34.6 percent and 7.6 percent, respectively, the report states. But other preventable behaviors have increased: nearly a third of adults are obese, 10 percent of the population has diabetes, 31 percent has high blood pressure (BP) and 26 percent of adults are sedentary or do not exercise outside of work, resulting in increasing levels of diabetes and high BP.
Where people live is an important determinant in their health, the report continues. For the sixth year in a row, Vermont is the nation’s healthiest state. Hawaii is ranked second, followed by New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Minnesota.
The five least healthy states are South Carolina, West Virginia, Arkansas, and Mississippi and Louisiana. States that showed the most substantial improvement in rankings include New Jersey, Maryland, Alabama, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Rhode Island.
While smoking rates in the five healthiest states range from 17 to 19 percent of the adult population, smoking rates are between 23 and 29 percent in the five least healthy states. Similarly, 27 to 36 percent of the population leads sedentary lives in the five least healthy states, compared to between 21 and 23 percent of the population in the five healthiest states.
A state’s economic climate also impacts its residents’ health. The five highest-ranked states report a higher median household income ($51,862 to $65,880) than the five lowest-ranked states ($37,881 to $43,939). Rates of children in poverty, which range between 9 and 16 percent of residents in the five healthiest states, are between 24 and 30 percent in Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, West Virginia and South Carolina. Per-capita income and poverty affect the ability of households to afford aspects of a healthy lifestyle.
Healthier states also report a healthier job climate. Unemployment rates range between 5 and 7 percent of the population in the top five ranked states, compared with between 8 to 10.5 percent of residents in the bottom five ranked states.
United Health Foundation is launching the funding of a new learning collaborative with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials to identify states that have improved in key measures in the rankings and study their best practices. These lessons will then be shared with others in a continuous quality-improvement feedback loop among the states.
United Health Foundation has also continued to enhance its Web site, with a variety of tools aimed at empowering people to become advocates for improved public health:
- A resource library that compiles a list of websites and articles that offer information on actions people can take to address different health issues;
- A place to share proven or innovative programs that have made a difference; and
- Social sharing buttons to enable people to post stories via Facebook and Twitter.
To see the rankings in full, visit here.
Source: United Healthcare, December 5, 2012
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