HONOLULU, HAWAII – Welcome improvements in many areas of America’s health status are offset by continuing declines in others, according to the 2010 America’s Heath Rankings®. The nation’s overall health improved one percentage point last year, but reductions in smoking, preventable hospitalizations and infectious disease were offset by continued increases in obesity, children in poverty, and lack of health insurance. The report also shows a 19 percent increase since the 2005 Edition in the percentage of adults who had been diagnosed with diabetes. In response to these trends, United Health Foundation is establishing a program to address local health challenges.
While last year’s one percent improvement in health is better than the previous decade, it falls short of the gains seen in the 1990s. From 2000-2009, health improved just 0.5 percent per year, but in the 1990s, overall health improved 1.5 percent per year, suggesting that the nation is capable of achieving better health more rapidly than it currently is. Given the sharp escalation in health costs, the economic consequences of larger burdens of preventable chronic illness should sound an alarm for urgent action by states and local communities.
“The rate of gain, while positive, is wholly inadequate for us as a nation. We know with certainty that many people will suffer consequences of preventable disease unless we strengthen individual healthiness, community by community across America,” said Reed Tuckson, M.D., United Health Foundation board member and executive vice president and chief of medical affairs, UnitedHealth Group. “States can use America’s Health Rankings to identify their state’s and other states’ strengths and use those examples to address areas that need attention in their own state. The key is action. We must continue to work toward impacting change in unhealthy behaviors and other factors that negatively impact a state.”
Hawaii’s Health Check-Up
According to the 21st Edition of America’s Health Rankings®, Hawaii is No. 5 this year, unchanged from 2009, when compared to the health of other states.
· Low prevalence of smoking at 15.3 percent of the population
· Lower prevalence of obesity than other states at 22.9 percent of the population
· Low levels of air pollution at 6.7 micrograms of fine particulate per cubic meter
· Strong public health funding at $235 per person
· Low immunization coverage with 86.1 percent of children ages 19 to 35 months receiving immunizations
· High incidence of infectious disease at 17.9 case per 100,000 population
· High prevalence of binge drinking at 17.3 percent of the population
Overall State Rankings: Vermont Remains on Top; Mississippi Stays on Bottom
Every state has its successes and every state has its challenges. Vermont tops the list of healthiest states for the last four years of published reports. Vermont has had a steady climb in the Rankings for the last twelve years from a ranking of 17th in the 1997 and 1998 Editions. Massachusetts is ranked second, an improvement from third last year. Massachusetts has ranked in the top ten for almost 20 years. New Hampshire is ranked third, followed by Connecticut and Hawaii.
Mississippi is ranked 50th, with Louisiana, Arkansas, Nevada and Oklahoma rounding out the bottom five.
Georgia has improved the most in the past year from 43rd to 36th, and Idaho (14th to 9th), Nebraska (16th to 11th) and South Carolina (46th to 41st) all improved by five rank positions. Alabama also has climbed the ladder from 48th to 45th.
Individual state success stories since the first edition in 1990 include:
· Maryland decreased the prevalence of smoking from 29.7 percent to 15.1 percent of the population.
· Louisiana decreased the percentage of children in poverty from 38.5 to 19.5 percent of persons under age 18.
· Washington decreased infant mortality from 9.7 to 4.8 deaths per 1,000 live births.
· Vermont decreased cardiovascular deaths from 401.7 to 241.1 per 100,000 population.
These successes indicate that change is possible for all states when there is a united front to make progress on health outcomes.
United Health Foundation Providing Help
The United Health Foundation believes that these health challenges can best be addressed through public-private partnerships at the state and local level. The United Health Foundation is partnering with the National Business Coalition on Health (NBCH) to convene business, public health, community leaders, and elected and public officials in selected communities across the U.S. to initiate data-driven health promotion and disease prevention planning. Grants will be awarded to help each community create an action plan for policy and program interventions that draw upon individual accountability, community resources and private sector expertise.
United Health Foundation will also collaborate with Partnership for Prevention to identify and disseminate scientific-based public policies that can be useful for states to consider as they address their particular population health challenges.
The website, americashealthrankings.org, has been enhanced to better serve as a research tool and rich database for use by individuals, political leaders, health professionals and policy analysts.