The United Health Foundation, for which I serve as the external senior medical adviser, in partnership with the American Public Health Association, just released the 26th America’s Health Rankings® Annual Report: A Call to Action for Individuals & Their Communities. According to the report, Americans are making meaningful progress on key health metrics including smoking less and leading less sedentary lifestyles, but rising rates of drug deaths, obesity, diabetes and children in poverty signal serious challenges. This report continues to indicate that it will be impossible to “medicalize” our way out of the preventable chronic illness burden. Each of us as individuals; members of communities; elected and public officials; and medical care providers; among others, must elevate the health promotion and disease prevention agenda if we are to turn off the spigot of preventable chronic illness that has such devastating consequences for the health of millions of Americans and the financial health of the nation.
Key points and findings relevant in the 2015 rankings are noted below.
State rankings in 2015: Hawaii ranks No. 1; Louisiana least healthy:
The “Top Five” ranked healthiest states are:
(5) New Hampshire
The “Bottom Five” or least healthiest states are:
(47) West Virginia
This year’s America’s Health Rankings Annual Report reveals promising signs of progress:
- Smoking rates decreased 5 percent in the last year alone, from 19 to 18.1 percent of adults, and have declined 39 percent since 1990.
- Rates of sedentary behavior, or adults who reported no physical activity in the last 30 days, declined 11 percent from 25.3 percent to 22.6 percent of adults.
- Preventable hospitalizations declined 8 percent, from 62.9 to 57.6 discharges per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries.
- Longer-term trends reveal cardiovascular deaths and infant mortality continue on a steady decline.
“This year’s America’s Health Rankings Annual Report reveals many encouraging gains in our nation’s health while showing clearly there is much more we as a country must do to maximize our health potential,” said Reed Tuckson, M.D., external senior medical adviser to United Health Foundation. “This report is a call to action to make disease prevention a key component of our culture. We want to ensure everybody – no matter what state they call home – is empowered to make healthy decisions for themselves, their families and their communities.”
Amid successes, serious challenges remain: drug deaths, obesity, diabetes:
Despite encouraging gains, this year’s report presents a sobering reminder that there is still more work to be done.
- Drug deaths – including deaths from illegal drug use and prescription drug abuse – jumped 4 percent over the last year, from 13 to 13.5 deaths per 100,000 people.
- Self-reported obesity continues to rise, affecting 29.6 percent, a 2.5-fold increase since 1990 when just 11.6 percent of the population was obese.
- Self-reported diabetes also is increasing, affecting 10 percent of the population on average.
- Children living in poverty increased 6 percent, from 19.9 percent to 21.1 percent of children under 18 years of age.
- Improvements in premature death rates – or years of life lost before age 75 – has slowed considerably since the report’s inception 26 years ago – a stark reminder of the persistent challenges to the nation’s health.
United Health Foundation to publish new reports in 2016 to provide additional insights to stakeholders:
In 2016, United Health Foundation will introduce a new suite of reports and year-round information on key health behaviors, conditions and populations to amplify stakeholders’ efforts as they work to effect change across states and communities. This will include:
- New reports on selected populations. America’s Health Rankings will expand its publication of reports on select populations. In addition to the America’s Health Rankings Annual Report and America’s Health Rankings Senior Report, America’s Health Rankings will issue new annual reports on the health of mothers and children, and the health of the nation’s veterans.
- New spotlight reports on key public health topics. America’s Health Rankings will issue several “spotlight” reports over the course of the year focused on important markers of the nation’s health, such as substance abuse, prevention, healthy lifestyles and mental health.
To see the national and state rankings in detail, visit www.americashealthrankings.org.