Friday, January 8, 2016

U.S. Health Ranking By State (2015)

Public Health In America


A Health Snapshot: The U.S. spends a lot for heath care, but this has not resulted in superior infant mortality rates (no. 45 in the world) or life expectancy (no. 34 in the world) as compared to other nations, the report notes. In addition to US rankings for infant mortality and life expectancy being disappointingly low, US expenditure on health care, as measured by percent of gross domestic product (GDP) spent on health by private and public sectors, ranks second among 191 countries at 17.1% of GDP. Ranking first is Tuvalu at 19.7%. Only 20 countries spend more than 10% of GDP on health. All other developed countries with health expenditures more than 10% of GDP have both a lower infant mortality rate and a higher life expectancy than the United States.
Image Credit & Source: United Health Foundation

The 2015 report ranking America’s health on a state by state basis has been released by the combined efforts of the United Health Foundation and the American Public Health Association. Among the many findings are that Hawaii, Vermont and Massachusetts and the three healthiest states; and that Louisiana, Mississipi and Arkansas the least heathiest.

The report says:
Healthiest: Hawaii again takes the title of healthiest state in 2015 and is followed by Vermont (2) and Massachusetts (3). Minnesota (4) and New Hampshire (5) return to the top 5. Hawaii has consistently been in the top 6 states since the America’s Health Rankings® Annual Report launched in 1990. Hawaii scores well for having a low prevalence of obesity, low rates of preventable hospitalizations, and few poor mental health days. Immunizations among children aged 19 to 35 months—identified as a key challenge for the state last year—increased 11%, from 66.5% to 73.7% over the past year. Like all states, Hawaii also has areas needing improvement. It scores below the national average for immunizations among adolescents for the Tdap vaccine and above the national average for excessive drinking and the incidence of Salmonella.

Most Improved: North Carolina shows the biggest improvement in rank over the past year, moving up 6 places. The state’s rise is due to an improvement in the percentage of immunizations among children and HPV immunizations among adolescent females. Also, there was a decline in physical inactivity and in the incidence of Salmonella infections.
Notably Improved States: Maine moves from 20th last year to 15th, Washington from 13th to 9th, Kentucky from 47th to 44th, and Delaware from 35th to 32nd.
Most Challenged: Louisiana ranks 50th this year, moving Mississippi out of the bottom spot to 49th. Arkansas(48), West Virginia (47), and Alabama (46) complete the bottom 5 states. Oklahoma (45) and Kentucky (44) move out of the bottom 5.
The chief question is why some states do well, while others do poorly when it comes to factors like smoking, obesity, physical activity, drug deaths, and rates of immunizations, One could say, for example, that Hawaii has favorable weather, but if that were the case, how would this explain the other top four healthy states, which have harsh winters. And why is California ranked no. 16, and New York no. 13? So, weather alone cannot explain why some states are healthy while others are not. [see one argument put forth by Prof. George Jochnowitz, in Obesity and Hell.]

It might have more to do with education and culture than anything that cannot be controlled, like weather. There are many things that humans can control such as diet, physical activity and what one eats, drinks and puts in their bodies (i.e., it is better to avoid smoking and recreational drugs). For example, diet, what people eat and drink, are great contributing factors to health, especially on its relationship to obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Much has also been written about the benefits of regular physical activity, which, when combined with a healthy diet, improves the chances of over-all well-being—not only physically but also mentally. There is good news in this report. This information is getting through to some people, who understand these connections. It is also true that more still needs to be done, particularly among the young to develop life-long healthy habits, which means getting them away from their electronics and online games, which are for the most part sedentary activities.

Other factors that the report examines are child poverty, which increased by 6 per cent from 2014 and now stands at 21.1 per cent of all children under the age of 18; and adult diabetes that is at 10.0 per cent of the adult population—a significant jump from where it was 20 years ago, at 4.4 per cent. Drug deaths have also increased in the last year, now representing 13.5 deaths per 100,000 population.

So it remains true that a good and healthy lifestyle as young person leads to healthy habits of living in the adult years and over-all better health in the older years. This is not saying that one will be completely immune from disease and health problems—there are still environmental effects (e.g. air pollution, second-hand smoke, etc.) and genetic factors (i.e., we can’t pick our parents)—but we can nevertheless lessen the risk to give ourselves a fighting chance. So, when one does become ill, the body’s immune system will be better prepared to fight it and defeat it.

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For more, go to [America’sHealthRanking]