November 5, 2007 - The overall health of the nation declined over the past year, despite progress made in several key health indicators, according to a report released today by United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association (APHA) and Partnership for Prevention.
The 18th annual edition of “America’s Health Rankings: A Call to Action for People and Their Communities,” measures the overall healthiness of states and the nation using a comprehensive and longitudinal set of related health determinants and health outcomes. The report indicates that the overall health of the nation declined by a rate of 0.3 percent since last year.
While this report, and others, show there have been modest gains in reducing the rates of cancer and cardiovascular mortality, these improvements continue to be dwarfed by increasing obesity, increasing numbers of uninsured people, children in poverty and the persistence of risky health behaviors, such as tobacco use and violent crime - all of which have a significant impact on the overall healthiness of the nation, the report states.
“Even though specific mortality rates have improved, this report shows there are still many people who, through unhealthy personal behaviors, adverse community environments and difficult access to care, are vulnerable to a future life of poor health - which is essentially preventable,” said Reed Tuckson, M.D., member of the board of United Health Foundation. “The consequence of this reality manifests itself in a poor quality of life, people living with chronic disease, compromised productivity and significant escalation in the costs associated with managing chronic illness.”
This lack of progress is in sharp contrast to the nation's average annual improvement of 1.5 percent between 1990 and 2000. In fact, since 2000, there has been a virtual stagnation in health improvement. The failure to demonstrate progress is particularly worrisome given that the U.S. continues to trail other nations in important health indicators such as infant mortality and healthy life expectancy.
This year’s report provides a ranking of the healthiness of each state. Vermont surpassed Minnesota as the healthiest state in the nation this year, with Minnesota (2), Hawaii (3), New Hampshire (4) and Connecticut (5) rounding out the top five.
The data also notes that Mississippi ranks as the least healthy state, with Louisiana (49), Arkansas (48), Oklahoma (47) and Tennessee (46) completing the bottom five. The publishers of the report note that every state - no matter its ranking - has its own set of unique challenges to confront and successes on which to build and from which other states can learn.