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Nation's health improves, but heavy challenges remain, says new report
By Insure.com staff

Americans' overall health improved slightly in the last year, but continued to face threats from growing problems of obesity, children in poverty and a lack of health insurance, according to America's Health Rankings, an annual state-by-state assessment of the nation's health published by United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention.

Improvements in health

Reductions in smoking, preventable hospitalizations and infectious disease helped boost the nation's overall health by 1 percent. In the last year, smoking prevalence decreased to 17.9 percent from 18.3 percent of the adult population, the lowest in 21 years, and well below the peak of 29.5 percent in the 1990 ranking.

Unfavorable trends

But the report also noted several troubling issues:

  • Children in poverty: More than one in five children, 20.7 percent, is living in poverty, up from 17.4 percent of children in 2007.
  • Diabetes: Among adults, 8.3 percent have been diagnosed with diabetes, a 19 percent increase in five years.
  • Lack of health insurance: The number of people without health insurance rose slightly to 16 percent from 15.3 percent in 2009.
  • Obesity: Today, 26.9 percent of the U.S population is considered obese, a 132 percent increase from 20 years ago.

Do you live in a healthy state?

Vermont tops the list of healthiest states, followed by Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Hawaii, according to the report. Mississippi is ranked 50th, with Louisiana, Arkansas, Nevada and Oklahoma rounding out the bottom five.

In response to the findings, United Health Foundation is partnering with the National Business Coalition on Health to develop a grant program to help communities address local health challenges. It's also working with the Partnership for Prevention to inform states about scientific-based public policies that could help address their particular population health challenges.

 

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