Vermont is the healthiest state for the fifth consecutive year, according to United Health Foundation's annual "America's Health Rankings" report for 2011.
New York and New Jersey made the most improvement in the last year, largely because of gains in smoking cessation. Each state moved up six spots, with New Jersey at No. 11 and New York at No. 18. Idaho and Alaska showed the largest declines. Idaho dropped 10 spots to No. 19, and Alaska dropped five places to No. 35.
Mississippi finished in last place, as it did in 2010.
The report assesses the nation's overall health and offers a state-by-state snapshot based on 23 health measures, including rates of obesity, diabetes and tobacco use.
Despite modest decreases in preventable hospitalizations and smoking, the nation made no progress in improving health in 2011 after three years of gains. The report authors say dramatic increases in obesity and diabetes are putting more people at risk for preventable illnesses. The health gain from every person quitting smoking was offset by a person becoming obese.
These health conditions raise health care costs and lead to higher health insurance premiums.
This year is the first in which at least 20 percent of the population in every state is obese. Overall, 27.5 percent of the U.S. adult population is obese, up from 26.9 percent in 2010. Diabetes is also on the rise, with 8.7 percent of adults having the disease in 2011, up from 8.3 percent in 2010.
The health rankings report is published jointly by United Health Foundation, American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention.