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Health rankings: Vermont is No. 1
By Insure.com staff

Vermont is the healthiest state, and Mississippi and Louisiana are the least healthy states in the latest edition of United Health Foundation's America's Health Rankings.

This is the sixth consecutive year Vermont has topped the list, the foundation said. Other states at the top, from second to fifth place, are:

  • Hawaii
  • New Hampshire
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota.
Besides Mississippi and Louisiana, which tied for 49th place, states at the bottom are Arkansas, No. 48; West Virginia, No. 47 and South Carolina, No. 46.
The rankings are based on 24 measures, such as high school graduation rates, per capital public health spending, infant birth weight, obesity rates and infectious disease incidence.

Vermont rose from 20th place in 1991 to the top spot, with steady improvement in the last decade. The state has a high rate of high school graduation, a low violent crime rate, a low portion of uninsured residents and a decent supply of primary-care physicians. But it's not perfect. It has a moderate occupational fatalities rate, moderately high cancer death rate and a high prevalence of binge drinking among adults.

Mississippi and Louisiana have been in the bottom three states since the 1990 edition of the rankings. On the plus side, both states have a low prevalence of binge drinking. Mississippi has a low violent crime rate, and Louisiana has a high rate of childhood immunizations. But both states struggle with high rates of obesity, diabetes and low birth weight babies as well as other problems.

The health measures vary widely among states. Smoking rates in the five healthiest states range from 16.8 to 19.4 percent of the adult population; in the five least healthy states, smoking rates are between 23.1 and 28.6 percent. Likewise, 27.2 to 36 percent of the population leads sedentary lives in the five least healthy states, compared to between 21 and 23.5 percent of the population in the five healthiest states.

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