Report: Nation's Overall Health Gets Worse

The overall health of the nation declined over the past year, despite progress made in several key health indicators, according to a report launched today by United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association (APHA) and Partnership for PreventionTM. The 18th annual edition of America's Health RankingsTM: A Call to Action for People & 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 outweighed 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.

"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. Nationwide, some states have addressed key health issues and improved; however, others have not and are declining. Obesity has increased from 11.6 percent of the population in 1990 to more than 25 percent today. More than 55 million Americans are obese and as a result are at significant risk for other diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans who are uninsured has increased from 13.4 percent in 1990 to 15.8 percent of the population today. Up .5 percent from last year, an alarming 47 million Americans are living without health insurance, including more than nine million children.

Once again, 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. To view the complete report, visit www.americashealthrankings.org or www.unitedhealthfoundation.org.

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