VT ‘healthiest state’ but overall US health declines

November 12, 2007

Vermont has moved into the No. 1 position as the nation’s healthiest state, according to an annual 50-state survey released November 5.

Vermont eclipsed Minnesota in 2007 as the nation’s overall healthiest state. But the nation’s overall health picture got slightly worse from last year to this year.

“We are displeased and unhappy to have to report that this year the health of the nation is less good than it was last year. In fact, the health of the nation has slipped by about three tenths of a percent,” says Reed Tuckson, MD, senior vice president of the United Health Foundation, which has issued the survey for the last 18 years.

The study’s overall national scores have stagnated or declined since 2000. Authors attribute the drop to rising obesity, now affecting more than 25% of the population.

The survey uses a combined score of health indicators and policy questions to rank all 50 states. Obesity rates, tobacco and alcohol use, and high school graduation rates are accounted for, as are state laws and regulations promoting better health. The survey measures access to health services and also environmental issues like pollution, infectious disease rates, and crime.

Vermont ranked at the top, Minnesota, Hawaii, New Hampshire, and Connecticut made up the rest of the top five.

At the bottom were Southeastern states including Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee. Mississippi ranked at the bottom, due in large part to high rates of child poverty and higher than average obesity rates.

Ten in 1,000 children born in the states also die before their first birthday.

“That is something that we just should not accept in the United States of America, not in the wealthiest country in the world,” says John M. Clyburn, president of the Partnership for Prevention, an umbrella group of health groups and companies.

Here’s how the states ranked in the America’s health rankings report:

Vermont
Minnesota
Hawaii
New Hampshire
Connecticut
Utah
Maine
North Dakota
Massachusetts
Nebraska
Rhode Island
Washington State
Wisconsin
Iowa
Idaho
Colorado
South Dakota
Montana
Wyoming
Oregon
New Jersey
Virginia
Kansas
Pennsylvania
California
New York
Illinois
Maryland
Ohio
Alaska
Michigan
Indiana
Arizona
Delaware
Missouri
North Carolina
Texas
New Mexico
Nevada
Georgia
Florida
South Carolina
Kentucky
West Virginia
Alabama
Tennessee
Oklahoma
Arkansas
Louisiana
Mississippi

Sources: America’s Health Rankings, 2007, United Health Foundation, Partnership for Prevention, American Public Health Association.

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