Massachusetts achieves first-ever healthiest state and Florida and Utah show largest rank improvements
Other less positive findings show drug death rate at highest level in history and uneven health care provider access
America’s health is challenged by an increase in premature death and uneven concentration of health care providers, according to key findings in United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings® Annual Report.
America’s Health Rankings Annual Report, now in its 28th year, provides a holistic view of the health of the nation and of each state by analyzing 35 measures of behaviors, community and environment, policy, clinical care and outcomes data.
State Rankings in 2017: Massachusetts Ranks 1st, Mississippi Ranks 50th
• Massachusetts ranks as the healthiest state in 2017 for the first time, followed by Hawaii (2), Vermont (3), Utah (4) and Connecticut (5).
• Mississippi is ranked 50th for the second year in a row with Louisiana (49), Arkansas (48), Alabama (47) and West Virginia (46) rounding out the states with greatest opportunities for improvement.
• Florida and Utah experienced the largest rank improvements since last year – with Florida rising four places in the rankings to No. 32. The state’s improvements include positive changes in its rankings for the percentage of children in poverty and frequent mental distress since 2016. In the past year, for example, children in poverty decreased 23 percent from 24.4 percent to 18.7 percent of children in Florida.
Other Florida highlights in the 2017 America’s Health Ranking Report include:
• The state’s low prevalence of obesity is a strength, with Florida ranking 14th among the 50 states.
• In the past year, drug deaths increased seven percent from 13.2 to 14.1 deaths per 100,000 population after four years of continuous decline. Despite this increase, Florida’s drug death rate is still 15 percent below what it was in 2012.
• In the past three years, cardiovascular deaths increased 3 percent from 223.0 to 229.0 deaths per 100,000 population
Disturbing trends in U.S. Mortality: Increases in premature deaths, drug deaths and cardiovascular deaths
• The premature death rate increased for the third year in a row. The rate increased by three percent from 2015. Premature death is defined as the years of potential life lost before age 75.
• In the past year, the rate of drug deaths continued an upward trend, increasing by seven percent to its highest level ever as measured by the America’s Health Rankings Annual Report.
• Cardiovascular deaths increased for the second consecutive year, with the rate among African Americans significantly higher than the rate among whites, Hispanic- and Asian-Americans, and Native Americans.
Even healthy states are experiencing increases in mortality
• In the past five years, some of the healthiest states by overall rank have experienced large increases in drug death rates, including New Hampshire (a 118 percent increase, with an additional 13-plus deaths per 100,000people), Rhode Island (a 56 percent increase, with an additional 8-plus deaths per 100,000 people) and Massachusetts (a 69 percent increase, with an additional 8-plus deaths per 100,000 people).
• In the past five years, Utah (ranked as the fourth healthiest state) experienced one of the largest increases in the rate of cardiovascular deaths (10 percent, with additional 21-plus deaths per 100,000 people).
Continued variation in the concentration of health care providers
The wide variation in health care providers across the country may contribute to differences in overall health.
• The state with the highest concentration of mental health care providers Massachusetts (547 per 100,000 people) has six times the number of mental health care providers than the state with the least amount, Alabama (85 per 100,000 people).
• There is also a significant variation in primary care physicians, with a nearly two-to-one ratio between the states with the highest and lowest concentrations.
– Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut have more than 200 primary care physicians per 100,000 people, compared to fewer than 100 physicians per 100,000 people in Utah and Idaho.
• Similarly, the concentration of dentists varies by almost two to one across states.
– Massachusetts and New Jersey have more than 80 dentists per 100,000 people. Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Delaware have fewer than 45 dentists per 100,000 people.
“This report serves as an important tool for health care professionals, policymakers and communities in their collaborative efforts to address these challenges, and help build healthier communities across the nation,” said Rhonda Randall, D.O., senior adviser to United Health Foundation, and chief medical officer, UnitedHealthcare Retiree Solutions. “This is a call to action for each of us to make changes in our own lifestyles that can help improve our overall health and well-being.”
– Dr. Mayrene Hernandez, Florida medical director for UniteHealthcare.
For more information, visit www.AmericasHealthRankings.org.